Letter: A study of the child, not the regime

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The Independent Online
IN HER largely favourable review of BBC1's Inside Story 'Children Who Kill', Allison Pearson highlighted 'one problem': that because World in Action had made allegations about the regime at the Aycliffe Centre for Children (ITV, 7 June) our access and accuracy was somehow compromised ('an unwitting party to a whitewash?')

In fact the remit and approach of the two programmes were quite different. The focus of Inside Story was the motivations and psyche of individual child offenders. The place of incarceration was incidental. The regime at Aycliffe featured only in so far as it revealed more about our protagonists' characters and raised wider social and psychological issues about offending behaviour.

For our month in the unit, our work was unfettered and largely unsupervised. We observed many private moments and interactions between staff and inmates but never the appalling behaviour outlined by World in Action. This doesn't mean that it hasn't ever happened, or that WiA's allegations may not turn out to be true, but it does mean that we have every reason to believe that our portrayal of these particular serious child criminals, what motivates them, and the specific circumstances in which they are held, was fair and accurate, and anything but a whitewash.

Steve Hewlett

Editor, Inside Story

BBC TV, London W12

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