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A Review of the Use of Pain-Inducing Techniques in Youth Institutions

Charlie Taylor, A Review of the Use of Pain-Inducing Techniques in the Youth Secure Estate

This review was commissioned in 2018 by Edward Argar MP, the youth justice minister at the Ministry of Justice. It focuses on the use of pain-inducing techniques in Young Offenders Institutions and Secure Training Centres following the introduction of the Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint Programme (MMPR) in 2012.  It sets out 15 recommendations which aim to ensure pain-inducing techniques are only ever used as a last resort and that appropriate mechanisms are in place to govern the use of restraint.

Detail

The MMPR was introduced to equip staff at Youth Offenders Institutions and Secure Training Centres with the skills to avoid the need to resort to physical restraint. The MMPR permits the use of pain inducing techniques only where there is “an immediate risk of serious physical harm”. The training programme incorporates three types of pain-inducing techniques which staff trained in the MMPR are permitted to use.

Since the MMPR was introduced there has been a significant reduction in incidents of serious harm to children during restraint. However, Taylor’s review found that there is still widespread overuse of restraint in Young Offenders Institutions and Secure Training Centres. The research found evidence of officers failing to intervene early to stop a situation developing into a confrontation or moving straight to constraint without considering alternative options.

The research suggests that at times MMPR coordinators did take steps to prevent the poor use of restraint. However, it found that there is a lack of focus on what led to the event to prevent similar incidents occurring again.

The report makes the following recommendations:

  1. A senior officer must take control and give instructions in any restraint situation.
  2. It must be mandatory for all operation managers as well as officers in the Youth Custody Service to complete the MMPR training programme.
  3. Formal discussions should be had between staff following a difficult day or serious incident.
  4. Staff must be trained on the basics of good behaviour management and an effective reward system.
  5. Each establishment needs a strong focus on appropriate relationship building with the children.
  6. Staff should include children in their handling plans and should review the incidents with the child.
  7. The MMPR training programme should be amended to remove the use of pain-inducing techniques from its syllabus.
  8. Staff should be trained in personal protection and breakaway techniques for situations where there is a risk of serious harm. This may include the use of techniques that can cause pain in exceptional circumstances. However, this should not be part of the MMPR syllabus and staff must justify the reason for the use of pain.
  9. Staff may use a pain-inducing technique to prevent serious physical harm to a child or adult. The following are examples where this may be appropriate:
    • the immediate release of a weapon;
    • the immediate release of a choke / strangle hold;
    • the immediate rescue of another where non-pain compliance techniques are inadequate; and
    • to stop an act of self-harm that is likely to cause serious injury.
  10. Pain should not be permitted to be used to end long restraints.
  11. An Independent Restraint and Behaviour Panel should be established.
  12. The inverted wrist should only be used to gain control of fully grown children where there is no alternative and there is a serious risk of harm.
  13. Nurses should play an explicit role during restraint and intervene if there are any concerns about the way restraint is being conducted.
  14. Escorts to Secure Training Centres and Secure Training Homes should receive the same MMPR syllabus.
  15. All operation staff in Secure Training Centres and Young Offenders Institutions must wear cameras which must be on when an incident is developing.

Commentary

The research provides important evidence for the overuse of restraint in children’s institutions and makes useful recommendations for restricting the use of restraint. The Ministry of Justice has accepted these recommendations which has been seen by some as a milestone in child protection. However, the report falls short of banning the use of pain outright. It remains to be seen whether the recommendations will provide effective mechanisms for ensuring pain techniques do not continue to be over-used.