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1 Dec 2015

The Howard League’s Parmoor Lecture and solitary confinement

Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, the author of a landmark report into the treatment of children in custody, is to give the Howard League’s Parmoor Lecture on Thursday (3 December 2015).

The event will mark the 10th anniversary of the Carlile Inquiry, which made more than 40 recommendations about the use of physical restraint, solitary confinement and strip-searching of children in custody. Journalists are welcome to attend.

The lecture could not be timelier, as today (Tuesday 1 December 2015) 20 independent inspectorates have joined forces to publish the first national account of the use of solitary confinement and isolation in every type of custody in the UK.

Today’s report, by the National Preventive Mechanism, concludes that “(p)rolonged solitary confinement or isolation can… have a detrimental effect on a detainee’s mental health, exacerbate behaviour problems and increase the risks of their ill-treatment.

“It is already clear that poor governance, inconsistent practice and a soothing terminology allow some individuals to be held in solitary confinement for long periods without adequate safeguards – and that includes some of the most vulnerable people in detention, such as children and mentally ill people.”

The Howard League has regularly shone a light on the issue of solitary confinement through its legal work, policy work and research.

Earlier this year, the charity provided expert evidence and legal submissions in a Supreme Court case. The court referred to evidence that, between January 2007 and March 2014, 28 prisoners took their own lives while being held in segregation units. The court ruled that prisons routinely holding prisoners in solitary confinement for longer than 72 hours without external authorisation were acting unlawfully.

The Howard League has written to the Ministry of Justice outlining why its revised rules on authorising the use of solitary confinement are inadequate.

In the course of its legal work, the Howard League has come across a number of local policies in prisons for children and young adults that result in long periods of solitary confinement that are not authorised by the rules.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “We are delighted that Lord Carlile of Berriew QC has agreed to give the Howard League’s Parmoor Lecture this year. Today’s National Preventive Mechanism report on solitary confinement in detention shows that, 10 years on from Lord Carlile’s landmark inquiry, there remains much work to do. The widespread formal use of solitary confinement is being shadowed by an informal system that is particularly iniquitous when used against children.”

The Howard League’s Parmoor Lecture event will be held from 6pm on Thursday 3 December 2015 at Clifford Chance, 10 Upper Bank Street, London, E14 5JJ. Journalists wishing to attend should email

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. More details about the Howard League’s Parmoor Lecture can be found here.
  3. A summary of the Howard League’s legal work in relation to solitary confinement can be found here.
  4. A copy of the National Preventive Mechanism’s annual report can be found online here.


Rob Preece
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