18 Apr 2019
Howard League responds to Joint Committee on Human Rights report
The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ report on ‘Youth Detention: Restraint and Separation’, published today (Thursday 18 April).
The Howard League gave written and oral evidence to the committee, based on its experience of these issues through its extensive legal and policy work over many years.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The findings of this cross party committee of Parliamentarians are unequivocal. Children in the care of the state are being subjected to short- and long-term harm and that must stop.
“The Howard League particularly welcomes the committee’s finding that children in detention ‘end up in what amounts to solitary confinement (at least 22 hours per day without meaningful contact) which may be prolonged (at least 15 days’ duration)’ and that this is a ‘breach of children’s rights’ that the government has the power to prevent from happening.
“Given the irreversible harm that is at stake for children who are isolated, we hope the government will seriously consider the recommendation for ministerial oversight of separation beyond 72 hours.”
The committee concludes that the use of force on children in detention is ‘unacceptably high’ such that it cannot possibility be used as a ‘last resort’ as required by international law. It also finds that restraint is used disproportionately against children from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The findings of the report are in keeping with the experience of the Howard League’s legal team: our lawyers have continued to receive a high number of calls concerning children who have been restrained and isolated in custody. In the past year we have received around 40 inquiries concerning these issues.
“We are conscious that even the children who have the wherewithal to contact us are often worried about complaining or making a fuss. We are therefore particularly pleased that the committee has highlighted the need for a complaints system that children and their carers can have confidence in.
“Each year the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman reports that the number of complaints received on behalf of young people is not representative. The Howard League legal team makes numerous complaints on behalf of those children who ask us to, but it is imperative that children feel it is a worthwhile exercise and that their concerns will be taken seriously and lead to change.
“If not now, when will the government take action to prevent the harm to children being caused by the use of force and solitary confinement?”
Notes to editors
- 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.
- The Howard League gave oral evidence and made two written submissions to the committee’s inquiry. The first written submission can be found here and the second written submission can be found here.
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