Reminiscent of some of the more horrific scenes from the film ‘Scum’ starring Ray Winstone, a document has been released into the public domain which details the sort of restraint techniques that can be used against children in UK Secure Training Centres (STC).

The document, “Physical Control in Care” (PCC), which was written by HM Prison Service and approved in 2005 by the Department of Justice, was obtained by the Observer after more than five years of intense pressure from children’s rights groups. This followed the deaths of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood in STCs in 2004.

The previously “Restricted” document authorises staff to:

â–  "Use an inverted knuckle into the trainee's sternum and drive inward and upward."

â–  "Continue to carry alternate elbow strikes to the young person's ribs until a release is achieved."

â–  "Drive straight fingers into the young person's face, and then quickly drive the straightened fingers of the same hand downwards into the young person's groin area."

There are four STCs in operation: Medway, Oakhill, Hassockfield and Rainsbrook. They accommodate young offenders serving custodial sentences between the ages of 12 to 17 inclusive who are too vulnerable to be kept in Prison Service young offender institutions. All four are privately run.

The Observer also says that the government had been planning to hold the document back and would not even release a copy to the parliamentary human rights committee.

According to a House of Lords and Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights report “The Use Of Restraint in Secure Training Centres” there are two sorts of restraint. “Holds” and “Distraction” techniques.

The purpose of these holds is to safeguard both the young person being restrained and anyone he or she might injure – notably other young people and members of staff at the centre. In some circumstances, however, it is not possible to apply a hold immediately because, for example, the trainee has seized another young person and refuses to release him or her. Before a hold can be applied, it is first necessary to disengage the trainee and for this three distraction techniques are available.”

“ … distraction techniques:

… are designed for use in dangerous or violent situations where a person is at serious risk of injury. Distraction techniques inflict a momentary burst of pain to the nose, rib or thumb to distract a young person who presents a danger to him/herself or others.”

Children have minds of their own and controlling them can be a handful and can at times test the patience of any parent. But in extreme cases children have to be taken into some type of care either for their own or society’s protection. Or both. Some of these children may well be self destructive or violent to others and the safety of all concerned must be maintained as a priority.

Society has segregated these young people, some not even in their teens from their families and society. A very serious act, they are still children and an STC is not society's dustbin. We must openly acknowledge this and also openly acknowledge that at times some sort of force may be required to restrain them. But do ‘distraction’ techniques have a place in society today?

I do not have the fortitude or patience to work within the walls of one of these institutions and I have never been in one or in the presence of the in-mates when they ‘lose it’. I would bet that it’s a very hard job.

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