England

Medway youth offenders centre complaints 'ignored'

The Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester Image copyright PA
Image caption The Medway Secure Training Centre takes people aged from 12 to 17 years old both on remand and on conviction

Dozens of complaints about how G4S ran three youth offender centres were ignored, a report has concluded.

It found the Youth Justice Board was made aware of at least 35 incidents from over seven years but failed to act.

Details emerged in a report into Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent, where the BBC's Panorama secretly filmed staff assaulting children.

The government has confirmed it would take over the unit in Chatham in July.

'Coercion'

The inquiry found G4S oversaw "a culture of bullying and falsification of records" and ran Medway as a "place of coercion" for the "corralling and control of children, rather than their full rehabilitation".

In a ministerial statement, Justice Secretary Michael Gove said young offenders should spend time in "secure schools" not "junior prisons".

He said a new governing body would scrutinise and support all three secure training centres at Medway, Oakhill in Milton Keynes and Rainsbrook near Rugby.

'Culture of corruption'

The Youth Justice Board was aware of many of the failings exposed by Panorama, the report said.

An analysis of the complaints included:

  • a culture of corruption in which falsification of records was encouraged
  • bullying of children by senior management, including allegations that staff subject to serious allegations were promoted
  • staff using children to intimidate other children and staff

In response, Lin Hinnigan, Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board, said: "We are reviewing our policies for people to raise concerns with us so whistle-blowers feel supported and their concerns are thoroughly investigated. Our new, more robust system of monitoring will also ensure greater scrutiny of STCs (Secure Training Centres), essential to protect children in custody.

"Whilst in the past we did take action on individual concerns raised with us and referred these to the relevant authorities for investigation, this was clearly not enough to address the cultural failings identified."

'Deeply disappointing'

Peter Neden, of G4S UK and Ireland described the behaviour of some of its staff at Medway as "shocking and completely unacceptable" but said it reported the allegations of mistreatment to police and local authority immediately and dismissed staff involved.

"The behaviour was not in accordance with our standards and policies and was inconsistent with the training provided to officers.

"These events were deeply disappointing after seven years of Medway achieving a good or outstanding rating from independent government inspectors and it is clear that the multiple levels of internal and independent oversight of the centre failed to detect the behaviour of these staff."

He added: "We welcomed the decision of the secretary of state to commission an independent review and we will continue to work closely with the MoJ [Ministry of Justice] to ensure that oversight and safeguards are strengthened."

Image caption Panorama filmed undercover at the unit

Following the Panorama programme, four men were arrested on suspicion of child neglect while a fifth was held on suspicion of assault.

All have been released on police bail.

The Panorama programme included footage apparently showing staff mistreating and abusing inmates.

Allegations relating to 10 boys, aged 14 to 17, included use of unnecessary force, foul language and a cover-up at the centre.

Five members of staff were sacked and three more suspended, while the unit's director, Ralph Marchant, stood down.

The unit takes youths aged 12 to 17 both on remand and after conviction.

In April, it emerged further allegations had been made by a young person who had been placed at the centre since the documentary was aired.

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