Saturday, February 23, 2008

Labour government restores corporal punishment

I have just watched a Channel 4 News report alleging that painful restraint techniques are being used to punish teenagers held in Secure Training Centres in the UK. The story is now on the programme's website and it was also covered in today's issue of its e-mail bulletin Snowmail:

The Techniques of "Restraint"

"The "restraint techniques" which staff in secure training centres use to subdue out-of-control inmates can, following a government rule change, now be used to punish those inmates.

Restraint techniques are highly controversial. A teenager died under their application and another killed himself following their use. The Children's Commissioner wasn't consulted on the change and took the government to the high court, where Jack Straw has been roundly criticised by two judges.

Our award-winning (an RTS this week) home affairs correspondent Simon Israel has obtained a training manual which names some of these techniques; something the government, reticent to reveal anything about this, has even denied to a Commons select committee. Simon's exclusive report at 6.30.

I am under no illusions: the youngsters these Centres (which are run by commerical enterprises - didn't we used to be outraged by that?) house can be deeply troubled and difficult to deal with.

But it is nothing short of extraordinary that the government has restored corporal punishment to the judicial system and done it in a way that does not allow any outside scrutiny of the institutions that use it. It makes the 1950s look positively enlightened by contrast.

As a warning about what can happen when institutions for children are not properly scrutinised, see this BBC story: Child's body found at care home.

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