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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 339 - i v
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
tuesday 6 november 2012
nick hardwick, juliet lyon and darren coyne
deborah coles and CAROL POUNDER
Evidence heard in Public Questions 242–299
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Justice Committee
on Tuesday 6 November 2012
Sir Alan Beith (Chair)
Mr Robert Buckland
Mr Elfyn Llwyd
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Nick Hardwick, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Juliet Lyon, Director, Prison Reform Trust, and Darren Coyne, Projects and Development Worker, Care Leavers’ Association, gave evidence.
Q242 Chair: Welcome. We are delighted to have your help this afternoon. Darren Coyne is a Projects and Development Worker from the Care Leavers’ Association. Juliet Lyon, who is familiar to us, as we have met her in previous evidence, is Director of the Prison Reform Trust. Nick Hardwick is Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons and, in a very timely way, has issued quite a positive report on the prison in my constituency today.
Nick Hardwick: Timing is everything, Chairman.
Q243 Chair: It is very neat timing indeed. We are seeking your help in our youth justice inquiry. Perhaps I could start with Juliet Lyon. First of all, given that use of custody has fallen by 40% since 2008, do we need a statutory custody threshold?
Juliet Lyon: It is such a huge success to build on and one that could be so easily lost again. A unique set of factors came together in a very positive and a powerful way. The Home Office, for example, changed the police targets to allow police more discretion. There is the consistent work of the Youth Justice Board and the work of our Out of Trouble programme, which was uniquely funded by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund for a fiveyear focus only on this aim-a programme that has just drawn to a close this year. Seeing fewer children in custody and fewer children entering the youth justice net in the first place is such a prize, because they are your adult population of the future. Having got that prize, every effort needs to be made to ensure that we maintain that drop, and thought must be given by Government as to how that can be achieved.
What are the levers that have to be put in place? An example would be maintaining the strength of the YJB and the work that is currently being conducted by the YOTs, bringing that up to the standard of the best, but also giving consideration to the ways in which the custody threshold could be altered to stop the most vulnerable children entering the system-in other words, the principle of prison reform, which is to reserve institutions for those who have committed the most serious and the most violent offences. In particular, the Committee might want to examine breach, for example, which accounts for a very high number of receptions for this age group. We believe that in some cases it is not justified. So there could be a restriction-a raising of the bar, if you like-in terms of access to custody, so that it would be for only those very few for whom that punishment is merited.
Q244 Chair: What about remand? There is to be a new remand framework. How is that going to work out in the youth justice area?
Juliet Lyon: We feel very positive about the new remand arrangements, with one or two caveats. One of the things we feel-and have felt all along-is that too often youth custody, or juvenile custody, has been used as a bit of a respite for beleaguered local authorities. It is an opportunity, for free, to abnegate responsibilities, at least for a while, for a challenging young person.
Q245 Chair: And get them off the estate, perhaps.
Juliet Lyon: Indeed. The remand changes will concentrate local authority minds because the devolution of the budget will require local authorities to meet costs.
There are one or two possible unintended consequences. An obvious one would be the differential costs for a local authority secure children’s home, which would be well staffed with qualified people, and would probably be best placed-other than maybe specialist fostering, or supporting a family to maintain someone at home-to look after someone while they were waiting for a court hearing. A secure children’s home is the most expensive, and I have the costs here.
Chair: We have some cost figures.
Juliet Lyon: You have the figures.
Q246 Chair: If you have any new or different ones, let us have them.
Juliet Lyon: I was just drawing the Committee’s attention to the differential between £607 a night for a local authority children’s home, compared with £173 for a young offenders institution. So there may be an unintended consequence that there will be a greater use of YOIs, which would be disappointing, because the staffing ratios would not allow for the kind of work that would be necessary.
The other thing that we are not clear about is quite how this new budgetary requirement will have an impact on some local authorities, because they are facing their own cuts. It is new and experimental at this stage, and I do not think anybody knows quite how they will respond to it.
Q247 Chair: Of course we have the example of Birmingham, which is apparently going to withdraw from the Youth Justice Reinvestment Pathfinder scheme. I presume you will be concerned about that.
Juliet Lyon: Indeed we are. Birmingham has had its own difficulties, of course, following the riots, and because it is experiencing a high level of cuts. What we have tried to look at in relation to Birmingham is quite why it is withdrawing. As far as we can see, Birmingham has to make cuts overall of about £600 million over the next five years. The requirement that the pathfinder seems to place on Birmingham is not dissimilar to payment by results, in that there has to be preparedness on behalf of the local authority to carry quite a big financial risk and wait to see whether the results then merit the payment. That method of payment, that deferring of payment, may be a very hard burden for some local authorities to carry. We do not know whether that is why Birmingham withdrew, but it is likely to be one of the reasons.
Q248 Chair: One final question from me. Some of us went to Hindley young offenders institution and it was obvious to us what limitations there are in short custodial sentences in an institution like that. The things the institution is best capable of doing cannot readily be done over the short sentence time scale. Does it remain your view that short custodial sentences simply should not be used?
Juliet Lyon: It does, particularly when you look at the work in the community that is outperforming a short prison sentence by quite a margin, in terms of cutting reoffending. When we were engaged in the Out of Trouble programme, for example, we looked quite hard at the work that was being done in Northern Ireland on restorative justice, and the way in which restorative justice is an integrated part of the youth justice system there. The outcomes from the community measures that followed a restorative conference were encouraging, in terms of both the drop in youth crime and youth custody, and the very high level of victim satisfaction.
Chair: We hope to look at that shortly in Northern Ireland.
Q249 Jeremy Corbyn: Can I take you on now to the issue of deaths in custody and the use of restraint? You are obviously familiar with the report that has been produced but, just for the record, it examined deaths in custody. Since 1990, 33 under-18s have died: 29 deaths were selfinflicted, one was restraint related, one a homicide and two are awaiting inquests. My question to all of you is twofold. In 2007, the Government found that restraint was "intrinsically unsafe" and "profoundly damaging". Are you satisfied with the guidelines on restraint at the present time, and do you think there ever should be a restraint policy? What do you feel about the conduct of inquiries into deaths in custody and the lessons that have or have not been learnt from it?
Chair: Do you want to start, Mr Hardwick?
Nick Hardwick: At the moment, the new restraint policy is still a matter of theory. We have not seen it put into practice yet. Where I do have a concern is about the use of pain compliance techniques on children. That does not just have an adverse consequence for the individual child; my concern is about what that does, if it is allowed, to the culture and ethos of the institution. Even if you can make a case for it in an individual example, the damage to the establishment and the staff culture as a whole outweighs that. I am very concerned about that, and I am going to go and see some of the training and the techniques for myself.
The second thing that we welcome in the new policy is the emphasis on deescalation. That too depends on the overall environment in the establishment. It is not simply a question of procedures when an incident happens, but also of how you get the staff concerned to behave in the right way when a young person perhaps is being very difficult, violent and abusive themselves. That is about more than what is written in a manual. It is about the leadership and culture of the particular establishment, and we still see too many places where it is not right, whatever the policies and procedures might say.
Juliet Lyon: I would like to endorse what the chief inspector has said. On a visit to a secure training centre-an STC-I found the children’s currency fascinating. They were using an acronym, "He’s been PCTed," or, "I’ve been PCTed." To begin with I did not know what they were talking about, but this was the acronym for "pain compliance techniques". It was an ordinary part of the conversation over lunch. That cultural norm-that it is normal to use pain to control children-is something that few of us would tolerate in a family. Why we would tolerate it in the places where we have our most vulnerable children, I do not know. I find it vexing, given that an enormous amount of attention has been given to this issue over a long time-with some highlevel and excellent involvement from, for example, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists-that we have not resolved the matter satisfactorily. It is difficult to see why we cannot focus more on creating a more therapeutic environment for our most vulnerable children who have to be detained, and why staff cannot be trained in deescalation to the point that they see that as a normal approach, rather than what I have described, which is children saying that it’s normal for people to be placed in some kind of pain here-just normal. I find that unacceptable.
In relation to the other question about the "Fatally Flawed" report, overall there was a finding that in just 10 years, 200 young people have died. The smaller number was for the under-18s and the larger number was for those in the under 24yearold range. The recommendations there are very clear. We do think that there is learning from those inquests. The terribly frustrating thing is that it is retrospective learning. A child dies and there is then an inquest-often very late in the day, something that we are hoping the Chief Coroner will be able to change. We want to see that learning applied. Often that learning indicates failures within the system, failures to respond to need and the increasing isolation of a child. Coupling that with the prospect of pain if the child does not comply, it presents a terribly depressing picture, and one we should be thoroughly ashamed of.
Darren Coyne: A young person in a secure children’s home, for example, may well have-in fact, they probably have-experienced abuse throughout their childhood and some quite traumatic experiences. If they then find themselves in an institution where they are threatened by similar kinds of abuse-that is the way they would perceive it as a young person, even if it was not intended that way-they will perceive it as pretty much a mirror image of what they have been taken from, and placed in that institution to be protected from. It seems absurd to use pain compliance and suggest that that is the way to go about controlling the behaviour of a child who is quite traumatised and going through many difficulties in their young life. If deescalation can be a way to manage that, there are many questions to ask. There should be ways and means of controlling and working with troubled young people without having to use pain to bring about compliance.
Q250 Jeremy Corbyn: Would any of you go so far as to say that there should never be physical restraint?
Nick Hardwick: No. You may sometimes need to hold a child to prevent them from harming themselves or somebody else. Restraining a child may be necessary in some cases. Of course it is better to do deescalation, but I would not rule out restraint in all circumstances. I would make a distinction. Pain compliance is where, rather than preventing a child from causing harm by holding them, you prevent a child from causing harm by bending their thumb back until the pain is such that they stop doing what they are doing. I do not think that is acceptable, but I do think it may sometimes be necessary to hold a child to prevent them from harming themselves or somebody else.
Q251 Jeremy Corbyn: Is that the equivalent of what would happen in a school, for example, where a child is behaving in an unacceptable or inappropriate way and the teacher would be allowed, in extremis, to restrain them but not pain them? Is that the kind of border you would draw?
Nick Hardwick: I am very clear that far more of these situations can be deescalated than currently is the case. Quite often children are restrained because that is the quickest and simplest way, and they are restrained for the convenience of staff rather than in the interests of the child. So first of all, deescalation must absolutely be the priority and any form of restraint should be absolutely the last resort. There may be some circumstances, in the last resort, in which it is necessary to physically prevent a child from harming themselves or others, but I do not believe it is ever acceptable to hurt them deliberately to do that.
Q252 Chair: We may be talking about a very strong young person who is six feet and four inches but legally a child, and a couple of staff members who also have to protect each other.
Nick Hardwick: Yes. In a sense, that is part of the risk. It may be necessary sometimes to hold the child to prevent them from doing harm. That is a difficult and dangerous thing in itself, which is why it should only ever be the last resort. But my concern about the way that we look at this is, in a sense, that there are very large thick manuals about how this is supposed to work in theory. From what I have seen in this and other roles, when faced with the kind of situation you describe, where the staff member may be frightened or angry about what has been said or done, or may have been hurt in some way, people will use the techniques they are allowed to use, and if you allow them to use a pain compliance technique that is what they will slip into too quickly, I think. The simplest and clearest thing is to say "You can never do that".
Juliet Lyon: I think there is a link, Sir Alan, with your earlier question about short prison sentences. A young person who is not known to the staff may arrive having had, often, a very difficult journey in a van-maybe they have been carried on that van for longer than even the adult men will have been, because both women’s prisons and YOIs tend not to lock out people-and without the information that is necessary for the staff to know that, for example, they are at risk of selfharm or suicide, or that they are very volatile. Deescalation, in part, is not just about training; it is about developing a professional relationship with a young person in a supportive staff team, so that you can count on your colleagues to support you. If you can develop that, you will have the confidence to work and head off trouble before it starts. It is a bit of a toxic mix if you have someone arriving in a state, not known to anyone, and-as you will see from the "Fatally Flawed" report-often without the information necessary to alert the staff to a high level of vulnerability. It is not surprising that that may end up with people taking a panic measure. That is no way to treat a child.
Q253 Yasmin Qureshi: Good afternoon. I want to explore the issues about looked after children. I think everybody knows that children in care and care leavers are overrepresented in the prison population, despite the fact that they are less than 1% of the total population. A recent survey of 15 to 18-year-olds in custody showed that one in four of the boys and half of all the girls had been looked after or in the care system at one time or another. I know the Prison Reform Trust has argued for more support in children’s homes, especially in relation to criminalisation of behaviour within the care home, such as breaking a cup, which in a family context would never lead to a criminal prosecution. There has been a suggestion that there should be a national roll-out of the assumption against charging a looked-after child unless the seriousness of the offence merits it. With that background-of course, Her Majesty’s inspectorate of prisons has also looked at this, and you made some recommendations as to what should happen-can I ask, starting with Mr Hardwick: are you aware, or can you tell us, whether the Ministry of Justice and the Youth Justice Board have taken your findings on board about looked-after children?
Nick Hardwick: They have done one thing that we thought was very important. They have reinstated social work posts in YOIs. One of the critical problems and difficulties was that the staff in the YOI often did not know what a young person was entitled to, and the social worker who was responsible for that young person out in the community too often had the attitude "out of sight, out of mind, and we’ll pick it up when the boy comes out again". So having a specialist post in a YOI, a person who can make that link between what is happening in the establishment and the support that the young person is entitled to out in the community, is a good first step. We have seen, now that they are in place, the results of that in some inspections already, and they are positive.
The broader issue-we touched on this in our report-is that the Youth Justice Board has produced a kind of action plan of things that it is going to do about that. It is too early to say yet whether that has been put into practice. We still see significant problems in establishments and we will want to do a followup. We will give them a bit more time and then do a followup to look at the progress in detail. But it is still the case that children who have been looked after, who have been taken into care because of abuse or neglect, who have got into trouble and been taken into custody, are at the time they finish, when they have done their sentence, being dumped in bed and breakfast accommodation without the support they need to survive. If you take children who have been looked after, turf them out at 17 and put them in bed and breakfast accommodation, it is as good as giving them a return ticket. It is nonsensical that we should do that. Where the state-I feel strongly about this-has taken over the responsibility of a parent to look after a child, to neglect them in the way that sometimes happens is simply not acceptable. Despite our report, although some things have been done, too often we still see that happening. I saw that happening in inspections I went to this summer, and it is not acceptable.
Q254 Yasmin Qureshi: From what you are saying, you are disappointed, possibly, at the lack of progress, certainly by the Ministry of Justice and even the Youth Justice Board. You are saying that they may be talking about it but nothing is being done.
Nick Hardwick: Putting the social workers in is not a small thing. That is practical stuff on the ground that will make a difference. I do not dismiss that. That was the most important recommendation, so that is a practical step. But there is still more to be done. There are not that many of these. It is 25% or 30% of that population, but that is not a huge number and it should not be beyond us to make sure that these children, who are our responsibility, when they leave custody, get the care and attention that a good parent would give them. But they are abandoned. That is what happens to them. They are abandoned.
Q255 Yasmin Qureshi: Can I ask about the prosecuting of young people in care and the concept of "unless the seriousness of the offence merits it"? I have two questions. Is the approach to deciding whether to charge them different from the one that is normally taken for under-18s? Secondly, where this has been tried out as a pilot, what has been the outcome in those areas?
Juliet Lyon: I can answer you in part, in so far as we have had recent conversations with the Magistrates’ Association, whose members, I know, are concerned about cases brought to court which they do not feel should have been brought to court because the offence did not warrant it. In a family home, the approach to kicking a door, dropping a plate or breaking a small pane of glass might well be that the important thing was making sure something got mended and it did not happen again, whereas in a care home, either because of insurance claims or because of the way in which the home is run-I think there are concerns that the Children’s Minister is taking up in relation to the way children’s homes are run, the distance from home that children are held, and the kind of farming out of children in particular counties, which I am sure has been drawn to the Committee’s attention-such events seem to lead to cases that the Magistrates’ Association feel strongly should not be brought before their members.
We commissioned some work by the National Children’s Bureau, trying to explore the question "Is care a stepping stone to custody?", given the disproportionality that you have referred to, and found that half the children interviewed by the NCB did not know who would be collecting them from custody. They had no idea whether anybody would, and if so, who that person would be.
Chair: We are going to move on to the discharge aspects in a moment, I think.
Q256 Yasmin Qureshi: I have one question to Mr Coyne. What do the people that you deal with who were in custody and are leaving it tell you about the level of support that they have received, if any?
Darren Coyne: I will reiterate what Nick said in terms of young people being abandoned in custody. I work with young people who explain to me that on entering custody, even though they are entitled to a professional visit from a social worker, they do not receive one. It is not until they come close to release that they are reengaged, but by that stage it is too late. That person has spent time in custody worrying about how they are going to resettle into the community. They are being told on the one hand, "You must do x, y and z when you get released," in terms of toeing the line, but on the other hand they are living with the fact that they do not know how to toe the line because they’ve got nowhere to go. They do not know where they are going to go. Or even if they know where they are going to go, the best thing they are going to get is a bed and breakfast, a hostel or a completely unsuitable place which feeds them back into more deviant communities. They are quite easily led, because when they come back into the community they do not have support networks in place where they can look to role models, people they can turn to if they want support. In effect, they are abandoned in custody. I have met with young people who have told me that the first time their social worker or leaving care team worker knew they were in prison was when they came out and told them. That is wrong. I have met with leaving care team workers who have told me, "My young person’s gone to prison; I need to go and find them," because they do not know whereabouts in the secure estate they are. If you do not know whereabouts your young person is within the secure estate, it begs the question, "How much of a relationship did you have with that young person before they were taken into custody?" and therefore, "How hard did you work in terms of preventing them from going into custody in the first instance?"
We are talking a lot here about young people in custody. We have not talked a great deal about preventative work, although we touched a little bit on it in terms of the criminalisation of young people. I know that Greater Manchester police have done a pilot in Longsight on triage. A young person who comes from a children’s home and goes to the police station would meet somebody-as you would in any hospital-who could determine whether they should be escalated into the criminal justice system, receive a conditional caution or be given a speaking to-something that diverts them away from the criminal justice system. If you have a young person who is traumatised, difficult to engage or has an affront to authority and you put them in a young offenders institution, how can you expect them, upon release, to say, "You know what? I’m going to toe the line, move on and put my life right"? They have no support in doing so. The relationship they have with authority-the police, the local authority and the secure estate-is one of "us and them".
Q257 Yasmin Qureshi: Is this down to the fact that there is a breakdown, in the sense that the people who should be doing this work are not doing their job properly, or is it the fact there are not enough people out there to do so, and are there internal things that can be done to ensure that continuity is maintained?
Darren Coyne: For example, when a young person in care gets to the age of 15 and a half, there should be a pathway plan in place. That pathway plan should be where they move from social services to leaving care, and it should be about their transition. The Children (Leaving Care) Act exists for that to happen. I meet with lots of young people in custody who don’t even know what a pathway plan is, never mind have one written. How can that pathway plan, if not written in the first place, be linked to a sentence plan which can then be linked to a release plan, which can then be linked to resettlement and support in the community? That is not happening. People are not doing their jobs properly in the first instance, in that the pathway plan-the initial assessment of that person’s needs-is not even put in place at the very beginning. If that is not done to start with, how can we even think about resettlement?
Often-although I know we have social workers in young offenders institutions now-it is still the case that the secure estate is not aware of the legal status of care leavers when they come into custody in the first place. If a care leaver cannot be identified as they come into the secure estate, how can their needs be catered for? If the secure estate is not knowledgeable enough in terms of knowing what the rights and entitlements of young people are from the care system, how can they then go and advocate, with the local authority, to ensure that that connection is there? There is a complete disconnect. It is disjointed. The entire system is disjointed and young people are slipping through its nets.
Q258 Mr Llwyd: We have started on the area that I wanted to discuss, but I hope I will not ask similar questions. I will try and vary what I was going to say. We are aware, of course, of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, which should have facilitated an improvement of the current situation, but it does appear from evidence that we have-I am referring to the Care Leavers’ Association evidence-that it is "often somewhat questionable with young care leavers" whether it is working, and that they are "slipping through the cracks". The report to which my friend Jeremy referred earlier, "Fatally Flawed", said that "if the needs of looked after children who end up in prison are often not met, the position for care leavers...is often worse". I understand, Mr Coyne, that you have already begun to address the point, but we have received considerable evidence suggesting that local authorities perhaps are not discharging their duties towards care leavers under the Children Act. How widespread would you say this problem is and what impact do you think it has? I would also ask you what, if any, is the simple solution?
Darren Coyne: I can give you details from our experience. Research and understanding of this is not widespread, but from our experience, principally based in the north-west, for young people who have not received the support that they are entitled to, and are effectively abandoned, the effects to begin with are that they will be released into the community and become not just under-18s who have a social worker and fall into the relevant and eligible categories, but former relevant young people aged 18 to 21, who will equally be abandoned but who have even less support, and they will then end up back in custody and become adults. So there will be a ripple effect.
I do work in the adult secure estate as well, across the north-west, in HMP Manchester, Liverpool and Risley, and I meet with care leavers in their 40s and 50s who are still as close to their leaving care experience as a 17 or 18-year-old is, because that transition has not been taken care of.
Q259 Mr Llwyd: This is not new, of course, is it? I recall being on a Standing Committee dealing with the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill where the Minister specifically admitted that there was a problem with the 18 to 21 age group, and that certain things should be done. Is it simply a resource issue, or what do you think it is?
Darren Coyne: It is a resource issue. If there is a budget which caters for children in care as well as care leavers and then that budget is reduced, the money has to be found from somewhere to be able to cater for younger people in the care system, so that gets taken from the people who would be catered for as care leavers. So there is less and less resource to provide for care leavers. Local authorities jump through hoop after hoop to try to come away from their financial responsibilities. I meet young people who did not qualify as care leavers because they came out of care just before they were 16 years old, and did not do the 13 weeks across their 16th birthday.
You talk about the Children (Leaving Care) Act. That legislation is supposed to be an enabler in terms of making sure that transition is catered for, but often legislation can act as a barrier to young people getting services that they are entitled to, because local authorities understand it enough to jump through the hoops, avoid it and work their way around it, but they do not seem to want to acknowledge it in terms of the provisions that young people are entitled to. Young people often are abandoned even before they get to the point of being a care leaver, let alone when they get into custody. Once they do get into custody and are sentenced they lose that LAC status as a section 20 young person, then hey-
Q260 Chair: I am not entirely familiar with how this legislation works. Are you saying that because a young person has technically left care a short time before their 16th birthday-
Darren Coyne: They are not a care leaver, so they do not qualify for leaving care services. To qualify for leaving care services they must do 13 weeks, not necessarily consecutive, across their 16th birthday between the ages of 14 and 16. If they cannot qualify for that, they do not qualify for leaving care services. A 16 or 17-year-old would be put into the category of a relevant young person, and that entitles them to financial support as well as a PA-a personal adviser-and other types of support. When they turn 18 they become a former relevant young person. The financial support is no longer there from children’s services, and they will go on to benefits instead. However, the support should still be there in terms of a PA, quite separate from their leaving care team worker, so that accommodation, education, training, planning and all the other things are taken care of. If those things are not taken care of to begin with and the person goes into custody, it is a case of "That person is okay, because they are in custody."
I meet with young people who have gone into custody at 18 and a half or 19 years old who are former relevant young people due to be released post21, who are abandoned. And why? Because when they are 21, their case is closed, because the local authority no longer has an obligation. But the local authority has a statutory obligation to provide for them while they are former relevant young people in custody serving that two and a half years, never mind abandoning them and thinking, "They’ll be 21 when they come out, so we don’t have to worry about them." It is another box ticked, another case off the case load. That has to be about resources. It cannot be about a culture within local authorities of not wanting to work with them or support them, of not wanting to be that corporate parent. If the system is not providing the framework, the structure or the resources for them to be responsible corporate parents, how can we go about asking them to be?
Q261 Mr Llwyd: Yes. In your evidence you also say that care leavers are identified as a group and they can be "difficult to engage, failing to trust and commit to programmes leaving them further isolated" within the prison estate. Can you elaborate on that, in particular on "difficult to engage"?
Darren Coyne: Sure. I and my organisation come from a userled perspective. That particular perspective has shown massive results in the work we have done over the last 18 months in the secure estate. However, when we speak to staff, prison officers and resettlement teams, they are the ones who are coming to us and saying, "We don’t need to identify care leavers from official documentation. We can simply identify them as the ones who will square up to the officers. They won’t trust, they won’t commit to programmes, and they’re the ones who have more chance, a higher risk, of coming out of custody, reoffending and ending up back where we are." That is not us making that assessment of young people from the care system being more difficult to engage. That is the secure estate telling us that themselves.
Coming from a userled perspective, we are able to work with them much further down the line than the secure estate is. The work that we are doing at the moment is to engage on that level, to then start to understand and unpack the issues as to how care might be related to offending, how support needs to be in place, and what advocacy services should be there to ensure that by the time the young person comes out we have the support of the secure estate in being able to engage them much further down that line. In the secure estate, if you are in a uniform and you walk into a room, there is that control. I know that should be there because it is the secure estate. However, there isn’t an understanding, there is no knowledge, in the secure estate of the emotional needs of care leavers. There is loneliness and isolation. There are no visits, no family and no letters. There is a complete sense of abandonment. But the secure estate is not equipped with the knowledge and ability to be able to deal with that. That is why they come back with the assessment that "care leavers are the most difficult to engage, the ones that won’t commit to our programmes, the ones we find most difficult in terms of resettlement, and the ones who face a higher risk of reoffending".
Q262 Mr Llwyd: Thank you very much. Ms Lyon, do you want to come in on that?
Juliet Lyon: It was putting me in mind of work I did a long time ago. When I was at the Trust for the Study of Adolescence we were training staff to work specifically with young people. This was a twoyear applied research programme where we were asking both young prisoners and staff what made for a good staff member and what made for a less good staff member, and trying to develop a training programme that would equip staff to work not just generically with anyone in custody but specifically with young people.
One of the things that emerged-this was way back in the early 1990s-was that with a high number of young people in care, when staff were working in a way that seemed good, and making a good professional relationship, they were experiencing a rejection by those young people in care. It became completely obvious that for the young people in care, who felt very powerless, the only power they could exercise in a situation was to reject that relationship before-as they anticipated would happen, based on their prior experience-it fell apart on them. Those young people-I am sure this is still true today, sadly-had been moved from one place to another, had had so many broken relationships with adults who were charged with their care that by the time they came into custody where the better staff were doing their best to work with them professionally, those staff were quite often rejected out of hand because the young person did not want to have another relationship breakdown on their hands. That was a hard thing to get across to staff who were really trying to develop a set of professional skills that would equip them to work with the 15 to 20yearolds.
Q263 Mr Llwyd: That does underline what the CLA had said-again, as relayed to you by the authorities-that failing to trust and commit is understandable, isn’t it?
Juliet Lyon: Yes.
Q264 Mr Llwyd: Can I ask Mr Coyne one final question? Is it, in your experience, the case that care leavers are sometimes held for longer than they should be in custody by dint of the fact that there is no proper planning by local authorities for their release?
Darren Coyne: In terms of ROTL-release on temporary licence-I do some work in a YOI which is category D. People go to that category D YOI because they are coming towards the end of their sentence and are entitled to apply for ROTL. ROTL will include going out on town visits, work placements and home visits. If you are a young person in that establishment and you do not have family, you have nobody there to support you, how are you going to go on that town visit when you have no one to escort you? If you cannot get past that point, how are you then going to go on to a work placement? How are you going to have a family visit? You can’t. So in terms of being able to go through ROTL, to get that early release and be able to benefit from all of that, you are pretty much excluded from it unless you can find someone somewhere to support you in that process.
We have already gone through the issues in terms of local authorities abandoning young people in custody. I have not met a leading care team worker yet who was quite happy to go out to a prison and escort a young person on a town visit. Even if they were, I am not sure the young person would want to go out on a town visit with a local authority worker in any event. So, yes, people are finding themselves stuck in custody longer because of their experience of the care system. That is compounded by the fact that there is the assessment of people from care as being the most trouble. Those two things working together are going to conspire to make sure that that person stays in custody even longer. On top of that, in terms of resettlement when they do get out into the community, the chances of coming back in are much greater than they are for other groups.
Nick Hardwick: Can I briefly add to that? A young person on a DTO might be eligible for early release, and that would depend both on their behaviour in the YOI and on whether they had somewhere settled to stay if they were released early. Because looked-after children are less likely to have somewhere settled to say, they are less likely to qualify for early release than a child who has not been looked after.
Q265 Mr Buckland: I want to develop some of the points, Mr Coyne, and come back to you on the resettlement issue. What is the one thing you think should be changed in terms of provision available to care leavers on release? What is the one thing that you think is absolutely key to this?
Darren Coyne: Suitable accommodation. If you are going to put a young person in a bed and breakfast they are going to feel abandoned, because it doesn’t feel homely; it is not a place that is theirs. If you are going to put them in a hostel, what are you putting them in a hostel for? A hostel is not going to teach them how to be free from institutions. If they have grown up through the care system, maybe they have a sense of institutionalisation. To then go into the secure estate does nothing to bring them out of that frame of mind, and to then move from the secure estate into a place which they cannot call their own is not going to do anything for their selfesteem and stability as an individual, or help them to find their place within society. That is what we are asking young people to do, is it not? We are asking them to find their place within society. How can we ask them to do that if we are going to put them in institutions where we can continue to control them beyond the gate, and not offer them the support in that housing to enable them to support a tenancy? It is okay saying, "Let’s make sure that that support is there, housing is there and suitable accommodation is there," but managing a tenancy is not an easy thing, particularly for a young person who has been looked after by the state throughout their entire life and who is not entirely au fait with procedures and being able to control themselves, to get along with neighbours and fit into the community, and so on.
I think suitable accommodation has to be the No. 1 priority. On top of that, putting somebody in custody and spending as much money as we do giving them level 1 and level 2 in functional skills such as bricklaying and joinery, or whatever else, is nonsense if, when they come through the gate, you are not going to pick them up and make those skills functional in the community. Those certificates are no good in a black bag down the back of the sofa. You have to find a way of making the skills they get in prison functional in the community. Accommodation, employment, skills and training are massively important; they are the foundation of somebody being able to lead a successful independent life, and we owe it to them. The state owes it to them as their corporate parent, and should take responsibility for it.
Q266 Mr Buckland: Thank you, Mr Coyne. That leads on quite neatly into the question I want to ask Mr Hardwick about the report that was issued last year by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of prisons, looking in particular at resettlement, accommodation, education and training. There were some very disturbing findings-depressing, frankly.
Nick Hardwick: Very disturbing and depressing.
Q267 Mr Buckland: What response have you had from Government to these findings thus far?
Nick Hardwick: We have had back a plan full of good intentions for what they will do about it and we will, as I say, do a thorough review to see what progress has actually been made. What we are seeing on our daytoday inspections, our routine programme, is that there has not yet been sufficient progress.
To add to what Darren said, what young people tell us when we inspect is that the key for them to stay out of trouble is to have a job or some kind of education to keep them occupied in the day. I think they are right to say that. What we know from the inspections is that the key to getting and holding down a job is having a place to live. When we did our own followup, in terms of the report you referred to, of what happened to young people when they left, none of the young people who did not have a secure and suitable place in which to stay held down a job or an education placement. So accommodation is key-but the critical word is "suitable". When we dug into what was described as the "suitable accommodation" that young people were being put into, in one case it was a boy being put with his 16yearold sister and her two children. In another case it was a boy being put back with his family, who did not want him, and there was serious offending going on in the family. In another case it was bed and breakfast. The boxes were being ticked so that they could say, "Look, we are getting our young people into suitable accommodation." But when you turned over the stones and asked, "What does ‘suitable’ actually mean?" it was nowhere that you or I would put a child we were responsible for. So I would agree with Darren that the thing that unlocks everything else is accommodation. It does not mean that if you have settled accommodation everything else will turn out fine. It means that if you do not have that, nothing else will work.
It would help if YOIs or other establishments knew what the outcomes or results were for young people when they had left their establishment. Some of the debate around payment by results has confused the results. Payment may or may not be a good thing, but as for knowing the results of someone’s stay in an establishment, surely an institution would want to know what happened to people for some time after they had left. You would expect a school to know what happened to most of its students after they left, so why shouldn’t a YOI? Given the costs of the individual place, surely they would want to know, "We did this with this young person. Did it work? How did they end up a month, or two months, after they had left?"
Q268 Chair: It is a view we have taken about the judiciary as well, about the magistrates.
Nick Hardwick: May I add to that point? Accommodation is key, and knowing what happens to people is key. It is very distinctive, I think, in the French system-I joined the French inspectors on an inspection-and I thought it impressive the way the magistrates who had originally sentenced the child who ended up in a closed educational centre had a continuing interest in what the outcomes were for that child. So it was not just sentencing them. The boy would have to go back to the same magistrate who sentenced him to report on progress. The magistrate would be the person driving, "Are the plans that are in place for this boy real? Are they making progress?" It certainly galvanised the staff, and the young people seemed to me, as far as my French could cope with it, to feel that here was the system taking a proper interest in them. It seemed to work. That longterm authoritative interest in what the outcomes were for this particular boy certainly worked in the French system. But even without that, you would think that a YOI resettlement team would want to know what had happened to the boys who left it a month down the line. That does not seem to me an unrealistic thing to expect them to do.
Q269 Mr Buckland: Recently, our Committee visited Hindley young offenders institution. There, an issue about changes to legislation on accommodation was raised as a potential problem for obtaining accommodation for young people. It was said that the legislation was going to encourage local authorities to look for alternatives to remand into youth detention. That is laudable and the right approach, but people were worried that there was a practical problem with all of this. Has any information reached your desk as to concerns about the reality of the situation?
Nick Hardwick: That is not something that we have inspected, because it hasn’t happened yet, so we haven’t seen it, but what has been said to us is that generally people think it is a good thing if local authorities are not remanding people but providing them with other accommodation. As I think has been said before, some people have anxieties about the unintended consequences of that: would that then be at the expense of arranging accommodation for a sentenced young person, for instance? We haven’t seen evidence that that is the case, but it is very important that those concerns are taken seriously and safeguards put in place to make sure that does not happen. But it is arbitrary-given the costs of keeping a young person in any type of custody, which Juliet was referring to-to then have a cliff edge when they leave because suitable accommodation is not in place for them. It seems to be folly in terms of the sensible use of resources, let alone the interests of the individual boy.
Q270 Mr Buckland: While I have you all here, I have a particular bugbear about detention and training orders and the artificial steps in terms of levels of sentencing-4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 18-whereas the reality, from my experience of having visited YOIs and spoken to professionals, is that there is no distinction in practical reality between that and a sentence of detention in a young offenders institution. Would you agree with my view that the time has come to look again at the way in which we impose these levels of sentence? Should we reform the system of detention and training and be honest about what it is we are doing, and really look at a root-and-branch change to this artificial stepped approach that exists in sentencing at the moment?
Juliet Lyon: The early history in the introduction of the detention and training order was unfortunate, in that it was the first order that was introduced under the new youth justice system and it proved very attractive to magistrates because it appeared to offer a taste of custody followed by a supervised period of time in the community. Other orders were brought later into the suite of orders-reparation orders and so forth-which have proved effective. So it was overused, which in part accounted for a spike in custody when the plan for the youth justice system was for the very reverse. It has taken a long time to work it down again, to find a proper place for that particular order. I think this is probably something Nick could advise you on, in terms of the inspections that have taken place, but whether the supervision is adequate, and whether the second part of the sentence-which certainly in the early stages was not fully understood either by the families in court, who did not understand what the second part was about, and rather thought that the tariff was simply the time in custody-is now effectively used, I do not know.
If I may, I will use this opportunity to underline the importance of provision for review. Many magistrates and judges would welcome the opportunity to know; as Nick believes, and I am sure he is right, young offenders institution staff should know what happens as a result of the period in custody. Many magistrates and judges would welcome the opportunity to know what happens as an outcome of the sentence they have passed. That would create a kind of virtuous loop, if you like-a virtuous circle, where that information could inform good sentencing practice and enable people who are worried about sentencing a vulnerable child to see what in their area works particularly well and where things have not worked so well. Despite the fact that we have talked about the reduction in youth custody, the level of reconvictions is so exceptionally high for that age group, and for the young adults, that not enough has yet been done. More needs to be done to address that very high reconviction rate.
Q271 Mr Buckland: It would not be unprecedented, because this is used by the courts with regard to drug treatment requirements-a monthly return to court or a less frequent return, for a progress check.
Juliet Lyon: Yes. When we worked with the Institute for Criminal Policy Research-ICPR-at Birkbeck and they did a survey called "The Decision to Imprison", it was one sentence, the DTTO, that judges and magistrates particularly commended. There was broad agreement about provision for a review and it does appear to work well, but only in regard to that one particular sentence.
Nick Hardwick: I would think so as well. I do think there is a problem with the very short sentences. We should not imagine that the short sentences do any good. In a wellrun establishment, they may do less harm than others, but they certainly, as far as I can see, do not do good for a young person. May I say another word about my experience of the French system, which was not an indepth study but was interesting to see? The fact that the boy and the worker-who was an "educateur"-had to go back to the magistrate to report on progress certainly galvanised them both. It was certainly the case that the worker was expecting to be asked what the plans were for this young person-"What do you have in place?"-and they were trying to make sure things were set up. And the young person too. That was a big motivator for his behaviour. There are other aspects of the system that did not work so well, but there was that ongoing connection.
There may be, in a sense, a slight risk in saying, "Let’s have a review of DTOs to see what else there might be." Perhaps we should we should hang on to nurse for fear of finding something worse-but I do think that a more intelligent and sustained use by the original sentencer would certainly be worth looking at. We should not be naive about the consequences of very short sentences. As I say, in a well run establishment they may do less harm than others, but I have not seen examples of them actually doing a young person any good. They may be a punishment and keep them off the streets for a bit-serving as a shortterm respite for the community, maybe.
Chair: We need to move on to further witnesses, so thank you very much. We are very grateful to you.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Deborah Coles, Co-Director, INQUEST, and Carol Pounder, mother of a 14-year-old boy who died in custody, gave evidence.
Q272 Chair: Deborah Coles and Carol Pounder, we welcome you to the Committee and very much appreciate your willingness to come and help us with our inquiry into the youth justice system. Deborah Coles, you are the CoDirector of INQUEST and, Ms Pounder, you are the mother of Adam Rickwood. Again, we do particularly appreciate your willingness to come and talk to us about your experience because, of course, you went through two inquests, the second of which you had to fight for, in order to get to the truth of what had happened. Going back to the beginning of it all, were you surprised that Adam was remanded to custody in the first place, given his background?
Carol Pounder: I was, yes. I was surprised that Adam was remanded to a secure training centre over a 200-mile round trip away from home.
Q273 Chair: Can you tell us a little more about the circumstances?
Carol Pounder: Adam had been accused of wounding. Prior to him being accused of wounding, I had had problems with Adam from when he was a small child. Adam suffered terribly from the loss of his grandparents, and other things. I had been to social services and to my own doctors on numerous occasions. I had been to the head of school and asked for help with Adam, and I just constantly got the door closed in my face. Every time I went to social services there was nobody available to speak to-"Come back next week." It got to the stage where I demanded to speak to someone. They let me speak to someone. They didn’t know what to do with Adam-"All right, we’ll have a meeting next week." That is all it ever was: "We’ll have a meeting next week." I don’t know. Social services don’t help you as they should. When Adam got into trouble-he had been accused of wounding-the court ordered secure remand. At the time of the court order for secure remand, there were no secure remand beds available. Adam was put into a privately run children’s home only a few miles away from my house.
Q274 Chair: Where do you live?
Carol Pounder: Burnley, Lancashire.
Q275 Chair: Where was the centre he went to?
Carol Pounder: It was Haslingden, which is approximately 30 miles away from my house at the very most. That’s a return journey. When Adam was in there, at first he was the only child there, and everything went well. The staff there understood Adam and spoke to him like a human being. They had great respect for Adam as he did for them. While Adam was there, a secure remand bed became available in County Durham, a 200 mile trip away from my home. A youth team worker phoned the staff up at the children’s home where Adam was and told them that a bed had become available for Adam up at County Durham, and not to tell Adam where he was going. The staff wouldn’t lie to Adam and told him where he had to go. At that time, Adam became scared and ran away. When he went back to court, then he got sent to County Durham.
Q276 Chair: We are going to come back to Adam’s story a little further, but I want to ask Deborah Coles: how confident are you that the revision of ASSET will resolve issues about identifying vulnerability before sentencing?
Deborah Coles: Sadly, my experience of working on children’s deaths in prison goes back to 1990 when a young boy, 15yearold Philip Knight, died in Swansea prison. INQUEST has worked on most of the deaths since. I think that while ASSET can be an important tool in terms of identification, it is part of a much bigger picture. It is something that should be used in terms of recognising somebody’s vulnerability, particularly their risk of selfharm and suicide. But it is one process in a much bigger one. It informs placement, but, from the experience of working on these cases, I think that too often very vulnerable children end up in secure training centres or in young offenders institutions. Since the death of Joseph Scholes, where there was particular concern about assessment of vulnerability and abilities of institutions to keep children safe, we have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of beds in local authority secure children’s homes, which are, in our view, where children should end up.
There is a reliance on ASSET and indeed the ACCT system, which operates within young offenders institutions, and I think is manifestly not able to deal with the vulnerability of children. What we have to be asking is: should we be placing any vulnerable child in an institution that does not have the properly trained staff and resources to deal with the complex needs? In my view-I think it is very much backed up by the work that INQUEST did with the Prison Reform Trust on "Fatally Flawed", which builds on previous work that we did on child deaths-when you look at the histories, the stories of those children who have died, you see a very worrying picture of vulnerability. All the children have had involvement with social services or with mental health services in some way or another. So we are talking about manifestly vulnerable children and, yes, we can have the best assessment tools that we like, but the reality is that if we put them in institutions that cannot keep them safe, that raises questions about what we are doing as a society to work with these children.
Q277 Chair: You mentioned keeping children safe. Is there any evidence that the judiciary sometimes put children into secure accommodation in the mistaken belief that it will be a safe thing for them?
Deborah Coles: I would say yes. I think the Joseph Scholes case is a particularly poignant example where a judge sentences somebody and says, "I want the authorities expressly put on notice that this individual is extremely vulnerable." But the reality of the situation that that boy-somebody with quite profound mental health problems-was going into was one of being kept in strict conditions in virtual isolation with no proper therapeutic support. As for the judiciary, it upsets me when I see that already this year, as you will be aware, a 15 and a 17yearold have died-have taken their own lives-in young offenders institutions, and the big question that needs to be asked is: why on earth were they in prison in the first place? But, of course, that issue is outside the investigation and inquest process. So the question of fundamental concern to the families-and, I would argue, to society-would be: why are we imprisoning children in institutions in the mistaken belief that we can keep them safe, that we can work creatively to address the reasons why they have ended up in custody in the first place?
Q278 Mr Llwyd: Can I echo what the Chairman has said to you, Ms Pounder? It cannot be easy for you to come here to give evidence today, but suffice it to say that what you have got to say is extremely useful to us, hopefully to change things for the future.
Carol Pounder: Yes.
Q279 Mr Llwyd: I should also say that it is on the record that for many months you strove very hard to get appropriate support for Adam before his untimely death. How did the support that Adam received in custody compare with what you expected would be given to him at that time?
Carol Pounder: When your child goes into custody, you expect your child to be safe, be well looked after and receive the right mental health treatment he needs. Adam received none of it. He was put in what I call a prison. Adam was a little boy of 14. I had visited prisons, and when I saw Hassockfield secure training centre, where Adam was, it was the scariest place I have ever witnessed. There was nothing child-friendly whatsoever. In that place, none of the staff were fully qualified. None of them had proper training. Some of them came from working as builders and went to work with some of the world’s most vulnerable children. Adam was vulnerable, but there were children more vulnerable than him. There are children there with serious mental health issues and they are locked up, imprisoned. If I had done to Adam what happened to him in that secure training centre, I would have been locked up. I would have been arrested by the police, charged and brought before the courts. They abused Adam. They caused him pain mentally and physically. If I’d done that, I would have been locked up. In a secure children’s home that would not have happened. There is no reason to lock children up in prisons.
Q280 Mr Llwyd: Following that, as to Adam’s behaviour, was he violent towards others, other people of his own age?
Carol Pounder: No. He had had issues, on the hate side, but he had never been done for violence towards other people of his own age, never ever.
Q281 Mr Llwyd: Thank you. Ms Coles, do you think that enhanced units within young offenders institutions can in fact deliver the kind of therapeutic environments and also interventions you recommend for young offenders in your report?
Deborah Coles: No, I do not. I feel very strongly that prison is not the right place for children. That is backed up by the work that I have done, that INQUEST has done, since 1990. I just see a pattern of the same issues repeating themselves time and again. One of the things I would urge the Committee to think about is the fact that it is astonishing, and very shocking, that despite the fact that 33 children have died in the custody of the state since 1990, there has never ever been any kind of public inquiry or independent review held. If we were just a little bit braver in exploring a new alternative way of dealing with children, for those who really are a serious risk to others, where people feel there is no alternative other than some kind of detention, then let us have a much more therapeutic response, rather than prison. So the answer to your question is no. There is also a danger in establishing such units because then the tendency is that the judiciary may be more inclined to use those rather than look at good alternatives in the community.
Q282 Mr Llwyd: Yes, but the fact still remains that young people are being placed in totally alien environments, and they should not be there without the necessary backup to look after them. We found on a visit to Italy, for example, that the approach taken there is very different from what it seems to be over here.
Deborah Coles: Which is why I am still so set on us trying to have some kind of independent review or inquiry, so that we can talk to experts who know how to work with very troubled-and sometimes very troubling-children, get that expertise and think more creatively about how we do this. The point that Juliet raised about the high reconviction rates shows that the system is not working and children are still dying. That, for me, sets a real challenge to us as a society. Let’s accept that it is not working and let’s think about how we can do something differently which benefits everybody.
Q283 Mr Llwyd: Should that inquiry be jointly by the Department of Education and the MOD?
Deborah Coles: I think it should be any-
Mr Llwyd: The MoJ. I was talking about the MOD this morning. I have a onetrack mind; sorry.
Deborah Coles: It has to be the broadest possible inquiry because, of course, this is not just a criminal justice issue. What the "Fatally Flawed" report highlights is the fact that this is a public health issue as well. So many of the children and young people we are talking about have vulnerabilities that stem from poor experiences of schools, school exclusions, mental health problems, and drug and alcohol problems. We need to have an inquiry that draws together all those agencies that have responsibility, but also all those people with expertise in working in those areas.
Mr Llwyd: Thank you.
Q284 Yasmin Qureshi: Can I first express my condolences to you, Ms Pounder, for the loss of your son and also commend you for the perseverance that you have shown in trying to get justice on your son’s case? I want to ask you about two things: first the restraint issue, especially that which was used with your son, and then a question about your battle to get a second inquest for your son. What did the inquest conclude about the impact that the restraint techniques used against your son had on him?
Carol Pounder: The inquest concluded that it would have had a big impact on Adam’s mental health; he would have felt frightened and vulnerable. They stated that the restraint on Adam played a big part in Adam taking his own life.
Q285 Yasmin Qureshi: Can I ask both of you whether, in your opinion, restraint can ever be safe, and whether it should ever be used? Are you satisfied with the revised restraint policy that the Government introduced this summer?
Deborah Coles: Can I say something about Carol, also recognising Pam, Gareth Myatt’s mother? They both went through extremely protracted inquest processes. With Carol in particular, you will see it took six years before the truth finally came out. For me, that raised two things. First, there was recognition that thousands of vulnerable children had been systematically subjected to unlawful restraint and that none of the regulation or inspection bodies did anything about it. That is a most shocking indictment. As a result of the evidence that came out during the course of the inquests and also three judicial reviews and a Court of Appeal judgment, Mr Justice Blake accepted that what had been done to Adam was an assault on him, and also that it was inhuman and degrading treatment. It was a devastating reminder about the situation that Adam experienced. I am very disappointed that we are still in a situation where the Government have said it is okay to use pain against children. That is morally completely unacceptable.
In answer to your question about restraint, of course if a child is at serious risk to themselves or to somebody else, I cannot, of course, say, "No, you should not restrain somebody." But what the inquests exposed was the fact that restraint was very much the default position. It was absolutely part and parcel of the culture. As for this issue about children saying, "We were PCTed," for the children who gave evidence at both Gareth’s and Adam’s inquests it was absolutely part of their vocabulary. It was quite clearly endemic within those institutions. Sadly, looking at the recent restraint figures, it is still a big issue-and that comes back to the question about what kind of staff training and resources these institutions have, in terms of using restraint only in the most exceptional circumstances. Carol, do you want to add to that?
Carol Pounder: You can never say, "No, you cannot restrain a person," because at times you would have to-I wouldn’t say "restrain" a person, but there are times when you would have to hold a person to stop them from hurting themselves or somebody else. If a person is really upset and angry and you go to restrain them, if you punch them in the nose, dig your thumbs in their ribs or bend their fingers back, it is only going to make them angrier. Giving pain and causing injury to a person who is already angry just escalates the situation.
Q286 Yasmin Qureshi: As I understand it, in the case of your son what happened was that basically he had been asked to go into his room and he said, "Why?" As a result of that, a number of people came and started to push his arm and in the end hit him on the nose, which caused the nose to bleed. It seems, on the face of it, that this was not a case of somebody being restrained because they were committing a physical violent offence towards anyone, but just a case of not listening. I know that the first inquest looked into all these issues, but when you were trying to get your second inquest, can you tell us a bit about the legal battle that you had to go through to be able to get that second inquest, and proper justice for your son’s case? If there were a wish list of what you would like to be changed so that perhaps things would be easier for other people, what would that be?
Carol Pounder: When my son died in custody, all I got was a knock at the door from the police. I did not know who to go to or who to turn to. Luckily, Deborah from INQUEST contacted me. But for INQUEST contacting me, Adam’s case would just be another dirty blanket left unturned. It would be another dirty blanket left behind closed doors for the Government to keep quiet about. It was through INQUEST, and my solicitors and others, that we have got where we have today. At Adam’s first inquest, the coroner would not tell the jury what the law allowed and didn’t allow, so Adam’s first inquest was totally flawed. Then we had a big fight to get that inquest overturned and to get it stated that what happened to Adam was unlawful. It has been a really hard struggle, and without INQUEST, where would people be?
Q287 Yasmin Qureshi: Can I ask Ms Coles this? I know that "Fatally Flawed", the report that was carried out, recommended at least three things. One of them was that families bereaved by death in custody should have a full right to legal aid so that they can have representation. It also said that delays in the inquest should be dealt with quickly so that there is not too much of a gap between the death and the inquest taking place. I want to ask about the third recommendation, about coroners’ rule 43 recommendations. Do you think the lack of transparency around rule 43 reports makes it easier for the authorities to avoid taking action?
Deborah Coles: The short answer is yes. I have a point about openness and transparency in the context of restraint that I have not had a chance to make yet. One of the key things that came out of the inquest was the fact that there was no proper data collection, monitoring, analysis and transparency around the kind of restraint that was being used, and the fact that children were complaining about the physiological effects of being restrained. It is absolutely crucial that any new restraint that is going to be used is properly monitored and reported on-and, importantly, reported on to Parliament. I am very concerned that the Youth Justice Board have refused once again to make public the manual on restraint. That is a matter of serious concern, because it was only when we opened up what was going on within these institutions that we fully exposed what was being done to children. If you are going to use restraint, it has to be properly monitored and there has to be proper scrutiny of it.
Q288 Chair: Have you tried a freedom of information request for that?
Deborah Coles: Yes, and it has been refused in the interests of public security. There was a fear that children might get hold of it and then use some of the techniques that were being proposed against the staff. The first manual we got-I will be corrected by our research officer if I say this wrongly-was following a request by the Children’s Rights Alliance and I produced a witness statement talking about the importance of openness and transparency around this very important issue. The Youth Justice Board made that first manual available but they have refused this new manual. I can provide some more information on that.
In terms of your question about rule 43 reports, INQUEST recently produced a report called "Learning from Death in Custody Inquests" about the problems of there being no national collation of jury narrative verdicts and rule 43 reports and the importance of monitoring those, and monitoring compliance with any recommendations that come out. That is absolutely essential where we are talking about deaths in custody.
The other point that you importantly raise is about the vital need for families to have access to nonmeanstested public funding. As you will be aware, any death in custody means that there are lawyers acting on behalf of the state, paid for out of taxpayers’ money, at every single inquest.
Q289 Chair: An inquest is automatic.
Deborah Coles: An inquest is automatic. The inquest is what the state has given the family as their means to find out what happened to their relative. Yet families are going through deeply intrusive funding applications, asking for information not just about immediate family members but about broader family members and partners. In the cases that we are hearing about, it is obscene. Families are telling us that at a time of grief, the whole process of trying to find out the truth exacerbates their difficulties in getting on with the bereavement. So that is a big issue, as are the delays because delays frustrate the learning process. They are difficult for everybody, for staff and anybody involved, but for a family, they cannot begin to move on in coming to terms with the bereavement until they know the truth about what has happened, and that is through the inquest process.
Q290 Jeremy Corbyn: Very briefly, do you think that, when somebody has died in the state’s custody, people should have automatic access to legal aid irrespective of their circumstances?
Deborah Coles: Absolutely, without any doubt at all.
Q291 Jeremy Corbyn: Is that on the basis of fairness?
Deborah Coles: On the basis of fairness. The state has teams of lawyers representing it. All we are asking for is equality of arms. It should not be dependent on a family’s personal means. It should be nonmeans-tested. The other problem that families experience is that this is not just about funding their legal representation. It is very important for families that they have specialist lawyers-I cannot tell you how many families contact us when they have maybe not known about us before, and have gone through a process where they have been unrepresented and did not realise there were going to be lawyers representing sometimes a whole body of different public agencies that have been involved-but some families also struggle with even attending the inquest, because, by the virtue of the prison system, they might well have to travel, as Carol did. The inquest took place in Durham.
Q292 Jeremy Corbyn: Could you give us a note on the numbers of your cases that have had legal aid, had legal aid refused, or had costs refused for travelling to hear the inquest?
Deborah Coles: They do not get travel costs to attend an inquest. Either families will have to try and find the money themselves or we might be able to apply for some money from a charitable trust, but money is not given. Coroners will usually pay the travel costs for the day that the family are giving evidence. Occasionally a coroner might be able to it find some moneys from the local authority, but at a time when local authorities are struggling with costs, this is going to get even worse for families.
Q293 Chair: It will now be open to the Chief Coroner to bring about a move of the inquest from one jurisdiction to another, although that option may not be pursued if most of the witnesses are from the institution and therefore in the locality of the coroner where the death took place.
Deborah Coles: No, absolutely. One of the things that we are very much hoping for-the Chief Coroner has indicated that he is considering setting this up-is specialist corners with particular expertise in different areas. I would say that deaths in custody come within that, but obviously one has to be mindful of practical issues like the ones that you mentioned, and also court accommodation, because some of these inquests with lots of different lawyers can last several weeks. It is difficult, because local authorities are under pressure.
Q294 Chair: Do you deal with Scotland, by the way?
Deborah Coles: No, England and Wales only.
Q295 Jeremy Corbyn: On the issue of learning from deaths in custody, first of all I want to thank both of you for the evidence you have given and the work that you have done. Carol, do you think anything has changed in Hassockfield or anywhere else as a result of your son’s death?
Carol Pounder: No. They say, "We’ll do this, we’ll do that; we’ll change this, we’ll change that," but no, it still takes place today. Assaults on children in custody still take place today. Hassockfield is a secure training centre that is privately run and privately owned. It is a multimillion-pound profitmaking business. They are not interested in the children. They are interested in making profits. Even to this day, they still restrain children unlawfully. They still use unlawful methods with children. No, it has not changed in my eyes. They say they’re going to make changes, but, no, they don’t.
Q296 Jeremy Corbyn: Deborah, there have been a lot of inquiries into aspects of the criminal justice system over the years. In your proposals in "Fatally Flawed" you are suggesting that there should be an independent inquiry into deaths of children and young people in custody. Do you think this would be any more effective than what has happened so far, or is there not enough information out there in the public domain, from the evidence both of you have given, for example, on whether we can effect changes without a further inquiry?
Deborah Coles: The problem is that when somebody dies, the inquests are held in isolation. It can be several years before an inquest is held. There are a couple of other issues. One is that they are held in isolation so there has never been a holistic joined-up look at the situation. There is no "joinedupness" between the examinations of the different deaths that have taken place in order to look at the commonalities and the themes that have been running through those cases. Inquests are held in isolation and are very much concentrated on a death at a particular time, rather than looking at the broader context in which these deaths take place and what they say about criminal justice policies and the role of outside agencies. Our view of this was that, having seen death after death occurring and raising the same issues, we felt-as we did when Joseph Scholes died-that there needed to be an inquiry that could bring together the learning that has come out of those, bring together the narrative verdicts, the rule 43 reports, but also the information that we have about what does not work, in the hope that we can safeguard lives in the future and can properly look at the themes that run through these cases.
We have some good examples. The Zahid Mubarek inquiry was a good example of an inquiry that involved a bereaved family, but it looked at things in a much broader way than an inquest allows. As I said earlier, inquests cannot look at sentencing allocation policy and the fundamental questions of concern about what actually was that child’s journey into the criminal justice system. They can touch on that, but they cannot look at it in any detail. We felt that an inquiry and the value of an inquiry-obviously, we have recently had the Hillsborough panel, where you have a thematic look at all the little pockets of information, and we are not just talking about deaths-would be about joining up some of the work that has, as you say, been done.
Q297 Jeremy Corbyn: My concern is that it could become an excuse for a very long delay in changing procedures such as those around rule 43, access to legal aid, and information and advocacy for young people in custody.
Deborah Coles: That is why we have our shortterm and then our longer-term recommendations, recognising that in the short term, while we are talking about children being locked up and about the problems with legal aid, training and rule 43 reports, that can be done. It could be done tomorrow. It is not complicated; it is not rocket science. But I also feel that there is a very strong argument for some kind of review inquiry. I know people get very nervous when you talk about public inquiries, in terms of the financial considerations, but the fact that 33 children have died, and then the 200 children and young people, does suggest that something is going very badly wrong and that we need to review this in much more detail than the current investigation and inquest process allows.
Q298 Jeremy Corbyn: If I may, Chair, I have one last question to Carol. First of all, thank you very much for the evidence you have given. Do you feel that your son ever had access while in custody to any independent legal or social advice, or that anyone was checking up on what was really happening to him, or was he completely isolated?
Carol Pounder: He didn’t have access to anything. As to Adam’s team, what they stated was that there was a fully qualified psychiatrist. It turned out that she was not fully qualified, so no. Adam didn’t have access to a social worker, he didn’t have access to mental health teams and he didn’t have access to psychiatrists. He had no access at all.
Jeremy Corbyn: Thank you.
Q299 Seema Malhotra: Thank you, in the same way that my colleagues have expressed thanks to both of you for coming in and bringing the experience and suffering of Adam into the work of this Committee. Hopefully, that will be able to play a part in safeguarding children in future.
I want to probe, Deborah, one thing that you were saying about the broader context needing to be taken into account in inquiries. What has struck me as potentially a broader context breaks down into two routes: one is the holistic life of the child and probing much further than the boundaries of the justice system in its immediate context; the second is bringing together lessons that there may be in the more common patterns across different inquests that perhaps are not being joined up. Could you expand a little more on the broader context that you feel there needs to be, and say whether it is within both of those routes that you think there needs to be some change?
Deborah Coles: Yes. A starting point would be to examine the deaths that have taken place in terms of what they have identified regarding individuals’ vulnerability and their journey into the criminal justice system, and then what happened to them when they were in those institutions. Some of the cases that we have highlighted in "Fatally Flawed", and in a previous publication, "In the Care of the State?", do that. But we should also focus also on the commonalities between those deaths, child welfare as well as youth justice policies. What could have been done in the community to prevent those children and young people from getting into the criminal justice system or from being detained within those kinds of institutions, and what was the institutional response to those children and young people?
We have never had an opportunity to look at what was an alternative response to these children and young people. That requires evidence and expertise from people who have the experience of working with very troubled children, particularly in areas around mental health. Carol mentioned the impact that bereavement-the deaths of three grandparents-had on Adam. One of the things that we noticed from looking at some of the stories of the young people who have died is traumatic bereavement at a young age and the impact that that then has. That is not being addressed, or not being addressed effectively.
These are the most extreme outcomes of a system that is failing children. We could learn a lot if we looked at this in a much more joinedup way. It is interesting to compare the fact that there has never been a public inquiry into deaths of children in custody with some of the really disturbing cases where children who have been known to state welfare agencies have died and, quite rightly-the Victoria Climbié inquiry is probably a good example-a big inquiry is established. Why is it that children who have died in custody have not merited a similar response? What is it that we are afraid of in opening up that area? It is almost as if we turn away from some of the abuse that is going on in those institutions that is leading children to take their own lives.
Chair: Ms Coles and Ms Pounder, thank you very much to you both. We really do appreciate your evidence this afternoon. It will help us a great deal. You have had a long journey here today and I hope that the journey proves worthwhile for the future. Thank you very much indeed.