April 7, 2008 10:00 AM

Cambridge MP David Howarth is backing the NSPCC's call for an end to painful techniques used to keep discipline among children in custody.

The children's charity is urging the Government to ban "distraction" techniques - painful methods of striking and restraining teenagers - and restrict the use of physical restraint only to prevent harm or escape.

Physical restraint was used on nearly 5000 occasions in young offender institutions and secure training centres in England and Wales between April and December last year, resulting in 154 injuries, including loss of consciousness and damage to internal organs.

According to prison rules the use of force to restrain 12-17-year-olds in secure training centres 'must always be viewed as the final option'. But children in custody interviewed for the NSPCC see it as just part of custody life and say staff sometimes uses it to teach them a lesson as well as to stop fights.

David Howarth said:

"If these painful restraint techniques were used by an adult on a child in any home, school or other setting they could be seen as acts of assault.

"That's why I'm supporting the NSPCC's call to ban their use in the youth justice setting and also why I voted against The Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007, which advocated restraint techniques for the purposes of 'good order and discipline'. I was the only MP to vote against this proposal."

"I await with interest the findings of the forthcoming independent review of restraint methods in juvenile secure settings."

NSPCC assistant director for Cambridgeshire, Paul Ringer said:

"The use of physical restraint should also only be used in the most extreme circumstances and even then it should not cause pain. Many children will have suffered abuse or been caught-up in domestic violence before going into custody. They need care not harsh treatment.

"Prison officers looking after these children have a difficult job which is why there should be adequate numbers of staff who have been properly trained to defuse difficult situations."


Notes to editors:

1) Restraint was used on 2633 occasions in young offenders' institutions; 2271 occasions in secure training centres between April- December 2007. David Hanson, Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, House of Commons, 26 February, 2008

2) The NSPCC is the UK's leading children charity specialising in child protection and the prevention of cruelty to children. The NSPCC's purpose is to end cruelty to children FULL STOP. Its vision is of a society where all children are loved, valued and able to fulfil their potential. The NSPCC runs 180 projects and services across the United Kingdom and Channel Islands, including ChildLine, the UK's free, confidential 24-hour helpline for children and young people. The NSPCC helps over 10,000 children and their families every year.

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