Schedule 8

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:00 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Llafur, Northampton North 12:00, 22 Tachwedd 2007

I apologise for not being here at the start of the meeting, but I was caught up in traffic. I strongly support the proposals as they stand and urge that they are not amended. I had considered tabling an amendment to this section to include secure training centres and other youth establishments in the list of institutions that were to be under the remit of the commissioner, which was why I raised the matter with the Secretary of State. To my astonishment I found that they had been listed in here, which was contrary to what I had understood from his response to me. It is really important that children and young people have at least the same level of protection as other offenders. Preferably I want them to have more protection. Having unfortunately had to deal with one of those cases, and being aware of a number of others, I believe that it is important to have a visible, clear and centralised mechanism for investigating such deaths. At present, I understand that most of the protections for children come through the local authority and the safeguarding children board, so if something happens the case goes back out to the local authority.

The problem is that the local authority may be some distance from the institution concerned. In the case of Gareth Myatt—I know, Sir Nicholas, that you are familiar with that case and my concerns about it—the local authority was a long distance from the institution concerned. I am sure that the local authority is perfectly competent to safeguard children’s issues, but  the fact remains that Gareth’s family did not have quite the access to the local authority that they might have had because of their personal circumstances. The level of scrutiny that should have been applied in that case does not seem to have happened until very much later. At the inquest, a whole pile of information came out that strictly speaking should have been dealt with much earlier; it quite properly had to deal not only with the circumstances of the death but the treatment leading up to it. I imagine that the commissioner will look at much more closely at that, as it is really important.

I also have some qualms about references being made from secure training centres to local authorities, because the follow-through is not always rigorous. That is partly because of the vulnerability of the young people and their families and partly because they are not always able to pursue their complaints. All who support such families know perfectly well that some of them have real difficulties in pursuing their complaints through the local authority via existing mechanisms.

Another important factor is that people who are used to dealing with care issues seem to have some difficulty in dealing with what goes on inside prisons or secure establishments and working out whether it is good or bad. I think, for example, of the monitoring and management of restraint. At the inquest into the death of Gareth Myatt, the Home Office monitor clearly expressed his difficulty in challenging some of the decisions made and some of the practices going on at Rainsbrook. That is very telling. It is important that those looking into the deaths of children and young people in prisons and secure training centres should have the skills necessary to deal with custodial matters, such as the use of force and physical restraint. They should understand the culture of what happens in prisons. The same safeguards should be put in place for children and young people.

I strongly support the proposals as they stand. If my hon. Friend is thinking of watering them down, I very much hope that such suggestions will be resisted. I hope that the Bill goes through unamended.