Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/906/23004
Systemic failures hurt kids in justice system
Chas Berry, National Vice-Chair, probation and courts union Napo (personal capacity)
Investigations into two separate incidents involving children held in custody reveal a youth justice system in crisis.
A report just published by the Independent Police Complaints Commission heavily criticises Sussex Police for its treatment of an eleven-year-old disabled girl. Police hooded, handcuffed and detained her for 60 hours without access to an appropriate adult in 2012.
Such techniques amount to child abuse. Eleven officers and one staff member now face misconduct charges.
Earlier this year, BBC Panorama also uncovered shocking abuse at the Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent. It is run by infamous outsourcing firm G4S, and houses up to 75 children aged between 12 and 18.
Footage showed excessive force used against a child called 'Billy', and officers boasting about the physical and emotional abuse they regularly use against 'disruptive pupils'. Equally shocking were scenes showing the systematic falsification of evidence to protect staff. This may explain why six of the eleven arrests so far are only for 'misconduct in public office'.
Too many children in England and Wales are held in custody. Socialists are right to question whether those as young as eleven or 12 should be detained at all.
When detention is used, however, youth justice agencies have a duty to protect those in their care. Interestingly, Billy's mother told local press that the centre shouldn't close, but "there should be a lot more training for staff to deal with the mental health issues that these kids have."
Individual abusers must be dealt with. But these incidents also show systemic failures that the increasingly under-resourced and privatised criminal justice system is incapable of addressing.
Kicking out the privateers - and funding proper training, job security, and decent pay and conditions - would help with some of these problems. Democratic accountability of the police and justice system to working class communities is also essential.
In The Socialist 15 June 2016:
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