Bishops join call for further enquiry into youth custody death

By staff writers
July 24, 2007

Church of England bishops in the House of Lords have joined other penal reformers in highlighting the conditions of Britain’s child prisons in a debate following the coroner’s report into the death of a 15-year-old boy.

The incident occurred while the young detainee was being restrained in a youth jail. The Church of England's bishop for prisons, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Selby, from Worcester, joined the call for investigation and reflection.

The bishops told the assembled Lords that shocking stories of heavy-handling in the Lord Carlile’s report needed to be urgently addressed, reports the Church of England Newspaper (CEN).

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, said he was alarmed at the number of incidents reported in youth jails.

He commented: “I can understand the need for physical restraint when young people are likely to harm themselves or others, or to damage property, or are at risk of absconding.

“However, as ... Lord Carlile, amply demonstrated, the number of incidents compared with the number in our secure training centres is deeply worrying: ten incidents a year for every young person in a security training centre,” he added.

The bishops and youth justice campaigners are calling for a "fuller" inquiry, with Bishop James adding his hope that it would be "the last into that aspect of our youth justice system", the newspaper reported.

“I add my voice to that of the noble Lord in pleading that this may be the very last inquiry but that it is one that considerably amends the so-called amended regulation.”

The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Peter Selby, remarked: “This is not a debate between people who think that looking after disturbed young people is easy and those who think it difficult,” but rather a matter of how to achieve justice in a complex situation.

The issue of restraining youths in child jails was previously raised at this year’s Church of England General Synod by the Children’s Commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley-Green.

Those working for restorative justice believe that significantly reducing custodial approaches is part of what needs to be achieved in reforming the present system.

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