Secure training centre bosses condemned after inmate abuse claims


Managerial oversight failed to protect young people from harm at a facility for young inmates which is at the centre of abuse claims, the Chief Inspector of Prisons has said.

Inspectors revealed they have "significant concerns" about Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester, Kent, following revelations aired on the BBC's Panorama programme.

Undercover footage showed staff mistreating and abusing inmates, and boasting about using inappropriate techniques to restrain youngsters.

Other allegations included claims that staff tried to hide their actions by ensuring they were beneath CCTV cameras or in areas not covered by them.

Inspectors who visited the centre after the programme was broadcast found evidence of "targeted bullying of vulnerable boys by a small number of staff in addition to the conditioning of new staff".

In a report published on Tuesday, Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick recommended a commissioner be immediately established to provide extra oversight at the centre.

Body-worn cameras should also be used across all institutions holding children, with staff expected to record all incidents involving the use of force, he added.

A small number of young inmates described some staff using "insulting, aggressive or racist language", inspectors found during their visit on January 11.

And staff failed at times to challenge poor behaviour, with some youngsters reporting feeling unsafe in areas not covered by CCTV cameras.

The facility for young people aged 12 to 17 is one of three secure training centres, all run by private security firm G4S.

Mr Hardwick said: "Managerial oversight failed to protect young people from harm.

"Effective oversight is key to creating a positive culture that prevents poor practice happening and ensuring it is reported when it does."

Some of the concerns raised in the report were not confined to Medway or the secure training centre model, Mr Hardwick went on.

A high turnover of staff was a feature at Medway, reportedly in the region of 50% of the basic grade custody staff.

Mr Hardwick said appropriate staffing levels are now in place and extra independent oversight has been provided by the Youth Justice Board and Barnardo's advocates.

Other recommendations were for new inspections of all secure training centres to see whether the concerns raised at Medway are widespread.

The visit, led by the deputy chief inspector of prisons and a senior Ofsted inspector, saw 20 young people spoken to out of 55 held at Medway.

Since the Panorama broadcast, five men have been arrested by Kent Police on suspicion of either child neglect or assault. All have been bailed to April.

G4S has sacked five members of staff, two others identified in the programme have been suspended and one other has been removed from operational duty as inquiries continue.

One of the employees who has been suspended works for Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL).

Lawyers at Leigh Day are dealing with a number of inquiries from people alleging abuse relating to Panorama's disclosures.