Judith is today hosting a Westminster Hall debate in the Houses of Parliament on the safety in youth custody. The debate comes just a week after the BBC’s Panorama programme went undercover in Medway Secure Training Centre, an institution managed by G4S, which exposed harrowing evidence of children and young people being hurt and threatened by custody officers, the same people who are supposed to be protecting them.
In her opening remarks Judith said: “All of us recoiled with absolute revulsion at the scenes we saw play out on our screens during this programme. We saw young people being subjected to the most horrific maltreatment.”
Progress to reform youth justice has remained painfully and unacceptably slow, despite the Government’s laudable ambitions and despite promises of a much-needed cultural shift.
Worryingly, despite critical remarks from the Government’s own independent Inspectorate, and a cross party parliamentary committee, the Government continues to “act with disturbing complacency”.
In response to an urgent question granted by the Speaker, following the Panorama’ revelations, the Justice Secretary offered nothing more than cursory assurances about the safety of our children and young persons in custody. There were no firm guarantees or a commitment to action.
Judith also heavily criticised the Government’s decision to make substantial cuts to Youth Justice and the very services that would be in the front line in tackling the systemic problems its faces.
“What the Minister failed to mention is the 5%, or £13.5million, in-year budget cut to the Youth Justice Board. The very institution he believes will be front and centre in helping the local council in responding to the scandalous revelations of the last week.
“What was also not mentioned in the Justice Secretary’s statement, was that £9million of this £13.5million cut, the lion share, is to be found by cutting the Youth Justice Grant. The very grant which is used by Local Council’s to fund their local Youth Justice Teams”.
Labour has called for G4S to be stripped of its contract to run children’s prisons following abuse claims and called for a wide-ranging review of all the company’s contracts within the criminal justice system.