The high court has heard how a child has been held locked in his cell in Feltham prison for over 23 hours a day, denied education ( which is a legal right ) and been in solitary confinement for extended periods.
The teenager in question who cannot be named for legal reasons has subsequently been diagnosed with PST ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ) and anxiety. The boys lawyer, Dan Squires QC, has stated to the court that the regime known as “single unlock” was a breach of the boy’s human rights and came in the category of degrading and inhumane treatment.
During a period of approximately 8 weeks, the teenager who is now aged 16 was only let out from his cell for 30 minutes a day of which was his only time to make phonecalls, get medication or take a shower. Also he was not allowed into the gym as well as not receiving any education, which are statutory requirements of law.
Allegedly the treatment at Feltham was not a unique practice and Dan Squires QC claims “It’s common to hold children locked in their cells for more than 23 hours a day. A report of an inspection which was undertaken in 2015 concluded that 25% of teenage boys at Feltham were held in similar conditions. The situation exists at other Young Offender Institutions across the country.”
The Howard League for Penal Reform is supporting a legal challenge against the regime which is believed to be the first judicial review of it. Since the case has been raised with the Ministry of Justice, the boy’s conditions have markedly improved. His lawyer said there was no documention regarding the conditions he was kept in, nor of their effectiveness or any plans to change.
The Ministry Of Justice had conceded there was no valid authority for excluding the teenager from associating with other children in this case.
The “single unlock” regime dictates that an offender is only allowed out of their cell if they are accompanied by three prison offices and that contact with other youths is not permitted.
The chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook, said:
“Caging children for over 22 hours a day is unacceptable. Evidence shows that it can cause irreparable damage so the practice must cease.”
The National Preventative Mechanism and the children’s commissioner have also slated the practice of solitary confinement for young offenders in prison having found that a third of children in prison spent time in solitary confinement and raised attention to the “worrying number of times when isolation was not subject to formal governance”.
The hearing is still continuing to be heard.