By Clare Sambrook
WHAT to do with a 100 kg guard who fatally restrains a 40 kg boy? Promote him to health & safety manager, G4S children’s homes. Behind the corporate image at the company responsible for some of Britain’s most vulnerable children.
One spring day nine years ago, 15-year-old Gareth Myatt, on his third day at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre near Rugby, refused to clean the sandwich toaster. He was sent to his room. He complied.
A note on Gareth’s file said that if he became aggressive, which didn’t happen often, the best thing was for staff to leave him alone to calm down.
They didn’t do that.
Instead, six foot, sixteen stone David Beadnall and a fellow guard followed Gareth (4ft 10ins and six stone) to his room. They told him off. They later claimed that Gareth, who was of mixed race, responded defiantly, asking them to leave.
The guards chose not to leave. Instead they began the punishment procedure known as ‘single separation.’ All Gareth’s personal possessions would be removed from his room.
Gareth had few personal possessions. One was a scrap of paper. His mother’s new mobile phone number was written on it.
They took it. He objected.
What happened next?
Here is an account, drawn from court transcripts, by the charity Inquest.
‘The officers alleged that Gareth said: “You’re not fucking taking that” and “Don t take my mum’s phone number”. Gareth is then said to have clenched his fist and swung it at David Beadnall who stood at over 6 ft tall and weighed over 16 stone.
(Beadnall) claimed that this behaviour amounted to a threatening situation and as such warranted using a restraint technique on Gareth.
‘The staff members and Gareth ended up lying on his bed, with one staff member holding his legs and the other holding his upper body.’
A third officer then came into the room and Gareth was placed in a hold called the Seated Double Embrace. Two staff members held his upper body and pushed his torso forward towards his knees while one officer held his head.
Gareth complained: ‘I can’t breathe’.
Beadnall responded: ‘if you can talk then you can breathe’.
Gareth said he was going to defecate.
He was told: ‘you are going to have to shit yourself’ and the restraint continued.
Gareth did defecate. The restraint continued. Gareth vomited. The restraint continued. Gareth slumped forward. The restraint carried on for several minutes. When the restraint stopped it was too late.
Attempts to resuscitate him failed. The cause of death was recorded as asphyxia resulting from inhalation of gastric content and his body position during the period of physical restraint.
Gareth had an older sister, aged 16, and a younger brother who was 9 at the time of his death. He had lived with his mother in Stoke-on-Trent.
The inquest, held in 2007, heard that one year before Gareth died, David Beadnall had been investigated for using pain-inducing ‘distraction techniques’ too often. Beadnall told the inquest he had no recollection of that.
G4S training documents listed guards’ nicknames. They included ‘Clubber’, ‘Crusher’ and ‘Mauler’.
Last week, after repeated requests, G4S reluctantly confirmed that Dave Beadnall is now Safety, Health and Environmental Manager at G4S Children’s Services.
Company spokesperson Nicola Savage added: ‘His current role does not involve any direct contact with young people.’
Beadnall’s name has popped into the public domain again because he sent a statement to Aylesbury Vale District Council in support of a planning application to turn a house into a children’s home.
The application itself omitted the company’s name, in an apparent attempt to evade local opposition.
G4S Children’s Services runs children’s homes and secure training centres.
According to the G4S website, staff work with local schools, sit on Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards and train child protection officers.
Beadnall is ‘responsible for monitoring and managing the Safety, Health and Environmental aspects and impacts of G4S Children’s Services’, according to his LinkedIn Profile.
Savage was reluctant to confirm the current job titles of two other senior executives at G4S Children’s Services, Paul Cook and John Parker.
Paul Cook is Managing Director of G4S Children’s Services.
John Parker is Director of Children’s Services at G4S Children’s Services.
In February 2006, Paul Cook, described as director for children’s services at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre, told the magazine, Community Care: ‘It was a shock to find that a restraint hold considered to be safe turned out to be unsafe. This was as much a tragedy for the staff as for Gareth’s family.’
John Parker, the director of Rainsbrook at the time of Gareth’s death, told the inquest that he had not read the Physical Control in Care manual; he was not aware of the risks involved.
The Crown Prosecution Service said in January 2006 that there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to bring prosecutions over the death of Gareth Myatt. The Coroner recorded a verdict of Accidental Death in June 2007.
After the Inquest, the Coroner, Judge Pollard wrote personally to then justice secretary Jack Straw to ensure that no other child should be harmed by improper restraint methods, and to highlight the remarkable failure of G4S’s management to act on reports of abuses. (He refers to Rebound, the division of G4S responsible for Rainsbrook).
Inadequacy in the monitoring of the use of Physical Control in Care at Rainsbrook by Rebound management caused or contributed to Gareth’s death, wrote the Coroner. We also wish to record that there was a problem with the lack of response by Rebound to the information from Rainsbrook.
G4S continued to use dangerous restraint techniques, as evidenced by the death of Jimmy Mubenga in the company’s care six years after the death of Gareth Myatt. This time G4S guards, in evidence to an inquest jury, claimed that their detainee forced his own head down between his knees. The jury did not believe them. They returned a verdict of unlawful killing.
Note: The account of Gareth Myatt’s death is taken from the Appendix to INQUEST’s submission to the Ministry of Justice & Department for Children, Schools and Families on the Review of Restraint. December 2007. By Deborah Coles, Co-Director Inquest, With assistance from: Mark Scott, Partner, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors and Dexter Dias, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers.