SACK G4S demands Howard League

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THREE G4S employees were arrested yesterday and are being held on suspicion of child neglect following an investigation into abuse at a young offenders centre in Kent.

The three men were among four ‘team leaders’ at the Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester who were sacked on Tuesday following the BBC’s Panorama broadcast on Monday evening.

A further three men at the unit – two duty operations managers and a training centre assistant – remain suspended. A female duty operations manager has been placed on restricted duties, while a male healthcare worker employed by Central and North West London NHS Trust (CNWL) has also been suspended.

The allegations relate to 10 boys aged 14 to 17. The arrests follow undercover filming by the Panorama programme at the 76-bed centre, which is for young offenders aged 12 to 17.

Following the broadcast of the programme, the Howard League for Penal Reform, demanded that the government sacks G4S. Among the allegations uncovered by Panorama and now subject to investigation are that Medway staff:

• Slapped a teenager several times in the head

• Pressed heavily on the necks of young people

• Used restraint techniques unnecessarily – and that included squeezing a teenager’s windpipe so he had problems breathing

• Used foul language to frighten and intimidate – and boasted of mistreating young people, including using a fork to stab one on the leg and making another cry uncontrollably

• Tried to conceal their behaviour by ensuring they were beneath CCTV cameras or in areas not covered by them.

The Panorama programme showed a young boy aged 14 lying sobbing in his bed. For eight minutes he had been dragged, marched and restrained across the prison. One team leader bragged to the BBC’s undercover reporter that he had mistreated another young person with a group of other guards and said of another boy that, ‘we just destroyed him, absolutely destroyed him’.

G4S was paid more than £10million by the government last year for its contract at Medway Secure Training Centre, which equates to £140,000 per child. Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League, said: ‘Watching this programme made me cry. The deliberate cruelty against children was one of the most upsetting things I have seen in this country. Shocking also was the institutionalised fraud being perpetrated to cover up that abuse.

‘The children in Medway must be found other places within the next few days because this institution is rotten to the core. The contract should then be rescinded. ‘The government ought to explore whether G4S should repay the taxpayers’ money it has received in the last few years. It has been paid to look after children and it has failed.’