Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Howard League for Penal Reform

As you may be aware the Howard league for Penal reform are currently in Jersey to look at Greenfields and the Young Offenders Institution at La Moye.

The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the UK. It was established in 1866 and is named after John Howard, one of the first prison reformers. The Howard League for Penal Reform is entirely independent of government and is funded by voluntary donations.

The Howard League became involved last August after I telephoned them anonymously and asked them to make contact with Stuart Syvret as he would be able to give them information about Greenfields and the child protection system in Jersey that may be of interest to them.

Fortunately Stuart was made a ministerial decision before he was dimissed from his post as Health Minister to set out the terms of reference for the propsed review by the Howard League.

It is this letter and the subsequent terms of reference that I want to focus on. It appears on the face of it that the States of Jersey have failed to carry out that ministerial decision. Of course there may be a perfectly rational explanation for this, but read below and see what you think.

The ministerial decision made by Stuart Syvret is as follows:

"Letter to Director, Howard League for Penal Reform. (MD-HSS-2007-0053)

Decision Reference: MD-H SS-2007-0053

Decision Summary Title (File Name):

Letter to Director, Howard League for Penal Reform

Date of Decision Summary: 30 August 2007

Decision Summary Author: Mike Pollard, Chief Executive

Date of Written Report: 28 August 2007

Written Report Author: Senator Stuart Syvret

Subject: To commission an investigation and appraisal by the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Decision(s): The Minister decided to commission an investigation and appraisal by the Howard League for Penal Reform as per the Ministers letter of 28 August 2007

Reason(s) for Decision: As per Minister’s letter of 28 August , a copy of the “Grand Prix” arrangements, advice from Mr C Callender dated 23 August 2007

Action required: To undertake a comprehensive assessment into “areas of enquiry” as per 1-9 of the Ministers’ letter to Ms Crook dated 28 August 2007.

Position: Minister Health and Social Services Department

Date Signed: 30 August 2007

Date of Decision (If different from Date Signed): 28 August 2007


Senator Stuart Syvret
Minister, Health & Social Services


The Letter that this Ministerial decision refers to is as follows:

"28th August 2007
Frances Crook
Director, Howard League for Penal Reform
1 Ardleigh Road
London
N1 4HS

Dear Ms Crook

I am extremely grateful that the Howard League has taken an interest in events in Jersey. As you may have been told by your colleagues, a number of issues are causing some of us deep concern.

My purpose in writing is to request and invite the Howard League for Penal Reform to send a team to Jersey to undertake a completely independent and comprehensive examination of the whole sphere of child and young person custody in Jersey.

I issue this invitation as Minister for Health & Social Services, States of Jersey. As the politician with legal and political responsibility for child welfare and protection, I am lawfully empowered to initiate whatever enquiries I consider necessary into child welfare and protection issues.

My understanding and strong wish would be that you publish your report once completed; though obviously taking whatever necessary steps to protect the anonymity of victims and witnesses if anonymity is their wish.

A range of information has recently come into my possession which leads me to be concerned that the island may not be meeting appropriate standards of care and support for children and young people in custody.

For example, it was recently brought to my attention by a whistleblower that children – already very damaged, confused and angry young people – were being subjected to the routine coercive and punitive use of solitary confinement in the Jersey secure unit. This involved 24 hours solitary confinement upon admission to the unit in a locked bedroom, with 1 hour allowed out for exercise – but even this 1 hour was “behaviour dependent”. However worse than this was the solitary confinement in locked cells known as the “Pits”. These were featureless cement cells with a concrete bed. Again, the 1 hour exercise was behaviour dependent.
The so-called “Grand Prix” document clearly states that any child confined to the “Pits” would have their bedding and mattress removed for most of the day, only to be returned in the evenings.

Children who had emotional and behavioural difficulties that displeased management would often be confined for longer than 24 hours. We are aware of one damaged young man who was in solitary confinement in the “Pits” for 2 weeks.

The public debate triggered by my concerns has also led to other child custody issues being brought to my attention. A significant number of people, including staff, former staff, social workers and victims have contacted me. This has led to my initial concerns developing to take in other issues in relation to child custody.

These are issues that require some urgent attention from an organisation like the Howard League. The welfare of the children and the freshness of evidence will be best served by a speedy initiation of any review. For example, if a team from the Howard League were able to come to Jersey and, at least, begin its work in the next few weeks, that would be excellent. Were it possible to begin sooner – then even better.

The Howard League is a completely independent organisation. I absolutely respect this and do not, therefore, attempt to prescribe in any way the work you may consider necessary, nor the methodology you might use, in the course of an enquiry into the custody of children and young people in Jersey.

Therefore, what I describe below should not be seen as any kind of fixed ‘terms of reference’. Instead I offer these areas of enquiry merely as suggestions and background information based upon grass-roots feed-back I have received from the community.

The team from the Howard League will receive full and frank co-operation and assistance from the States of Jersey.

In my opinion and that of a number of other people in Jersey, including professionals who work with these children, the areas of enquiry would usefully be:

1: The imprisonment of children in the Jersey secure unit now known as Greenfields. (Previously known as Les Chenes)

The regime as it was until October last year at which date the use of the so-called “Grand Prix” policy of coercive and punitive solitary confinement was halted after the intervention of a whistleblower?

The experiences of the children who were subjected to the “Grand Prix” regime over the period of years it was in use?

The particular experiences of those children subjected to solitary confinement for 24 hours or longer. For example, one child was held in solitary confinement in the “Pits” for 2 weeks?

Whether the use of the “Grand Prix” regime, especially those parts of it involving coercive solitary confinement for periods of 24 hours or more, could be considered an unlawful breach of the human rights of these children?

Whether the use of the “Grand Prix” regime of coercive solitary confinement could be reasonably considered to be harmful to children?

Whether the use of the “Grand Prix” regime of coercive solitary confinement could be considered to be an unlawful breach of the Children (Jersey) Law 2002?

Whether such a regime could ever be regarded as appropriate and acceptable, not only in the 21st century, but in recent decades?

The regime as it is now, that is, post-October 2006?

Whether the current regime meets all relevant Human Rights and other legal requirements?

Whether, even if lawful, the regime was or is appropriate and beneficial for the children confined?

Notwithstanding the fact that the building was recently re-modelled, is the
physical structure and amenity of the facility appropriate to meet the needs of children residents?

2: The imprisonment of children at the Greenfields unit, prior to the introduction of the “Grand Prix” regime.

Were the policies and practices used against children at Greenfields prior to the introduction of the “Grand Prix” regime always appropriate, lawful and beneficial to the children?

Were the policies and practices used against children at the secure unit during the period of some years when it was known as Les Chenes always appropriate, lawful and beneficial to the children?

3: The imprisonment of children in the former secure unit in Jersey, know as Haute de la Garren.

Were the policies and practices used against children at Haute de la Garren always appropriate, lawful and beneficial to the children?

4: The imprisonment of children/young people at the Jersey Young Offenders Institution at La Moye prison.

Are the policies and practices used against children and young people in the Jersey Y.O.I today, appropriate, lawful and beneficial to the children and young people?

Were the past policies and practices used against children and young people at the Jersey Y.O.I appropriate, lawful and beneficial to the children and young people?

Is the physical structure and amenity of the Y.O.I facility appropriate to meet the needs of the children and young person residents?

5: Children and young people and the law.
Do children and young people have appropriate access to effective and competent legal representation in Jersey, given the absence of a UK style legal aid system?

Do children and young people have appropriate access to effective advocacy of their needs and concerns?

Are the overarching policies and practices of the States of Jersey in respect of the criminalisation, prosecution and sentencing of children and young people appropriate, constructive and beneficial to the children and young people?

Do the overarching policies and practices of the States of Jersey in respect of the criminalisation, prosecution and sentencing of children and young people actually work? That is, how successful are such policies and approaches in contributing to the engendering of self-worth and stable lifestyles of children and young people?

6: The effectiveness, or otherwise, of Governance, oversight and regulation within a small, self-governing jurisdiction such as Jersey.

Can the past Governance, oversight and regulatory approaches in respect of the imprisonment of children and young people in Jersey be considered effective, safe and robustly impartial?

Can the present Governance, oversight and regulatory approaches in respect of the imprisonment of children and young people in Jersey be considered effective, safe and robustly impartial?

7: Inter-agency working.
Do the various agencies with a role to play in law enforcement, prosecution, custody and welfare of children work in an effective and co-ordinated manner?
Are all such agencies supplied with appropriate legislative and policy guidance by the island’s government?

8: Justice for victims.
Could the Howard League, perhaps through advertisements, media comments and the use of local out-reach agencies encourage those who have been subject to the regimes, or similar, described above during recent decades to make contact?
Could the Howard League assist any person or group of people who may have been treated unlawfully in any of the regimes above, to seek justice?

9: Any other areas of enquiry or investigation that the Howard League for Penal Reform consider necessary.

Were the Howard League able to undertake an independent enquiry we would be most grateful. As stated above, the independence of your organisation is fully respected. The paragraphs numbered 1 to 9 above are suggested simply as guidance as these are the areas of concern that have been raised by many people.

Should you prefer to work to different terms, those of your own choosing, that would be perfectly acceptable.

As I said earlier in this letter, the sooner the Howard League could come and begin its review, the better. Any ongoing mistreatment will be rooted out that much sooner; evidence will be fresher; the memories of witnesses will be clearer.

Also, the sooner your work begins, the more difficult it will become for any person, who might wish to do such things, to create obstructions to your work.

I understand that the Howard League, as an independent organisation, would prefer to receive no government payment for the undertaking of its investigations? If that is your wish it will, of course, be respected. But given the range of issues that might need examining over a period of some time, resource considerations may arise. In which case the Health & Social Services Department can meet any reasonable expense.

Thank you very much for agreeing to undertake an enquiry. It will be of immense benefit to the troubled young people of our community.

Yours sincerely

Senator Stuart Syvret
Minister, Health & Social Services
States of Jersey


As you can see this letter is concise, informative and transparent.

To recap, this was a Ministerial decision made in August 2007 by Senator Stuart Syvret in his post as Health Minister.

It is now May 2008 and the Howard League are in Jersey undertaking the review as agreed.

The terms of reference that are being used for this review bare no resemblance to the letter by Stuart Syvret whatsoever.

The Press Release given by the Howard League on the 3rd March 2008 states:

"The review has the following terms of reference, agreed with the Jersey government:

• To examine existing policies and procedures to safeguard the welfare and wellbeing of children in the penal system in Jersey and to make recommendations about how these may be improved."

Interestingly the new terms do not refer to anything which is can be classed as historical. Note the opening line which states, 'To examine existing policies and procedures..."

In conclusion, how has this change occurred?

How is that a Ministerial Decision which was made in August 2007 has seeminlgy been ignored by March 2008?

Can anyone answer this question for me?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. If I were given to a wee bit of speculation, I might even suspect there was some kind of confidentially ammended parameter agreement between the "Powers that Be" and the Howard League.

We do not have to speculate even that much to know the States authorities will tell a Porkie Pie if asked about anything, so shouldn't the Howard League be questioned about the limitations of their enquiry? If they refuse to respond to questions about such an agreement, we will have that as our answer.

Besides, didn't someone involved already jump the gun and (predictably) announce that an independent investigation showed there was no current risk for children in Care?

Newfan

Anonymous said...

Simon

As ever, the powers that be are interfering with independent processes. They set terms of reference so tightly that only very selective information can be examined thus covering up and concealing the true nature of what goes on. Once again we have Pollard and Baudains "fixing" the system - spinning the story and deciding the outcome.

Why is Ben Shenton allowing this? Surely he must have overturned the original ministerial decision - or are the senior servants at H&SS now so arrogant and confident in their positions that they feel able to over rule their political masters to protect their own backs.

Wonder how much obstruction the Howard League will encounter?

If they have any sense they will do a wide reaching investigation, publish 'internationally' and be dammed!

TonyB said...

Are you contacting them (or they contacting you)? I hope they are canny enough to dig a bit beneath the P.R. appearance set up for them.

Anonymous said...

Is CommunitycareUK monitoring this?