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Concern over child remand numbers

Greenfields
The report follows concerns raised by a former manager at a secure unit

The number of children being held in custody in Jersey is unacceptably high, according to a prison reform charity.

In England and Wales the proportion of those held on remand as opposed to being bailed is about 20% but in Jersey it is about 80%.

The Howard League for Penal Reform reviewed care services for Jersey's young offenders after concerns were raised by a former social worker.

Jersey States said the report was "well-considered and constructive".

The report is unconnected to a probe into alleged child sexual abuse.

It was prompted by concerns raised by Simon Bellwood after he was sacked in May 2007 as manager at the Greenfields secure unit for children.

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His concerns about disciplinary procedures at the unit were taken to the then Health and Social Security Minister Stuart Syvret who asked the Howard League to compile a report.

The Howard League says it is confident the forms of solitary confinement described by Mr Bellwood are no longer in use at Greenfields.

But it is recommending the secure places at the unit be decommisioned.

The report recommends raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 and offering alternatives to custody.

These include specialist fostering services and intensive supervision.

The report also said custody should only be used when it is the only way to protect the public from serious harm.

In those cases, the report states, the child should be placed in a secure children's home.

We view this (Howard League report) as a validation of the policies for children which we are already working on
Jim Perchard, Assistant Minister for Health and Social Services

Andrew Neilson, assistant director of the Howard League said: "Disadvantaged and powerless children in secure accommodation are particularly in need of a system that recognises their vulnerability with in-built mechanisms to protect, monitor and represent their concerns."

Jersey States said many of the recommendations were already being enacted following an independent report earlier this year by UK expert, Professor Andrew Williamson.

Jim Perchard, Assistant Minister for Health and Social Services, said: "We view this [Howard League report] as a validation of the policies for children which we are already working on.

"We have started the process of signing up to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, and are well on the way towards implementing plans for a new whistle-blowing policy, independent inspection, a lead minister for children and an independent advocacy system.

"Some of the report's recommendations will require both professional and political debate, but they all provide a helpful contribution to the development of Jersey's children's services."



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SEE ALSO
No 'systematic abuse' uncovered
05 Jul 08 |  Jersey
Children 'confined in solitary'
11 Mar 08 |  Jersey
Island's 'culture of secrecy'
25 Feb 08 |  Jersey

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