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Monday, September 28, 1998 Published at 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK


The record of restraint

Physical abuse often emerges many years later

The investigation into the Windlestone Hall school in Durham raises the issue of youth discipline seven years after the Levy report exposed a fresh wave of punitive restraint practices.

The damning report into the Staffordshire pindown scandal, where children were kept in solitary confinement often half-naked for long periods, condemned some of the harsh methods employed by homes and boarding institutions.

Few details have been given of the investigation at Windlestone Hall and there are no suggestions that any of the alleged incidents involve practices that have previously been the subject of inquiries.

Copying phone books

The Levy report revealed that four children's homes in the county opened used extreme measures to discipline more than 130 children aged between nine and 17.

They were not allowed to talk to anyone while being punished by pindown and were often made to do menial tasks, such as copying from telephone directories.

Tony Latham, labelled in the report as the "architect" of the pindown method, said he was responding to a "hopeless situation".

Supporters of his methods said at the time that isolating difficult children gave them time to consider their behaviour and change for the better.

But critics said the system was inhuman and brought out the worst elements of institutional control.

The Levy report concluded that the method was in breach of statutory regulations governing residential homes.

It also called for better training and pay to raise standards and expertise.

Homes in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent were also known to use pindown.

Care workers resigned

In 1995, new allegations surfaced in Birmingham, where seven care workers resigned after reports of systematic physical abuse.

Boys living at the Acorn Grove children's home were said to have been beaten and given "flying lessons", where children were thrown around a room.

Also in 1995, allegations emerged of harsh punishments at a private residential home in Kent.

As well as beatings children were subjected to "bouncings", where they were thrown against furniture and walls.

Earlier this year the government announced the "reasonable force" that teachers in schools could employ to tackle a growing number of violent or difficult pupils.

The guidelines leave it to local education authorities to outline "restraint holds" and "release holds".

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