The 16-year-old who brought a High Court challenge over his "prolonged solitary confinement" in detention won a ruling that his human rights were breached on Tuesday (July 4).
The boy, who spent more than 100 days isolated from his peers and was deprived of adequate education as he was locked in his cell for more than 22 hours a day for more than 15 days at a stretch.
The teenager, identified in court documents as AB, is represented by the legal team of the Howard League for Penal Reform. The Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened in the case.
He was granted a declaration by a judge that his Article 8 rights - the right to private and family life - were breached.
Lack of mental and physical activity 'contributed to disruptive behaviour'
But Mr Justice Ouseley rejected a claim his treatment amounted to a breach of human rights laws which prohibit torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The judge announced that young offender institution rules on both "removal from association" - which relates to being kept in a cell and not allowed to mix with others - and education were breached.
He said: "I shall make a declaration that Article 8 was breached because the interference with his rights was not in accordance with the law."
The court accepted that during the worst periods, when he had no educational provision at all, “the lack of mental and physical activity contributed to his frustration and so to his disruptive behaviour”.
Locked up alone for 23-and-a-half hours a day
At a hearing in April, the judge was told the boy, whose behaviour is described as "challenging", remained in conditions amounting to solitary confinement for "almost the entirety of his time" at Feltham after being detained in December last year.
His QC said that for "much of the time", the teenager was locked alone in his cell for about 23-and-a-half hours a day.
The judge was told by counsel for the Justice Secretary that although it was accepted there had been "procedural errors" in the boy's case, which were regretted, those errors "should not be conflated with a finding that the substantive regime to which the claimant has been subjected was unlawful".
The Justice Secretary submitted that "the way in which this particular child has been treated does not cross the threshold set" for a breach of Article 3.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is an important judgment.
"The court has declared this boy’s isolation for certain periods and the denial of adequate education unlawful because it was against prison rules.
“It is disappointing that the court stopped short of accepting that keeping AB in isolation for over 22 hours a day was degrading and inhuman treatment.
"We will be seeking to appeal this part of the ruling.”
AB’s isolation was declared unlawful by the court for a total of 127 days because the prison failed to comply with its own rules around the removal of children from the usual regime in prison.
These rules, known as the Young Offender Institution Rules 2000, impose a range of safeguards and procedures to be put in place in light of the risks associated with isolation.
The same rules require that children in prison get at least 15 hours of education a week, but AB had no education at all for the first 55 days at Feltham, and only 15 hours in total in a two-month period before the hearing.
The court declared the failure to provide AB education as unlawful.
The court received evidence from the Youth Justice Board that the shortfall in educational provision in Feltham was due to the risks the children posed to others or which others posed to them and staff shortages.
Even so, the court found that the rules do not permit education to be reduced below 15 hours a week for those reasons.
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