A charity is to challenge Feltham Prison over claims untrained staff at the Young Offenders Institution use adult force to restrain children in its care.
A judicial review of the prison's practices is being brought to the High Court by legal reform charity, The Howard League, on behalf of a 16-year-old boy who was allegedly restrained by staff without appropriate training on the restraint of children.
The Howard League claims the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons but is referred to as "ZY" in court documents, has a history of abuse, mental health problems and has complex needs.
According to the charity, Feltham Prison, which is a split site and has both a young adult provision and a young offenders institution, is the only prison in England and Wales that routinely permits officers who are trained only in adult restraint techniques to restrain children.
The charity claims that allowing staff to do so is potentially dangerous and in breach of the Secretary of State for Justice’s policies.
The system of restraint for children in custody is known as Minimisation and Management of Physical Restraint (MMPR) and emphasises the importance of using de-escalation strategies. It only permits restraint using specifically approved "holds".
MMPR was introduced following a review of the use of force against children, which came after two boys, aged 16 and 14, died in custody in 2004.
Training in MMPR began at Feltham in July 2015 and was supposed to "go live" in February 2016.
But the Howard League claim that more than two years later, not all staff who may be called upon to restrain children at Feltham Prison are trained in MMPR as according to them, officers from the 'adult prison' are sometimes deployed to restrain children in the Young Offenders Institution.
A date for the High Court hearing is to be confirmed.
The Howard League legal director, Laura Janes, said: “When two children lost their lives in custody after being restrained, the government response was to introduce a whole new approach to the use of force on children.
“The new approach included specialist training emphasising the need to avoid restraint altogether where children are concerned. Yet, 14 years on, adult restraint techniques are still being used on children in spite of the risks."
The Ministry of Justice said it was unable to comment while there were legal proceedings are ongoing.