A judge has strongly critcised a privately-run prison for young offenders near Bristol over the punishment handed out to seven teenage inmates. It follows a disturbance at Ashfield, in Pucklechurch, which is run by Serco on behalf of the government
The Howard League for Penal Reform say the prison "overreacted" at what they call a minor incident.
The owners of a privately run young offenders institute say the correct procedures were not carried out when they punished seven boys who staged a protest over living conditions.
A High Court today ruled the punishment of the boys was unlawful.
Read Serco's full statement below:
The care and treatment of young offenders is challenging and involves looking after some of the most vulnerable and difficult young people in society. We are pleased that the Judge confirmed that our actions to impose sanctions on offenders by limiting access to certain privileges, such as in-cell televisions and phones, to be lawful whilst also ensuring their continued participation in education in a way that managed the risk that they posed.
It is right that we tackle unacceptable and threatening behaviour swiftly and robustly to ensure the safety of offenders and staff. However, we acknowledge that on this occasion some procedures were not followed, in particular those regarding the removal of the offenders from association over the weekend following the incident. We also acknowledge that we did not provide one of the offenders in this case with all necessary paperwork prior to an adjudication hearing. Serco expects the very highest standards and we have already amended our processes to ensure that this does not happen again.
Serco is fully accountable for the custodial services we provide to the Ministry of Justice and they are subject to constant scrutiny and inspection. We have thoroughly investigated all the issues raised in the court and responded to the changing and evolving case, in which many of the initial allegations were unfounded and withdrawn. This has been reflected in the Judge’s decision which provides an equitable result with each party bearing its own legal costs.