The nation’s child abuse inquiry has just published its report on child sexual abuse within secure units for children. The research confirms that the number of reported incidents of sexual abuse is much higher than was previously believed.

The report noted that about 1,070 incidents of alleged sexual abuse were reported from 2009 to 2017. The figure is particularly concerning as the number of children in detention has been steadily decreasing over time.

The inquiry focused on three units:

Feltham and Werrington – young offender institutions (YOIs)

Medway and Rainsbrook – secure training centres (STCs)

Vinney Green and Aycliffe – secure children’s homes (SCHs)

The inquiry concluded that children held in YOIs and STCs were not safe from physical or sexual abuse. It found that most alleged sexual assaults took place during body searches or restraint by staff.

The summary includes harrowing descriptions of several of the allegations, including an allegation that a female member of staff had masturbated children at Medway STC in 2015 and that staff at Rainsbrook STC allowed two children to go into a bedroom together knowing one of the young people would defecate on the other’s face and watched while this happened.

There are also descriptions of staff raping children, including details about an 11-year-old boy who was sexually assaulted by two members of staff at the same time. Another witness for the inquiry gave at least 35 examples of times when he was raped and sexually assaulted by four members of staff and a former pupil at Stanhope Castle Approved School. He also told the inquiry that he had been choked unconscious while being abused, on several occasions.

The Inquiry has made the following recommendations:

  • A full government review into the practice of placing children for justice and welfare reasons together in secure children’s homes;
  • Regulating against pain compliance techniques in order to prohibit its use entirely and;
  • That the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Education share policy responsibility for managing and safeguarding children in custodial institutions.