High Court rules rights of 16-year-old boy breached at HMYOI Feltham


This morning the High Court has ruled that the Secretary of State acted unlawfully in its treatment of a child, known as 'AB.'  He arrived at HMYOI Feltham in December 2016, and for 3 months after this he was locked alone in his cell for over 23 hours per day, and then for over 22 hours per day. Until the Howard League for Penal Reform issued these judicial review proceedings, he received no educational provision, despite being a child and in his GCSE year.  Since issue he received some limited educational provision but far below the statutory minimum required for a child of his age.


The case raises wider issues of concern about solitary confinement or isolation of children in Feltham and other YOIs. Evidence before the court indicated that use of ‘removal from association’ is widespread at Feltham, and raised serious concerns about the impact upon children of prolonged solitary confinement.


The use of isolation for children has been heavily criticised by expert bodies, both in the UK (such as the Children’s Commissioner) and internationally (such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture). 


Today, Mr Justice Ouseley has ruled that AB's removal from association for over 4 months between December and April was unlawful, in breach of the YOI Rules and Article 8 ECHR.  He has also held that the failure to provide AB with at least 15 hours per week of education breached YOI Rule 38(2). The gravity of this was emphasised by the court – AB is a child, in his GCSE year, with special educational needs. It was no excuse that he was “troublesome” – the Secretary of State had an obligation to him which he failed to comply with. Declarations have been made about these failures. The Court however rejected a claim that his treatment breached Article 3 ECHR.


AB is represented by the Howard League for Penal Reform and Dan Squires QC. The Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened in the case, represented by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Hayley Douglas.


The judgment is available here.


A statement by Rebecca Hilsenrath, CEO of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, is available here


Coverage of the ruling is available from the BBC


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