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More than half of young people imprisoned last year in care of Kent County Council

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 September 2018

Picture: PA

Picture: PA

Archant

More than half of young people locked up last year were under the care of Kent County Council.

Eleven of the 20 teenagers from Kent who were sent to Cookham Wood young offenders’ institution and Medway secure training centre, were in care.

All the defendants, who were male and aged 15 to 17, were handed sentences of four months to more than five years.

On top of that, for every five young people who were remanded in detention waiting for trial, three were under the care of the county council.

Corporate director for children, young people and education at Kent County Council, Matt Dunkley, told councillors these figures are improving.

He said: “There has been a dramatic reduction over the last ten years of the number of young people in custody who are detained.

“In the past that number would be more like 80 to 100 kids.

“I want to emphasise that because of the big reduction the youngsters who end up in custody are the most complex young people in Kent.”

He added the treatment of young deliquents has improved with “a lot of time and patience”.

Head of Kent youth justice service, Louise Fisher, assured councillors that despite the poor track record of the centres for young offenders in Kent, there have been improvements.

At the corporate parenting panel on September 19, she said: “Both of the places where young people in Kent find themselves have had a chequered history, with regard to their inspection reports, which has caused some concerns.

“What I can say at Medway and Cookham Wood, whilst they have had poor inspection reports, they have had more recent inspections and action plans so those establishments are much better in terms of care they provide children.

“There has been a reduction in violence between young people and staff and the education and health outcomes are improving.

“Having said that inspectors found in both establishments more work needs to be done.”

Medway secure training centre saw a change in regimen from G4S to the government’s National Offender Management Scheme following an investigation by BBC’s Panaroma.

Secret filming by Robert Padmore at the facility in Rochester in 2015 allegedly showed four members of staff appearing to behave violently and abusive to teenagers.

However these guards were cleared of misconduct following a 43-day trial in March.

After a recent tour of the centre, KCC employee Louise Fisher said “it’s much more like a school environment that you would recognise rather than a regimented environment” as children can go out on the grass and eat together for meals.

She added education opportunities have also improved for young people “to continue with their aspirations and progress while in secure state”.

Some young offenders are also able to go to college or apprenticeships.

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