Boy, 16, wins legal ruling over ‘prolonged solitary confinement’
A judge found the teenager’s Article 8 rights were breached at Feltham Young Offender Institution in west London.
A teenage boy who brought a High Court challenge over his “prolonged solitary confinement” in detention has won a ruling that his human rights were breached.
The 16-year-old was granted a declaration by a judge that his Article 8 rights – the right to private and family life – were breached at Feltham Young Offender Institution in west London.
But Mr Justice Ouseley rejected a claim his treatment amounted to a breach of human rights laws which prohibit torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The judge announced that young offender institution rules on both “removal from association” – which relates to being kept in a cell and not allowed to mix with others – and education were breached.
He said: “I shall make a declaration that Article 8 was breached because the interference with his rights was not in accordance with the law.”
At a hearing in April, the judge was told the boy, whose behaviour is described as “challenging”, remained in conditions amounting to solitary confinement for “almost the entirety of his time” at Feltham after being detained in December last year.
His QC said that for “much of the time”, the teenager was locked alone in his cell for about 23-and-a-half hours a day.
The judge was told by counsel for the Justice Secretary that although it was accepted there had been “procedural errors” in the boy’s case, which were regretted, those errors “should not be conflated with a finding that the substantive regime to which the claimant has been subjected was unlawful”.
The Justice Secretary submitted that “the way in which this particular child has been treated does not cross the threshold set” for a breach of Article 3.
The judicial review action was brought on behalf of the child, who is described as having “significant” mental health problems and cannot be named for legal reasons, by the Howard League for Penal Reform.
The Howard League said after the ruling that the boy, referred to as AB, was “isolated in his cell for months on end”, and provided with “only very limited access to education”.
Chief executive Frances Crook said: “This is an important judgment. The court has declared this boy’s isolation for certain periods and the denial of adequate education unlawful because it was against prison rules.
“It is disappointing that the court stopped short of accepting that keeping AB in isolation for over 22 hours a day was degrading and inhuman treatment. We will be seeking to appeal this part of the ruling.”
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “The safety and welfare of young people held in custody is our highest priority. We are grateful for the judge’s findings and will consider these carefully.”