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G4S to sell UK children's services arm amid abuse probe

Published 26/02/2016

Medway Secure Training Centre run by G4S in Rochester, Kent,
Medway Secure Training Centre run by G4S in Rochester, Kent,

G4S, the private security company, is to sell its UK children's services business - weeks after a damning undercover investigation was broadcast.

The firm is disposing of 13 children's homes and two secure training centres based at Oakhill in Milton Keynes and in Medway, Kent, which was the focus of a BBC Panorama expose.

Undercover footage allegedly showed staff at Medway mistreating and abusing inmates, and boasting about using inappropriate techniques to restrain youngsters.

Other allegations included claims that staff tried to hide their actions by ensuring they were beneath CCTV cameras or in areas not covered by them.

G4S said the disposal was part of a "continuing review of our business portfolio" as it seeks to "improve the strategic focus" of the organisation.

The Howard League for Penal Reform welcomed the news. Its director of campaigns, Andrew Neilson, said: "There is now an opportunity developing to close the secure training centres down completely."

He said the centres were a "failed model" and the withdrawal of G4S from the market should not be followed up with new private security firms replacing them.

G4S also has a contract to run Rainsbrook STC in Northamptonshire, which is currently being transferred to a new provider, MTC Novo.

A G4S spokesman said there had already been "a number of expressions of interest" and the future of the businesses had been under review for "some time".

The announcement comes as the Ministry of Justice investigates the accuracy of all restraint injury data from Medway STC. The data was provided to the Youth Justice Board by G4S.

Since the Panorama broadcast, five men have been arrested by Kent Police on suspicion of either child neglect or assault. All have been bailed to April.

G4S has sacked five members of staff, two others identified in the programme have been suspended and one other has been removed from operational duty as inquiries continue.

One of the employees who has been suspended works for Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL).

G4S UK children's services had revenues of around £40 million in the year to December 2015.

A spokesman said: "This disposal is in line with a continuing review of our business portfolio which has seen a number of businesses sold or closed over the past two years as we improve the strategic focus of the organisation.

"We remain committed to supporting the work of the Ministry of Justice's Improvement Board at Medway STC, and in giving the police investigation our full co-operation."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The decision by G4S will not have any direct impact on the day-to-day running of secure training centres.

"G4S have committed to ensuring there is a smooth transition to new providers. We will work with G4S and the Youth Justice Board to make sure that happens."

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