G4S youth jail beset by violence, vandalism and weapons, report finds

Report by prison inspectors, Ofsted and CQC into Oakhill secure centre near Milton Keynes records 330 assaults in six months

Surging levels of violence at an “unsafe” G4S-run youth jail have put staff in hospital and caused inmates to carry improvised weapons for their safety, inspectors have revealed.

The damning inspection report into Oakhill secure training centre, near Milton Keynes, was published on Tuesday as MPs heard that ministers had ordered G4S to set up an external inquiry into abuse allegations at Brook House, the immigration removal centre at Gatwick, which is also run by the private security firm.

The joint report by the prison inspectors, with Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, into Oakhill in September and October – when the centre was near capacity, with 75 boys aged 14 to 17 – finds “no evidence that staff can adequately care and control this volume of young people”.

The report rates the youth prison as “inadequate” and says there has been an increase in fights and assaults since the last inspection in January; it records 330 assaults between March and August this year alone, with assaults against staff increasing, including against newly recruited staff, and some so serious they have led to people being taken to hospital.

“One manager said that young people are carrying improvised weapons because they do not feel safe. This inhibits some staff from intervening because of the fear of a weapon, and this in turn reinforces the view of young people that staff cannot protect them, thereby continuing the cycle,” the report says.

The inspectors say that many of the recommendations from their January inspection have not been met and the centre has deteriorated in most respects, including to do with safety, care, education, resettlement and the “effectiveness of leaders and managers”. They say that unacceptable behaviour, including swearing, intimidation and vandalism, is not being challenged by staff.

Oakhill’s newly appointed interim director, Lisette Saunders, said: “We take these findings very seriously. In the report Ofsted recognised that senior managers at Oakhill know what is required to bring the centre up to acceptable standards.

“This year the team at Oakhill has made a number of changes, restructuring the workforce to provide better support for young people and frontline staff, and greater management oversight and accountability. I look forward to building on this progress as the benefits take effect.”

The inspection report was published as the Commons home affairs select committee questioned the immigration minister, Brandon Lewis, about Home Office oversight of the G4S-run Brook House immigration removal centre. BBC Panorama undercover filming disclosed staff “mocking, abusing and assaulting” detainees.

The minister told MPs that the private security company had commissioned a review by the independent consultants Verita, after he met the company last week. The review will try to understand the “extent and root causes of the treatment of detainees” and examine the failure of whistleblowing procedures at the centre.

The Home Office is considering whether or not to review the G4S contract at Brook House.


Alan Travis Home affairs editor

The GuardianTramp

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