Managers at G4S-run Medway youth jail paid bonuses despite failings

Performance pay awards made weeks after prisons inspector said managerial oversight failed to protect young people from abuse

Senior managers at a privately run children’s jail received bonuses this year despite the prison being taken out of their hands following allegations of abuse.

The managers received performance-related pay awards in April, weeks after the chief inspector of prisons said that “managerial oversight failed to protect young people from harm at the jail”. Eight former staff currently face criminal charges.

In January, the BBC’s Panorama programme showed an undercover reporter working as a guard at the G4S-run Medway secure training centre (STC) in Kent. The film showed children allegedly being mistreated and claimed that staff falsified records of violent incidents. No senior managers were disciplined or dismissed.

In February, a Guardian investigation revealed that, in 2003, whistleblowers had warned G4S, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Youth Justice Board (YJB) that staff were mistreating detained children. Their letter, sent by Prof John Pitts, an expert on youth justice, was ignored.

Just before the Panorama programme was broadcast, the YJB, which oversees youth custody in England, stopped placing children in Medway.

Also in January, the prisons inspectorate carried out a snap inspection of Medway. Inspectors reported that a small group of detainees said some staff used insulting, aggressive or racist language and that they felt unsafe in areas not covered by CCTV.

Inspectors said the concerns raised were consistent with evidence presented by Panorama “which showed targeted bullying of vulnerable boys by a small number of staff”.

They added: “A larger group of staff must have been aware of unacceptable practice but did not challenge or report this behaviour.”

In an earlier Ofsted report on Medway, inspectors said staff and middle managers reported feeling a lack of leadership and having “low, or no confidence in senior managers”.

The then chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, said: “Managerial oversight failed to protect young people from harm. Effective oversight is key to creating a positive culture that prevents poor practice happening and ensuring it is reported when it does.”

The Guardian has learned that senior managers at Medway received performance-related pay awards in April amounting to between 10-25% of their annual salaries, according to seniority.

In February, G4S announced their intention to sell off their UK children’s services arm of the business, including two secure training centres. In May, the MoJ said the National Offender Management Service would take over the running of Medway. In July, Noms formally took control of the STC.

Lela Xhemajli was detained at Medway in 2009, aged 15. She says she was unlawfully restrained numerous times in the 18 months she spent at the STC, including one occasion in which her face was repeatedly slammed into icy ground. Now in employment, having “turned [her] life around”, she says she was angry when she heard about the pay awards to managers.

“I assumed the senior management team would be sacked after what was revealed in the investigations. But now it looks like they have been rewarded for allowing children to be abused in prison on their watch,” she said.

Former Labour MP Sally Keeble, who has highlighted alleged G4S abuses in children’s secure training centres for more than a decade, said: “This is people making personal profit out of tragedy, and it is completely unacceptable. Given the government’s expressed concern about the need to protect vulnerable young people, I would hope that justice minister Liz Truss would intervene and make sure these bonuses are not being paid by a Ministry of Justice contractor.”

A spokesman for G4s confirmed that no senior managers at Medway were disciplined or dismissed following the Panorama and Guardian investigations. He said two duty operational managers had been dismissed.

The spokesman said: “Four people working at Medway were eligible for performance related pay this year under a mix of personal [non-financial] and financial objectives. One received no payment and the remaining three received reduced payments, based on elements of personal and financial performance.”

The MoJ declined to comment, saying the pay awards were a matter for G4S.


Eric Allison and Simon Hattenstone

The GuardianTramp

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