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Church News

Kent church threatens Ministry of Justice with legal action to protect children from solitary confinement

by Kelly Valencia

A church in Kent is taking legal action against the Ministry of Justice as reports emerged of children being mistreated at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre near Rugby. 

The centre holds children aged 12 to 18 that are serving a custodial sentence or have been remanded to a secure facility. 

A recent inspection found that some children had been locked in their bedrooms for 23.5 hours every day for 14 consecutive days, prompting Ofsted to issue an urgent notice.

Rev Nathan Ward, the lead vicar at St Margaret's Rainham church, told Premier they are seeking clarification on the situation as the Ministry of Justice has not yet commented. 

"If you'd already sorted it out, then surely you would have come out straight away with a press release and say: 'Yes, we acknowledge that it was wrong and now it's all sorted'. The Government hasn't done that. But neither have they issued a plan of action."

"We're requiring urgent action to be taken and clarification so that children aren't locked up in a situation which we believe is unlawful."

The urgent notice says concerns over the treatment of children in the centre had already been raised in two previous visits made in October and November. Following these visits, the centre had responded by confirming that "appropriate action had been taken."

However, following a further visit on 10th December, Ofsted's Chief Inspector said "very limited progress" had been made. 

Concerns over the educational hours invested in the children and senior management's lack of awareness of the regime being implemented by staff were among other issues raised in the urgent notice.

Rev Ward believes it is their duty, as a church, to stand up for the children's rights. 

"We have a history of standing up on issues of social justice and speaking out for those who don't necessarily have a voice in our society. And we think that that's part of the gospel and part of the calling of all Christians.

"We think the gospel imperative is to say that we're all children of God, and we have concern for everyone that is in our midst. And these children are very clearly in our midst as a society. This isn't a local issue. This is a national issue of great significance. Partly, we are sorry that we're the ones that are picking it up. But if we don't do it, who else will?"

St Margaret's church has threatened to take the case for a judicial review to the High Court if there's no response from the Ministry of Justice. 

"We need to be praying for everyone affected by coronavirus…but in particular, prisoners that are being locked up in their rooms, children and adults for significant periods of time," Rev Ward said. 

"Pray that God's peace that transcends all understanding will be with those people. Give wisdom to the people who are in very difficult situations trying to resolve this and pray for the staff too," he concluded. 

A response and plan of action is due to be published by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice within 28 days of the notification.

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