HC Deb 20 October 2003 vol 411 cc418-9W
Dr. Vis

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether the guidelines for strip searching juvenile prisoners are the same as for strip searching children in(a) local authority secure children's homes and (b) secure training centres; [130240]

(2) whether the guidelines for strip searching juvenile prisoners are the same as for adult prisoners; [130241]

(3) whether force may be used to strip search a juvenile prisoner. [130242]

Paul Goggins

The Prison Service Security Manual gives instruction to all prisons on how to strip search prisoners in line with Prison Rule 41 and Young Offender Institution Rule 43. The frequency with which this is carried out is generally decided by the prison governor and the area manager, except for certain activities where there is mandatory routine strip searching, such as reception.

There is no equivalent central guidance issued by local authority secure children's homes. Each home operates its own policy according to their security needs. Some homes do not strip search any young persons in their care, while others may strip search all new arrivals. Strip searching may also be carried out where there is suspicion that illicit items are being concealed, sometimes with the assistance of the police. The methods used to perform a strip search are also decided by each centre without central guidance.

The Secure Training Centre (STC) Rules 1998 and the Operational Procedures of the companies that run the three STCs provide guidance that must be followed by staff involved in strip searching. These techniques are similar to those used by the Prison Service.

The current Prison Service Policy on strip searching in the Security Manual (Prison Service Order 1000) applies to all categories and types of prisoner. This includes instructions on techniques and frequency of strip searching.

The Prison Service recognises the sensitivities around the strip searching of young prisoners, and separate guidance has recently been issued to Governors of prisons holding juvenile prisoners emphasising the need for staff to be aware of specific child protection issues.

Training modules for new entrant officers also include specific advice for staff involved in conducting strip searches of young prisoners. Officers conducting strip searches are expected to be aware of the ways in which searches, and the way they are conducted, may affect young people.

Young Offender Rules and the Prison Service Security Manual allow force to be used where a young person refuses to comply with a lawful order to submit to a strip search. No more force than is necessary will be used and it will be used only as a last resort.

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