Four sacked after Panorama investigation into G4S unit

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Media captionAn undercover Panorama journalist secretly filmed abuse while working as a custody officer

Four team leaders have been sacked after allegations that staff at a Kent young offenders centre assaulted inmates.

Security firm G4S has apologised for the behaviour of staff at the Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester.

The allegations relate to 10 boys, aged 14 to 17, and involve unnecessary force, foul language and a cover-up.

It follows an undercover investigation by the BBC Panorama programme which was broadcast on Monday.

A further three men - two duty operations managers and a training centre assistant - remain suspended, and a female duty operations manager has been placed on restricted duties.

Senior director Paul Cook said he was "appalled" after the airing of the programme.

"I would like to apologise personally to any young people involved in these incidents," he said.

Seven members of staff at the unit were suspended after the claims emerged.

Allegations included operations managers misreporting incidents to avoid fines for G4S.

In one exchange, it was claimed some staff don't report "two or more trainees fighting" because it indicates they've "lost control of the centre", resulting in a potential fine.

Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: "I think that is a very serious allegation and that is something [that] needs to be specifically investigated.

"If that is the case and if that was done with the knowledge of managers at G4S, then I think that would be a very serious thing for them to have to answer, I think it would be very disturbing."

'Wellbeing, safety and care'

The unit, managed by G4S in co-operation with the Youth Justice Board since it opened in 1998, is a 76-bed facility for young offenders aged from 12 to 17.

In a statement, G4S said: "Four of the staff suspended on 30 December will have their employment with G4S terminated with immediate effect.

"Three other staff identified in the allegations will remain on suspension pending further investigation.

"One additional person has been removed from operational duty pending further investigation."

Kent Police is aware of the allegations and has said inquiries are ongoing.

Justice Secretary Michael Gove is to meet G4S officials this week "to discuss the allegations and to review their response".

Mr Cook, managing director of G4S children's services, said the firm was planning its own investigation.

"The wellbeing, safety and care of the young people at Medway is our primary objective and we are shocked that any member of staff would behave in this way.

"There is no place for the conduct shown in the programme within any of our Secure Training Centres and it will not be tolerated," he said.

Anne Longfield, the children's commissioner for England said: "I have gained reassurances from the Youth Justice Board, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of children in custody that urgent measures have been put in place to prevent further abuse from occurring.

"I have also asked for reassurances that children in other parts of the secure estate are not experiencing the treatment depicted at Medway."

Among the allegations uncovered by Panorama and now subject to investigation are that Medway staff:

  • Slapped a teenager several times in the head
  • Pressed heavily on the necks of young people
  • Used restraint techniques unnecessarily - and that included squeezing a teenager's windpipe so he had problems breathing
  • Used foul language to frighten and intimidate - and boasted of mistreating young people, including using a fork to stab one on the leg and making another cry uncontrollably
  • Tried to conceal their behaviour by ensuring they were beneath CCTV cameras or in areas not covered by them

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