Adolescent placed in isolation awarded a compensation sum of £31,500

The UK government has agreed to pay £31,500 compensation after acknowledging that a 15-year-old boy with severe mental health issues was subjected to treatment that can be considered “inhuman or degrading”. This treatment involved placing the boy in solitary confinement for almost two months. The boy, known as AB in court documents, spent over 23 hours a day alone in his cell during the first 55 days of his detention at Feltham prison. The Howard League for Penal Reform represented AB in the legal battle that lasted for seven years. The government has now settled the case and agreed to pay the compensation.

AB’s claim was based on the violation of article 3 of the European convention on human rights, which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. From December 2016 to February 2017, the boy received no education and had no contact with other children. His only time out of the cell was for approximately thirty minutes each day, during which he could shower, use the phone, or exercise.

Last week, the European court of human rights decided to dismiss AB’s application after the government accepted the breach of article 3. The compensation of £31,500 for non-pecuniary damage is considered one of the largest sums ever paid by the UK in a “friendly settlement” before the European court of human rights.

The chief executive of the Howard League, Andrea Coomber KC, criticized the settlement, calling it cynical and highlighting the ongoing mistreatment of children in prison today. Coomber urged the ministers to develop a plan to prevent further suffering of children in similar situations.

In response, AB expressed disappointment with the government’s delay in acknowledging their mistake and changing their stance at the last minute. AB emphasized the negative impact of separation on rehabilitation and communication skills, which are crucial for reintegration into society after release.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice stated that separation can be necessary in some cases to prevent harm to oneself or others, but they admitted a breach in this specific case. The spokesperson also mentioned ongoing efforts to improve education services and provide tailored mental health support to ensure the well-being and successful reformation of all children in their care.

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