What you need to know about BBC’s Panorama on G4S bullying young offenders

Company’s staff accused of abusing young offenders and falsifying reports to avoid fines

Kent Police are not investigating Medway YOI after BBC Panorama. Image: BBC

Kent Police are investigating Medway YOI after BBC Panorama. Image: BBC


G4S has been accused of abusing young offenders under its care and falsifying reports to avoid fines in a BBC Panorama undercover investigation.


Is G4S failing some of the most vulnerable youngsters in the country?

Seven members of staff at Kent’s young offenders institute, the Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester, have been suspended after being accused of “controlling by menace, even brutality” and “revelling in aggression”.

Young offenders were forcefully restrained with one 14-year-old complaining he couldn’t breathe as a guard obstructed his airway, which is against the rules. Another 16-year-old with a history of self-harm was choked, elbowed and punched by a member of staff who admitted he was trying to “break his skull”.

Here is a video from The Guardian’s website showing one young inmate being bullied.

G4S Team Leader Anthony described what he did to another young offender move-by-move:

“Relocating, choking, that’s just him on the bed. ****ing elbowed him in the face. I had one arm pinned and one arm on his ****ing neck. So when I got him on the floor, that’s when I ****ing started giving him digs and that. Hand on his head and I’m properly trying to break his skull.”


Medway YOI holds 70 boys and girls aged between 12 and 18 who are accused or convicted of crimes from theft to murder. Young offenders are sent to Medway because they are deemed to be vulnerable or at risk.

G4S is paid nearly £140,000 per year per inmate. Between April 2012 and April 2013, over 100 young offenders were released from Medway, but nearly two thirds re-offended within a year.



G4S not reporting incidents to avoid fines

Not only is G4S accused of abusing young offenders, but also of falsifying reports to cover up what is going on.

The undercover Panorama reporter explained that with no CCTV in the bedrooms, staff are left to “concoct a story to justify their actions”.

After one young offender is bullied, the reporter is told to say that G4S Team Leader Anthony was assaulted. But when the reporter refuses to agree with their story, another member of staff says “he weren’t even there anyway”, discrediting the reporter’s story.


G4S Team Leader Anthony also explained how reports were manipulated: “If we have two or more trainees fighting [that’s G4S staff], we’ve lost control of the centre, so don’t input it.” The Panorama reporter explains, that means G4S don’t report it.

“If you have an incident with four separate kids, that will get split up into two separate incidents, that’s how we do it, so they don’t get fined.”

Anthony claims Duty Operations Managers have pressured him to lie to avoid fines. When asked if an incident involving three groups of lads was reported, Anthony replies “did it ****” before continuing “when a unit jumps a kid, it don’t go down. Because it means you’ve lost control. And we’re not here to lose control.”

The Howard League sums it up:


G4S responds to the allegations 

Paul Cook, Managing Director of G4S Children’s Services said:

“We are appalled by the behaviour of certain members of staff at Medway Secure Training Centre shown in the programme and I would like to apologise personally to any young people involved in these incidents….These are extremely shocking allegations and have no part in our business or in any establishment that looks after young people. We were unaware of these allegations until Panorama sent them to us and took immediate action, taking them to the police.”


Paul Cook Managing

Paul Cook Managing Director of G4S Children’s Services says Panorama’s allegations are shocking. Image.


However, G4S also claimed the filming was illegal and that the programme shouldn’t have been broadcast.



G4S told BBC news they “thoroughly vet their staff” and that external monitors had not raised any concerns:


The Chief Inspector of Prisons on G4S allegations

Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said:

“If that was done with the knowledge of managers at G4S, I think that would be a very serious thing for them to have to answer, I think that would be very disturbing. I don’t know if that in itself is something that deserves the attention of the police.”


Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick says Panorama's findings are very concerning. Image.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick says Panorama’s findings are very concerning. Image.


He also pointed to the multiple failures of the system, chief among them, the failure of any responsible individual to report what was happening:

“The key line of defence is a professional staff who are prepared to say, this is not right, I’m not happy with this. It takes staff to blow the whistle, and you have to ask yourself, why did no one say, ‘I’m not happy with what’s going on here’?”


Politicians call for action on G4S allegations

Justice Secretary Michael Gove is to meet G4S officials this week to discuss the allegations of abuse. He also said the company has at times “let the government, and those in our care, down”, but he resisted calls for it to be in “special measures”.


Source: Wikipedia

Justice Secretary Michael Gove. Source: Wikipedia


Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham has called for G4S to be stripped of its contract to run children’s prisons and called for a wide-ranging review of all the company’s contracts within the criminal justice system.

Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter said the revelations were “only the latest in a long line of failures and mismanagement from G4S”. He called for all G4S jails to be put in special measures and review all contracts to see if the firm was “fit and proper”.

Mr Slaughter said the claims should not be “swept under the carpet or blamed on a few rogue officers”.


What happens next?

As a result of the Panorama programme, Kent Police have launched an investigation and children are currently not being sent to Medway.



And a resounding thank you to BBC’s Panorama for uncovering such abuses:


Have you heard of any other abuse at privately run or public prisons? If so, please let us know below. 

4 Comments on “What you need to know about BBC’s Panorama on G4S bullying young offenders”

  1. Staff bullying not only happens in young prisones, it happens in ALL prisones, but gets covered up, lets hope something gets done about it


  2. G4S Bullying kids when they nothink about them young boys or what thay have gone threw in life put them in a room with me il show them how to chock some1 and crush sculls bet thew don’t go out to town no more big up bbc never liked them more


  3. […] Four G4S staff arrested following a BBC Panorama investigation into abuse at Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester. The BBC reports police said they were being held on suspicion of child neglect. Read more about the Panorama investigation here. […]


  4. Sam Whitehead says:

    My son was subjected to severe physical and mental abuse in rainsbrook stc in 2002. It became apparent that ‘something was drastically wrong’ during our first visit. My son was trying to inform us about his abuse however, the officers stood close to our table which was obvious and silenced our son. I asked for a private room in order to check my son for any bodily bruising. Initially my request was refused but I was insistent. I was in shock at the ‘welts & severe bruising’ down my child’s legs. I reported this to our sons YOT officer. My son paid a high price for my intervention and subsequently had 2 separate late night visits to A & E. He was moved swiftly to another detention centre a week later


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