How the G4S in-house comms team responded to Panaroma prison abuse expose

The G4S media director has explained the firm's crisis comms strategy to tackle allegations of abuse by its employees at the Medway Secure Training Centre facility.

Secret filming broadcast on BBC's Panorama appeared to reveal a culture of abuse and cover-ups relating to the reporting of incidents by G4S employees.

Prior to broadcast, the makers of the programme tweeted that G4S had declined to directly participate, generating further negative attention for the contractor.

Speaking to PRWeek, G4S director of media Nigel Fairbrass defended the firm’s crisis comms strategy, which was devised in-house.

"The story surfaced last Friday morning [8 January] and at 7am we were doing live interviews. At no point did we ‘no comment’. We proactively engaged right from the point at which the story broke," Fairbrass told PRWeek.

"We decided that the most effective way of getting our message across was through live interviews with the BBC rather than a pre-record with Panorama. We stand by the decision because they included us by using a comment they took from a live TV broadcast.

"We fully acknowledge the importance of continued communication to demonstrate that we’re moving forward with purpose and intent to address these issues."

Shortly after Panorama was broadcast, G4S issued a second statement attributed to Paul Cook, managing director of Children’s Services at G4S, which apologised for what had been shown.

"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," Cook said.

Despite the firm co-operating with Kent Police and sacking four employees, it has come in for heavy criticism.

Reacting to the programme, Labour MP for Hammersmith Andy Slaughter has called for all G4S prisons to be put on special measures and shadow home secretary Andy Burnham suggested that the £10m contract to manage Medway should be withdrawn if the allegations were proved. An online petition on 38 Degrees also demands the Government take action.

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