Inquiry for Justice Minister urges police presumption against arresting young
Police should have a presumption against arresting young people in Northern Ireland, a study said.
Children must only cross the boundary of a police station when absolutely necessary, the investigation for the Justice Minister said.
The Scoping Study also supported raising the age of criminal responsibility as part of a wide-ranging review of the youth justice system.
Justice Minister David Ford said: " The steering group has therefore proposed that every interaction with a child which brings them into the youth justice system should be challenged to ensure that there is clear justification for them being there and that all other options have been explored and exhausted.
"This should begin with a presumption against arrest, and follow through the rest of the system with the introduction of advocates and gatekeepers whose task it is to challenge decisions at each stage of the process."
The PSNI has a youth strategy which includes reference to human rights and child protection law. It said the needs of children would be part of every day policing.
However, a minority of young people have been involved in trouble surrounding marches and other flashpoints in recent years.
The view of the Scoping Study was that the default position for children who offend should be to provide support to address their needs. It said formal criminal justice action should only taken be when absolutely necessary.
The review pointed to the need to redesign the youth justice system to increase the number of exit points which allow a young person to access support without a criminal record.
Mr Ford added: "The emphasis should be on individualised, tailored responses which address needs and provide the support needed to prevent future offending behaviour."