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Call for child custody rules change

Too many children are held in police stations while waiting to appear in court after being charged, inspectors have said.

Two-thirds of children and young people who were charged, denied bail and kept in police cells went on to be granted bail at their first court hearing, a joint inspection found.

The review called for a greater focus on safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people, adding that the amount of time they are held in police stations should be minimised.

It comes after the Howard League for Penal Reform called for police to be banned from holding children under 14 overnight in cells.

The report, Who's Looking Out For The Children?, found that in a sample of 49 cases where children were charged with an offence and denied bail, a total of 46 were kept in police cells, rather than being transferred to local authority accommodation. Almost two-thirds (64%) of these were then granted bail at their first court hearing.

It also found that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (Pace) 1984 created an anomaly in which 17-year-olds are treated as adults in a police station, but as juveniles in court.

The inspectors added that while enthusiastic and keen appropriate adults were provided for young people who had been arrested, they frequently knew little about the child, hindering their efforts to provide support.

The flow of information between the adults and youth offending teams was ineffective and police custody records were inadequate, often being completed incorrectly and without enough detail, the report said. The adults were also passive in interviews and unlikely to challenge the police.

Dru Sharpling, an inspector for Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), said: "What we found in our joint inspection was that the arrest and custody process does not always consider the needs of the children and young people. Agencies should work together to minimise the amount of time children and young people are held in police custody."

The inspection was carried out by HMIC, HM Inspectorate of Probation, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, the Care Quality Commission, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales.


From Belfast Telegraph