December 8 2013 Latest news:
Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Monday, October 14, 2013
Norfolk police have insisted the number of children being held in custody overnight has fallen by almost two thirds in the past two years after a “root-and-branch” review of custody provision.
The Howard League for Penal Reform has released figures which show seven children are locked up overnight in Norfolk cells each week, with research by the charity showing there were 352 overnight detentions of those aged 17 and under in police stations across the county in 2011.
But police in the county have said the figures do not reflect the current position which shows a marked drop in the numbers of children held in custody overnight.
A spokesman for the force said: “The figures referred to in the report are now two years old and do not reflect the current picture in Norfolk where far fewer children are now being detained in police custody overnight.
“Norfolk Constabulary works to the principle that children should not be detained in police facilities unless necessary and, where this is the only available option, that the time spent by them in custody is kept to a minimum. To this end, and following a root-and-branch review in 2011 of all custody provision in the county, new facilities, processes and training was introduced to encourage greater use among frontline staff of alternative avenues, outside of the custody option, for dealing with children and, where there is no alternative, for custody staff to prioritise the investigation and processing of children in order to reduce their detention time.
“In the same year, a new agreement between police, social services and the youth offending team established the provision of alternative accommodation for detained children.
“As a result of these and other measures, the number of children held in police custody overnight fell by almost two thirds between 2011 to 2012, from 352 to 116.
“We will continue to look to develop our practices and work with partners to reduce this even further.”
Figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform show the total number of children being held in police custody overnight across England and Wales was 40,716 – an average of 112 detentions per night.
The data shows that the number of overnight detentions is falling nationwide, which the charity claims is a success for its campaign to reduce the number of children getting caught up in the criminal justice system.
But now the charity is calling for the practice of holding children overnight in police cells to be brought to an end altogether.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the charity, said: “Holding children as young as 10 in police cells overnight is unjustifiable.
“The vast majority of children who are locked up are innocent of any crime, and it is a frightening and intimidating experience which does more harm than good.”