12 year-olds ‘kept in police cells overnight’

Date: 30th June 2013

Children as young as 12 are among hundreds who have been held overnight in police cells in Scotland over the past two years, reported the Scotsman on Sunday 30th June.

Some youngsters have been kept in custody for several days, with one 15-year-old boy being detained for more than 88 hours. The practice, which goes against the UNCRC, has been described as "disturbing", while Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People warned police were in breach of the law.

The data, released under Freedom of Information legislation, also flags up significant disparities across the country.

Whereas officers in some areas, such as Grampian, say they did not detain a single child overnight during the period, the practice was routine elsewhere, despite a series of recommendations to overhaul and streamline the system outlined in an HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland inspection five years ago. No reasons were given as to why the detentions had taken place.

In the former Lothian and Borders force area, 187 children aged 15 or under were held in custody overnight, defined as a period which started before and ended after midnight. They included two 11-year-olds, ten 12-year-olds, and 21 13-year-olds.

Although most children spent only a few hours in custody, the records include a 14-year-old boy arrested and held for more than 36 hours, and another 14-year-old boy held for more than 26 hours.

One 15-year-old boy arrested in 2011 was held for more than 88 hours. The same year, two 15-year-old boys were arrested and held for more than 37 and 34 hours respectively.

The length of time spent in custody by some of the children goes against Article 37 of the UNCRC, which states that the arrest or detention of a child "shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time".

The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 says a child should not be kept in custody other than in exceptional circumstances, such as where they face a charge of homicide. Even then, they should be in a place of safety other than a police station.