Legal challenge over safer alternatives to detention in police cells

Date: 6th September 2016
Category: Civil Rights and Freedoms

In England, a 14-year-old boy is launching a legal challenge against London's Metropolitan police and his local council over a failure to provide a safer alternative to detention in police cells.

The boy was held on multiple occasions in March this year as no other accommodation was found for him, despite a duty under national legislation for local authorities to provide accommodation for children when requested to do so by police. A freedom of information request revealed that last year the council received 94 requests from the Metropolitan Police to provide a bed for a child being held at a police station, but did not accommodate a single one. The case, brought by Just For Kids Law is part of its initiative to prevent the detention of children as young as eight in unsuitable locations and could have a much wider impact for the 22,000 children held overnight in police cells every year. Since the case was filed, Islington Council has already launched an urgent review of children held in police stations in the borough.

In Scotland, a 2013 FOI request revealed that hundreds of children were detained overnight in police custody across Scotland. Some of the children held were as young as 12, while teenagers were detained for as long as 88 hours. Police Scotland have refused all subsequent FOI requests, including a 2016 request made by Together. The Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland has written to Police Scotland to express concern at the lack of transparency regarding access to this information by the public.