Commissioner welcomes reform over the detention of 17-year-olds in police custody

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Sir Graham Bright has welcomed an announcement that 17-year-olds held in police custody are to be given the same rights as children aged 10-16.

The move was announced by the Government following an amendment at the House of Lords’ Third Reading of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. It means that most 17-year-olds in England and Wales who find themselves in custody and refused police bail will no longer be held in police cells overnight if charged with an offence – unless they are considered dangerous.

Instead, they will be treated as all other children and moved to secure local authority accommodation.

The changes, which are expected to receive Royal Assent in the spring, have been made to ensure any young person under the age of 18 in police custody is appropriately safeguarded and protected. It follows a High Court ruling and pressure nationally from youth safety campaigners and the legal charity Just for Kids Law to amend the inequalities in treatment.

Commenting on the proposed changes, Sir Graham said: “I welcome the significant steps taken by Government to reverse the injustice of treating 17-year-old children as adults while in police custody.

“As public protection champions, the Police have a moral and social duty to safeguard vulnerable people who find themselves in police custody whether they are very young or suffering from mental health problems. It’s vital their care needs are met in the most appropriate environment, and this is not a police cell.

“The new legislation which will follow in the spring will ensure all children coming into custody are treated equally. In preparation, we need to ensure there is adequate provision in place to respond to these changes.”

 

Sir Graham has supported a range of prevention work aimed at diverting young people away from a life of crime. The Commissioner believes early education and diversionary projects that help build self-esteem and confidence as well as provide positive role models can help to break negative patterns of behaviour. Traditional punishment is not always the most effective solution.

 

The legislative changes will revise the definition of an ‘arrested juvenile’ in Part IV of the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act 1984.

 


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