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Seven children a night locked up in county
8:00pm Friday 18th October 2013 in News
SEVEN children are locked up overnight in Wiltshire Police cells each week, figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform have revealed.
New research by the charity shows that there were 371 overnight detentions of children aged 17 and under in police stations across the county during 2011.
The total across England and Wales was 40,716 – which equates to an average of 112 detentions per night.
However, the true number is likely to be far higher as some of the largest police services in the country were unable to provide figures.
The data shows that the number of overnight detentions is falling nationwide – a success for the Howard League’s 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.
The Howard League is urging police to work more closely with parents and children’s services to provide safe and appropriate care for boys and girls who come to their attention.
A briefing paper published by the charity also calls for the presumption of bail to be strictly applied to children, as well as pushing for all police to be trained in safeguarding and child protection.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, 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.
“What boys and girls need in most cases is simply to go home. On rare occasions, somewhere safe – not somewhere secure – should be provided by the local authority.
“Parents, not police, should be taking responsibility for their children.
“It is extravagantly expensive to detain children at a time of austerity, particularly when almost all of them are innocent.”
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