Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting DEVON NEWS to 80360 or email us
Group urges Devon police to stop locking up children
4:58pm Friday 18th October 2013 in Devon
CAMPAIGNERS have urged the police to stop locking up children overnight after new figures show dozens are detained in Devon every year.
Statistics from the Howard League for Penal Reform show there were 285 overnight detentions of children aged 17 and under in police stations across the Devon and Cornwall force area in 2011 – the most recent figures available.
The charity says it is thought most of the force’s overnight detentions take place in Devon and is urging police to end the practice.
Frances Crook, chief executive, said: “Holding children as young as ten in police cells overnight is unjustifiable.
“The vast majority of children locked up are innocent of any crime, and it’s a frightening and intimidating experience which does more harm than good.”
The charity did, however, praise the force for cutting the number of children in custody overnight by more than 25% from 2010 to 2011.
Frances added: “Police are to be congratulated for the significant fall in the use of police cells in recent years.
“It’s extravagantly expensive to detain children at a time of austerity, particularly when almost all of them are innocent or have just been naughty, and that behaviour can be dealt with quickly and safely by parents.”
Supt Toby Davies, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said the charity’s findings need to be put in perspective.
He said: “Included in those figures is anyone under 18. It’s exceptionally rare that we take 12- and 13 year-olds.
“There’s no doubt we respect their stance, but it would be fair to say we don’t have exactly same views.
“It’s important that for every person under 18 we approach social services to look at the availability of other suitable accommodation, but there may be times when the risk to the public is such that they should be detained overnight.
“There’s a big difference between a streetwise 17-year-old with 15 previous convictions and a 12-year-old who has committed a first offence.”
“The report is positive. It’s saying that Devon and Cornwall is a success story, and we’ve had the biggest reduction in children being held overnight.
“One of the biggest reasons for that is the work we do with youth offending teams across the whole force.”
According to force statistics, fewer children in the region are now involved in criminal activity – the number fell from 4,281 in 2009-10 to 3,557 in 2012-13.
Comments are closed on this article.