#025/2011 – The treatment of children and young people in police custody must focus more on safeguarding their welfare

The provision of Appropriate Adults for children in police custody focuses on complying with Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 legislation. More work is now needed on safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people, a joint inspection has found. The report, ‘Who’s looking out for the children?’ found too many children and young people continue to be held in police stations while waiting to appear in court after being charged.

The findings follow a joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), HM Inspectorate of Probation, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, the Care Quality Commission, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales.

The inspection looked at the local authority provision of Appropriate Adults for children in custody and accommodation in local authorities under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 across England and Wales.

In line with the PACE Act, the report considered children and young people aged 10–16 years who are entitled to have an Appropriate Adult present. If a child aged 10–16 is charged with an offence and denied bail, the police are required (except under specific conditions) to transfer them to the local authority for accommodation, who have to accept them. The PACE Act creates an anomaly for 17-year-olds, who are treated as adults in a police station.

The report also found that:

  • Recruiting procedures for Appropriate Adults were generally sound, and training programmes across areas were similar. The individuals recruited to act as Appropriate Adults were generally enthusiastic and keen to support children and young people.
  • Other than in one area, the flow of information between Youth Offending Teams and Appropriate Adults was found to be ineffective. Appropriate Adults frequently knew little about the child or young person and there was evidence that this lack of knowledge hindered their efforts to provide support.
  • Police custody records, an important source of information for the Appropriate Adult, were inadequate, in many cases not correctly completed and lacking in detail.
  • The physical environment of custody areas (for example, a lack of privacy, noise and physical barriers) did not encourage children or young people to disclose vulnerabilities or special needs.
  • There was a lack of any credible assessment of the quality of service provided by Appropriate Adults. They were found to be passive in interviews and unlikely to challenge the police.
  • Other than in one area, there was a lack of awareness at all levels of both the police and local authority regarding how many children and young people continued to be held in police cells after being charged, and for how long.
  • There was a lack of understanding among custody staff of the elements of the PACE that must be satisfied in order to justify holding children and young people in a police station after charge. In 33 of our case reviews where bail was denied, no local authority accommodation was sought. When local authority accommodation was sought, staff failed to challenge the police requests for secure accommodation; and therefore children and young people were not being transferred to Local Authority accommodation after charge.
  • Out of our sample of 49 children who were denied bail, three were taken to local authority accommodation. 64 per cent of the remainder who continued to be held in police cells were granted bail at their first court hearing.

As a result, inspectors recommend:

  • The Youth Offending Team or local authority will ensure that arrangements for requesting an Appropriate Adult are designed so that children and young people are detained in police cells for the minimum amount of time possible.
  • The flow of information between Youth Offending Teams and Appropriate Adults must be effective and focus on the needs of the child or young person.
  • The police will make better use of private or separate booking-in facilities within the custody environment to encourage children and young people to disclose their individual needs.
  • The police must effectively address the safeguarding needs of children, and ensure all information relating to the detention of children and young people is accurately recorded. The amount of time that children and young people are held in police stations after being charged should be minimised. The police must provide age-appropriate documents, adjust interviewing techniques and communicate any safeguarding issues which are identified.
  • The YOT/AA provider will provide a quality service to children and young people in detention.
  • Local Safeguarding Children Boards should monitor the recommendations in this report to ensure that children and young people are treated as individuals and their needs are addressed to enable them to understand and participate in the process.

The report also recommends that the Home Office should provide suitable guidance on the police custody process to parents and guardians in order for them to fully participate, and adopt within the PACE Act the definition of a child as outlined in the Children Act 2004.

HM Inspector of Constabulary, Dru Sharpling, said on behalf of the six inspectorates:

“What we found in our joint inspection was that the arrest and custody process does not always consider the needs of the children and young people. Agencies should work together to minimise the amount of time children and young people are held in police custody.

“Those fulfilling an Appropriate Adult role should have sufficient knowledge of the child’s background to understand their needs. The police, Youth Offending Teams, local authorities and Local Safeguarding Children Boards need to provide greater leadership, direction and supervision to enable their staff to properly understand their duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. The report is available at www.hmic.gov.uk
  2. The Appropriate Adult role was created under the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act 1984, and one is required to be present at a number of points in the custody process if a child is detained. Examples of this include; when a child or young person is told of their rights and entitlements, when they are interviewed or when they are charged. The Appropriate Adult will normally be a parent or guardian, but when they are unwilling or unable to attend, the Appropriate Adult must be provided by the local authority. In line with the PACE Act, the report considered children and young people aged 10 – 16 years who are entitled to have an Appropriate Adult present.
  3. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act requires that children and young people aged 10-16 who are charged with an offence and denied bail must be transferred to the care of the local authority pending their appearance in court (except under certain specific conditions). The local authority, under the Children Act 1989 must accept these children and young people into their care. The PACE Act creates an anomaly for 17-year-olds, who are treated as adults in a police station.
  4. This joint thematic inspection was commissioned by the Criminal Justice Chief Inspectors Group (CJCIG) and forms part of the joint programme of the CJ Inspectorates, as published in our joint business plan for 2010-12. This is available at https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/media/criminal-justice-joint-inspection-business-plan-2010-12.pdf
  5. For further information, please contact HMIC’s press office on 020 3513 0600 between 8.30am – 5.30pm Monday – Friday. The out-of-hours press line for urgent enquiries is 07836 217729
  6. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and authorities to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing bodies.For more information please visit our website www.hmic.gov.uk
  7. HM Inspectorate of Probation is an independent inspectorate, funded by the Ministry of Justice, and reporting directly to the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of work with individual offenders, children and young people aimed at reducing reoffending and protecting the public.
  8. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  9. The Care Quality Commission Is the independent regulator of all health and social care services in England. Our job is to make sure that care provided by hospitals, dentists, ambulances, care homes and services in people’s own homes and elsewhere meets government standards of quality and safety.
  10. Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales encourages the improvement of social care, early years and social services by regulating, inspecting, reviewing and providing professional advice to Ministers and policy makers. We carry out our functions on behalf of Welsh Ministers, and although we are part of the Local Government and Communities Directorate within Welsh Government, there are a number of safeguards in place to ensure our operational independence. Our Vision and Values are geared towards ensuring that service users’ experiences are at the heart of our work. Our duty is to assure the citizens of Wales of the quality and safety of social care services through our inspections. The responsibility for improving services rests with those who commission and deliver them within the requirements of the legislation and government policy. CSSIW inspections provide accountability for the public and learning for stakeholders through exemplars and sustained service improvements. For further information please visit the website www.cssiw.org.uk
  11. Healthcare Inspectorate Wales is the independent inspectorate and regulator of all healthcare in Wales. HIW’s primary focus is on:
    • Making a significant contribution to improving the safety and quality of healthcare services in Wales.
    • Improving citizens’ experience of healthcare in Wales whether as a patient, service user, carer, relative or employee.
    • Strengthening the voice of patients and the public in the way health services are reviewed. Ensuring that timely, useful, accessible and relevant information about the safety and quality of healthcare in Wales is made available to all For further information please visit the website www.hiw.org.uk