Surrey Police praised for low number of children held in cells overnight (From This Is Local London)
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Surrey Police praised for low number of children held in cells overnight
1:45pm Monday 14th October 2013 in News
Surrey Police has been praised for holding fewer children in cells overnight than most other police services in England and Wales.
New research by the Howard League for Penal Reform, the world's oldest penal reform charity, has shown that there were 46 overnight detentions of children aged 17 and under in police stations across the county during 2011.
The total was up from 43 in 2010.
However, Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said Surrey Police deserved credit for its low rate of detentions of children.
The total across England and Wales in 2011 was 40,716, which the charity said equates to an average of 112 detentions per night.
But it added the true number is likely to be far higher as some of the largest police services in the country were unable to provide figures for its research, obtained through Freedom of Information requests .
The national charity stated that the data shows the number of overnight detentions of children is falling nationwide.
It hailed the finding as a success for its campaign to cut the number of children getting caught up in the criminal justice system.
But it stated it 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.
Ms Crook said: “Surrey Police deserves credit for its low rate of detentions because holding children as young as ten in police cells overnight is unjustifiable.”
She said: “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.
“It is encouraging to see that the number of detentions is falling nationwide, thanks in part to our successful campaigning. “This is a victory for common sense, prudent use of police resources and improved community relations.”
However, she added: “But the number remains far too high, and it is particularly worrying to see that practice varies widely from police service to police service.
“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.”
She continued: “Parents, not police, should be taking responsibility for their children. “Police are to be congratulated for the significant fall in the use of police cells in recent years. “It is 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.”
In 2010, police services across England and Wales recorded more than 45,000 overnight detentions of children aged 17 and under.
The drop in detentions has coincided with a 15% fall in the number of child arrests. Several police services have reviewed their arrest policies and procedures as a result of the Howard League’s work.
The figures covering 2010 and 2011 were due to be presented to MPs at a Howard League event at Westminster this week.
The Howard League for Penal Reform works for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.