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Police in London respond after holding a child in custody overnight

A report published in the Evening Standard found that more than 7,500 children were detained overnight last year.

Image: Shutterstock/Alexander Raths

POLICE IN LONDON have responded to a report that they kept a 10-year-old child in a cell overnight.

The news story appeared in the Evening Standard yesterday which said that the child was the youngest of more than 7,500 children aged under 18 kept overnight by the Met Police between April and December of 2015.

In the article it was noted that under the law children should be transferred to local authority accommodation wherever possible.

In its response today, Chief Superintendent Elaine Van-Orden said that the Metropolitan Police “takes its duty of care towards children and vulnerable adults seriously”.

“The Evening Standard article implied police custody is intended to be an unpleasant experience,” she said.

Whilst we recognise police custody can be a daunting and intimidating experience for children, custody suites are designed to provide a safe and secure environment for detainees and our suites are regularly inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectorates of Constabularies and Prisons.

It is not unlawful for police in the UK to detain children, and may do so in circumstances where there is a need to take forensic samples or to prevent evidence being lost or destroyed.

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Van-Orden went on to acknowledge that in circumstances where a child is detained after being charged with an offence they should be transferred to care – although this is not always possible.

In Ireland the law on detaining children is governed by the Children Act 2001, which is based on the principle that children who find themselves facing charges should only be held in custody as a last resort.

Generally, a number of community-based measures should be exhausted before this is considered.

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