More than 3,700 children were locked up overnight in police cells across West Yorkshire in one year.
The Howard League for Penal Reform is urging police to stop detaining children after new research shows there were 40.716 overnight detentions of youngsters aged 17 and under in police stations across England and Wales during 2011.
The league’s chief executive Frances Cook, said: “Holding children as young as ten in police cells overnight is unjustifiable. The vast majority of children who are locked up are innocent of any crime.
“It is a frightening and intimidating experience which does more harm than good.”
A total of 3,729 children were detained overnight in West Yorkshire in 2011, compared to 4,469 in 2010. But now the Howard League is calling for the practice of holding children overnight in police cells to be scrapped. Frances Crook said: “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, or have just been naughty and that behaviour can be dealt with quickly by parents.”
Chf Insp Phil Wiggins of West Yorkshire Police, said: “West Yorkshire Police aims to deal with young people outside of the custody system wherever possible, however, there are occasions when an arrest is necessary for the safety of the suspect and to ensure proper procedures are followed. We recognise any arrest of a person of a young age can have a negative impact on their well being but through working with appropriate adults and external partners we aim to mitigate this and deal with a detention as quickly as possible. For instance, in Leeds we have a pioneering triage process where external partners who are specialists work with young people and are located within the police station. Every effort is made to minimise the time spent in custody for young people and, where appropriate, we seek to make use of ‘Out of Court’ disposals rather than putting them through the criminal justice system.”