Children as young as 10 held in custody overnight in Leeds including one child detained 26 times

Children as young as 10 have been detained in custody overnight in Leeds, new data has revealed.
Children as young as 10 have been detained in custody overnight in Leeds, new data has revealed.
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Children as young as 10 have been detained in custody overnight in Leeds, new data has revealed.

Between 2014 and 2018, 2,695 children under 18 spent a night in police custody in Leeds, according to a Freedom of Information request submitted to West Yorkshire Police.

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The force defines overnight as being in detention for four or more hours between midnight and 8am.

The youngest child detained in the period was aged 10, having been arrested for criminal damage in 2016.

One child was detained a total of 26 times between the ages of 13 and 16 having been arrested for various offences including theft, possession of a class B drug, criminal damage and violence against a person.

Over the five years the number of children detained in police custody overnight has fallen 49% from 781 in 2014 and 397 in 2018.

The force explained it is occasionally necessary to detain under 18's overnight if there is a need to formally interview them.

In such circumstances officers must be recognise the need for detainees to be represented by an appropriate adult during interview.

The presence of an appropriate adult provides protection for detainees' rights, entitlements and welfare.

When an appropriate adult is unavailable, children may be held in custody overnight until they're able to.

In addition, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) states a rest period must be provided if required when a force cannot immediately take a disposal decision, a method of resolving an investigation for offenders of low-level crime.

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A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said: "Officers are routinely encouraged to make use of alternatives to custody such as voluntary attendance and community resolutions when dealing with child suspects, this not only minimises the number of children brought into custody but also avoids children being criminalised from an early age.

"This ensures that we are not only dealing with criminality but we are working to divert children from following the wrong path.

"The use of schools based officers and resolution within the school arena is also a vital tool in diverting children from custody, here the officers can not only deal with issues within the school, but can work beyond the initial contact in order to alleviate any issues within the child’s home life in conjunction with external agencies.

They continued: "There are occasions where a young detainee has been charged and is detained to appear at the next available Court.

"In these circumstances the Police are required by law to seek secure accommodation post charge.

"West Yorkshire Police has a protocol with all five local authorities who now have access to PACE beds for juveniles.

"Whilst secure accommodation continues to be difficult to obtain, an issue which is seen on a national scale, we have been successful in obtaining secure beds for juveniles post charge."

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Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, the oldest penal reform charity in the UK, said: “Being held in a cell is a frightening and intimidating experience for children, and it is for this reason that the law is designed to keep a child’s stay in police custody to a minimum.

"Very few children arrested pose a risk of serious harm to the public and almost all should be returned home immediately.

“The Howard League has been working successfully with police forces to reduce arrests of children, and it is encouraging to see that overnight detentions in West Yorkshire have fallen year after year.

“There is more work to do, however, and responsibility lies not only with the police but with local authorities as well.”