Changes to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act Codes of Practice came in to force on 31 July 2018.
The following changes are of particular significance to children and young people:
- ‘The rights, entitlements and safeguards that apply to the conduct and recording of interviews with suspects are not diminished simply because the interview is arranged on a voluntary basis.’ (Code C, paragraph 3.21(b)).
- ‘Anyone who appears to be under 18, shall, in the absence of evidence that they are older, be treated as a juvenile for the purposes of this Code and any other Code’ (Code C, paragraph 1.5).
- A child can be detained at the police station post charge where ‘the juvenile is due at court in such a short space of time that transfer would deprive them of rest or cause them to miss a court appearance.’ When the reason for not transferring the child to local authority accommodation is to avoid missing a court appearance this reason must be noted on the certificate of impracticability (Code C, note 16D).
- The police must now arrange an appropriate adult ‘if at any time an officer has any reason to suspect that a person of any age may be vulnerable’ (Code C, paragraph 1.4). The word ‘vulnerable’ replaces ‘mentally disordered or otherwise mentally vulnerable’. The Codes give a detailed definition of what constitutes as ‘vulnerable’.
- Code C details the rules when using live link for interviews of detainees. The age and vulnerability of detainees must be considered when deciding whether using live link is suitable.
- Code E includes changes to the audio and visual recording equipment that can be used in police interviews.
The clear wording on rights and entitlements applying in the same way to voluntary interviews as to interviews in custody is welcomed. The challenge is to develop the awareness of this amongst children, young people and their families.