The Home Office has published a concordat on children in custody, providing guidance for police forces and local authorities in England on their responsibilities towards children in custody. The concordat aims to clarify the legal and statutory duties of the police and local authorities and is intended to prevent the unecessary detention of children in police stations following charge.
The Home Office has recognised the continued high numbers of children being kept in custody following charge across the country despite the police and local authorities’ legal requirements to transfer children. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 requires the transfer of children who have been charged and denied bail to more appropriate Local Authority accommodation, with a related duty in the Children Act 1989 for Local Authorities to accept these transfers. Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 requires both police and Local Authorities to have regard to the welfare and protection of children welfare of children, and in 1991 the UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, agreeing that custody be used “only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”.
The concordat aims to:
- Clarify the legal requirements
- Support the police and local authorities across England in complying with their statutory responsibilities with regard to children in custody; and
- Bring about a decrease in the number of children held overnight in police custody.
In total, 24 police forces and 87 local authorites are signatories to the concordat that sets out the following principles and practice:
- Whenever possible, charged children will be released on bail
- Children denied bail will be transferred whenever practicable
- Secure accommodation will be requested only when necessary
- Local Authorities will always accept requests for non-secure accommodation
- The power to detain will be transferred to the local authority
- Where a local authority fails to provide accommodation it will reimburse the police
- Police forces will collect data on transfers
The concordat provides useful flowcharts on the police process for children in custody and local authority process of children from police custody.
Read the full Concordat on Children in Custody.