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NPCC’s Strategy for Police Custody – Children should only be held in custody as a last resort

The National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) has published a new strategy on police custody. The strategy states that it aspires to use police custody as a ‘last resort’ for children.


The strategy recognises that police custody is not always the most appropriate response for children and that alternatives should be sought wherever possible. The use of pre-custody interventions, for example, such as street triage avoids the use of police custody for children.

  • “one of the greatest benefits will arise from diversion activities and greater collaboration with partner agencies.” [page 4].
  • “We use custody for children only as a last resort.” [page 7]


Read the NPCC National Strategy for Police Custody.

This strategy should be read in conjunction with the NPCC National Strategy for the Policing of Children and Young People.


The NPCC strategy recognises that children are inherently vulnerable and should be treated wholly differently to adults in police custody. This strategy should remind police officers and custody sergeants that they should not be detaining children is police cells.

  • Police officers can avoid arresting children by arranging for children to attend police stations voluntarily to be interviewed. 1
  • Children should not routinely be placed in police cells. Custody sergeants should consider if they can be supervised in another suitable safe place in the police station. 2
  • Children should only be held in a police cell overnight in the most exceptional cases. 3


Read more about Just for Kids Law’s nochildincells campaign.

  1. Officers must take into account the age of a child or young person when deciding whether any of the Code G statutory grounds for arrest apply. They should pay particular regard to the timing of any necessary arrests of children and young people and ensure that they are detained for no longer than needed in accordance with paragraph 1.1 of Code C.  (back)
  2. “A juvenile shall not be placed in a police cell unless no other secure accommodation is available and the custody officer considers it is not practicable to supervise them if they are not placed in a cell or that a cell provides more comfortable accommodation than other secure accommodation in the station. A juvenile may not be placed in a cell with a detained adult.” [para 8.8, PACE Code C]  (back)
  3. “Officers should avoid holding children overnight in police cells unless absolutely necessary.” [Section 2, Detention and custody: Children and young persons, College of Policing, July 2015]  (back)