25/04/13 - News
High Court rules 17 year olds must be treated as children in police detention.
Chris Bath, Chief Executive of the National Appropriate Adult Network, welcomed today’s High Court judgement that 17 year olds must be treated as children in police custody. He said:-
“As parents we are legally responsible for our children until they are 18. Children have rights under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child until they are 18. The removal of this anomaly means both rights and responsibilities can finally be exercised. For those children unfortunate enough to lack parental support, members of our communities stand ready to act as Appropriate Adults, just as they already do for 10 to 16 year olds.”
NAAN congratulates all those whose bravery and determination has led to today’s result including Hughes Cousins-Chang, the Lawton family, the Thornber family and Just for Kids Law.
The Home Office had been concerned the change would cost £19.1m per year. However, NAAN has assessed that, due to successes in reducing youth crime, the Home Office will be able to implement the change with minimal additional resources. A NAAN report earlier this month showed that the cost is likely to be less than one tenth of the original estimate. (http://appropriateadult.org.uk/index.php/front-page/policy).
NAAN encourages the Home Office to distribute guidance to police forces without delay. The charity promises to provide its full support during the consultation period, in order to produce more detailed guidance for the long term.
For press enquiries please contact Chris Bath, Chief Executive
W: www.appropriateadult.org.uk / Tw: @AA_NAAN
• The High Court has made an order that:-
- The current version of PACE Code C is unlawful because it fails to distinguish between 17 year old children and adults
- The failure of the Home Secretary to amend Code C is contrary to Parliament’s requirement that the Government ensures compliance with s.6 Human Rights Act
• Under-18s have been treated as children in the justice system since the Criminal Justice Act 1991, with the exception of remand and police detention. Remand was aligned in 2012 but, unlike 10 to 16 year olds, a 17 year old child can be arrested, detained, interviewed, have intimate samples taken and be charged, without the knowledge of their parents. Once at court, they ‘become’ a child again.
• Children’s charity Just for Kids Law brought the judicial review against the Home Secretary, in support of a teenager with no convictions who was handcuffed, cautioned and detained overnight before being released with no charge. Police refused to let his parents know where he was despite his requests.
• Last month the parents of Joe Lawton and Edward Thornber delivered a petition to Number 10 with over 50,000 signatures. In separate and unrelated cases, both 17 year olds committed suicide days after being detained by police. Joe Lawton shot himself with the shotgun from the family farm three days after his arrest for drink-driving, leaving the police charge sheet at his feet. Ex-Head Boy Edward Thornber hanged himself after a court summons for possessing cannabis worth 50p.
• Charities including the National Appropriate Adult Network, Prison Reform Trust and Howard League have been pressing for change. The Home Office has said that the issue is “finely balanced” and kept “under review” by Ministers while expressing concern over cost implications.
• A report by NAAN found that the costs would be less than a tenth of the initial estimates of £19.1m per year. The estimate had been based on using social workers at £204 per hour when parents did not attend police stations but the vast majority of cases are dealt with by local volunteers.