Children and young people in care are more likely to be arrested according to a report by the Howard League.
The report reveals a stark situation for these children.
Whilst children’s homes are not quite the workhouses, famed in Dickens’ ‘Oliver Twist’, the inability to deal with certain challenging situations show that some things just have not changed.
Although today’s children may not be sent to Beadle for asking for “more”, there is a worrying willingness to call the police and detain children in circumstances, where others, in stable family units, may simply be sent to their room, or at worse, have their pocket money withheld.
And what happens when they are arrested?
By law, the police cannot question a young person without an appropriate adult present.
This is often a parent, or a relative, who sits in to ensure that the young person understands everything that is happening.
They cannot be processed, questioned or released without an appropriate adult. When there is no relative, or if a relative is unwilling to attend the station, the police have to either call social services, or the appropriate adult scheme who have a panel of volunteers to fulfil this role. Often, however, for whatever reason, there are no appropriate adults available, and the children’s home may decide they can’t attend because of a conflict of interest with the alleged offender. The police at this point are the child’s parent and social services rolled into one. The ‘ no availability’ narrows the pool of potential appropriate adults.
The police cell is no place for a child to spend the night. However, it happens with alarming regularity. Be it the 14-year-old, who, during an argument with her mother broke an ornament causing her to call the police or the child who has been arrested because the private care home claims that it is a requirement as part of their “safeguarding” policy.
Recently, we spoke to a 15-year-old girl who had been detained at the police station since lunchtime. It was almost midnight when a solicitor was called. The police had allowed her to spend 10 hours in a cell, awaiting the attendance of an appropriate adult.
Her mother would not attend.
Her father was at work.
She was on her own.
Late into the evening, the police decided to ask social services to attend as the appropriate adult. Social Services insisted on a solicitor bring called. I contacted the police shortly, before midnight, ready to attend, only to be told that social services would not come out at that late hour and that she needed to be “bedded ” down in the police station for the night.
The following morning her explanation for having an empty iPad case was accepted and she was released, having spent 20 hours in custody without charge.
If this is the scandalous treatment of children not in care, who knows how they treat children in care.