Too many children are criminalised and held in police stations, watchdog finds

Too many children are still being “criminalised” and held in police stations, according to a report.

The Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has called for police and other public services to take a “radical new approach” to protecting vulnerable children.

The watchdog reviewed how well each police force in England and Wales looked after children and found some improvements but said officers do not always have the “necessary skills and experience to investigate effectively”.

The report said: “The police do not recognise or evaluate risk to children well enough.

“Too many children are being criminalised when they shouldn’t be.

“Too little consideration is given to the reasons why children commit crime when decisions are made about the appropriate response.”

Inspectors also found children were “still held in police stations when they shouldn’t be.

“This isn’t changing quickly enough.

“It is almost always best for a child not to be held in a police station.

“In most cases where appropriate accommodation isn’t available, children are still detained until they go to court.

“This is often for a long time.”

The inspection also found:

  • The current system is “unsustainable” and police cannot do the work alone.
  • More resources need to be made available to help support and protect vulnerable children.
  • Forces understand more about the risks around vulnerable children and protection is a priority for chiefs but the police approach is “not proactive enough in identifying children that could be at risk of abuse”.

Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams (pictured) said: “We are calling for radical new approaches to be implemented so that vulnerable children are better protected.

“We want to see vulnerable children safeguarded at the earliest possible opportunity, so they avoid being subjected to damaging abuse – rather than wait until they have already suffered.”

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