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High Court to look at treatment of 17-year-olds in custody

CUSTODY REVIEW: The High Court

THE HIGH Court could review whether the treatment of 17-year-olds in police custody is breaking international children’s rights law.

The possibility of the review by the High Court has come following a case brought by the charity 'Just for Kids Law'. The charity won the right to a judicial review after the High Court accepted its argument that keeping 17-year-olds in custody without contacting an “appropriate adult” was breaching the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

The website, Children and Young People Now, reported that police are allowed to keep 17-year-olds in custody without contacting a parent or “appropriate adult" to give support or advice because current policies classify them as adults.

These young people also have no right to have a parent or guardian present during police interviews, the website said.

But Just for Kids Law said treating them as adults contradicts the UNCRC, which states that under-18s must be treated as children.

Director of Just for Kids Law, Shauneen Lambe told the website: “In our experience, this is not an isolated incident. Seventeen-year-olds are routinely treated as adults when dealing with the police. Just for Kids Law believes that all children should be entitled to the same protection at the police station.”

She added: “Young people can be traumatised by their experiences at the police station and the role of the appropriate adult is to ensure and monitor the child’s wellbeing.”

The High Court ruled that the charity could get a judicial review into the issue after it highlighted the case of a young man, with no criminal record, who was detained at a police station for more than 12 hours. The charity said the young man was not able to speak to his mother or get help from an appropriate adult, despite asking police to contact his mother.

Police usually contact a parent or other appropriate adult only if the 17-year-olds are deemed to be “vulnerable”, said Children and Young People Now.

The Government shelved plans to classify 17-year-olds in custody as children in July this year.

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