Too many children are still being locked up in police cells: ombudsman

A prison corridor
A prison corridor

Too many minors are still being held in police cells overnight, although improvements have been made in recent years, children’s ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer says in a new report.

Kalverboer has investigated several complaints about the position of minors in the criminal justice system and says that ‘time after time’ the police and other officials ‘do not sufficiently take the interests of the minor into account’.

‘Sixteen-year-olds have been locked up in a cell all night for a minor offence, without being able to talk to their parents or a lawyer,’ she said. ‘They are primarily seen as suspects and treated as such. The fact that they are children is often forgotten.’

The ombudsman says every cell complex should have a child-friendly cell, and that children should only be held overnight as a last resort.

‘Being locked up in a cell has a major impact on children, particularly at night,’ she said. ‘If children are locked up, the police must be able to explain exactly why they have done this and why there were no alternatives,’ she said.

Figures from campaign group Defence for Children show almost 7,000 children were taken into some form of police custody in 2017.

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