Teenage first offenders face ‘good talking to’ instead of cell time

Teenagers who commit a petty crime for the first time will no longer be locked up in a police cell when arrested because a tough talking too has proved to be more effective, the AD reported on Wednesday.

Teens who are caught for minor offences such as shoplifting will no longer be taken to a police station in a police car and put in a cell, but given a stern warning instead, the paper said.

The Oost-Nederland police force has been experimenting with the new approach, which will now be adopted nationally because it has proved so successful.

None of the under-18s who were brought in by police in Twente last year and who were let go after a stern warning has re-offended, Oost-Nederland police said.

The new method can save many thousands of children, who are now processed in the same way as adult suspects, a traumatising stay in a cell. This means police are no longer confronted with crying children who sometimes have to wait hours for a lawyer to assist them during the interrogation.

‘Police weren’t happy about it,’ project leader Jeanette de Vries told the AD. ‘Policemen have chosen this profession because their heart is in the right place. A crying child in a cell for nicking a can of coke is just not right.’

Child rights lobby group Defence for Children, the national ombudswoman for children and the association for juvenile lawyers VNJA welcomed the measure. They say saying locking up minors is unnecessary, traumatising and may also contravene the international rights of the child.

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