Charity calls for Sussex Police to lock up fewer children

A NATIONAL charity has called on Sussex Police to lock up less children overnight.

Figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform revealed 30 boys and girls are held overnight in cells every week in the county.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Holding children as young as ten in police cells overnight is unjustifiable.

“The vast majority of children who are locked up are innocent of any crime, and it is a frightening and intimidating experience which does more harm than good.”

The charity said new research showed there were 1,564 overnight detentions of children aged 17 and under in police stations in Sussex during 2011, in comparison to 1,720 in 2010.

The total across England and Wales in 2011 was 40,716 – which equated to an average of 112 detentions per night.

According to the charity, the number of detentions is dropping.

“It is encouraging to see that the number of detentions is falling nationwide, thanks in part to our successful campaigning,” said Ms Crook.

“This is a victory for common sense, prudent use of police resources and improved community relations.

“But the number remains far too high and it is particularly worrying to see that practice varies widely from police service to police service.

“What boys and girls need in most cases is simply to go home. On rare occasions, somewhere safe – not somewhere secure – should be provided by the local authority.

“Parents, not police, should be taking responsibility for their children.”

The charity has called for the practice of holding children overnight in police cells to be brought to an end.