The High Court ruled yesterday (April 25th) that seventeen-year-olds held in custody must be treated as children and have an “appropriate adult” or their parents present to provide support to them.
This means that the code governing the detention of teenagers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act must be redrafted by Home Secretary Theresa May. The Government had resisted changing the law, saying that it would cost £20m to have the appropriate adult present in such cases.
However, according to the National Appropriate Adult Network, which says there are 75,000 17-year-olds are held in police custody in the UK every year, this estimate is incorrect. The organisation said that a largely voluntary service supporting 17-year-olds in custody would cost £1.5m at most.
Currently, seventeen-year-olds are treated like adults in custody even though they are seen as children once in court, whereas sixteen-year-olds are entitled to contact their parents or seek advice and assistance from an appropriate adult.
The Court ruled that denying the older youngsters the protections given to those aged 16 and under in custody was “incompatible” with human rights laws.
The case was brought by Hughes Cousins-Chang, who was arrested by the Metropolitan police for the alleged theft of a mobile ‘phone, strip searched and detained for 12 hours but then released without charge.
He was supported by the mother of Edward Thornber, who killed himself after being arrested and the parents of Joe Lawton, who also took his own life, along with the charity Just For Kids Law, which has supported the campaign since 2010.
Outside the High Court, Joe’s parents said their son would “still be here today” if he had received their support when he was taken into custody and, while they are happy that the law will be changed, are angry that it has been resisted for so long by the Home Secretary and Police Minister Damian Green.
Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London
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