Fedster + 1,307 Posted December 16, 2017 Share Posted December 16, 2017 Custody officers and local authorities are 'confused' with what is required, according to report. The Home Office is calling on forces and local authorities to work together to “ensure legal duties are met” after a string of failings were discovered in the handling of children in custody. In 2015, HMIC cited significant shortcomings in custody arrangements for children, including a lack of data around the police’s efforts to secure Local Authority accommodation. Custody records suggest the average wait for accommodation from the time the child arrived in custody, was five and a half hours, with examples of some waiting much longer – up to 22 hours in one case. It was determined the reason for the delays was due to poor recordkeeping by custody staff, which made it difficult to assess these accurately. Other issues include custody sergeants not being able to track down family members or other providers of the service such as social services quickly, and the accommodation service was rarely available on a 24-hour basis. This often meant children or vulnerable adults who were taken into custody late in the evening could not be brought to appropriate accommodation (AA) until the following day. HMIs observed a number of vulnerable detainees spending a long time in custody while the arrangements for an AA were made. In one example: A 15-year-old girl was admitted to custody just before midnight. The AA was called within 30 minutes, but because it was late, she agreed to attend the following day. There was no evidence of any alternative arrangements being made and the girl was held for the rest of the night. Her rights were read at 11am the next day, and she left custody in the company of her mother an hour later. It was eventually decided there would be no further action due to lack of evidence. According to the report, many of these cases and the failure to comply with the law stems from “confusion as to its requirements.” It added custody officers are often unsure when to request secure accommodation , and sometimes interpret the Police and Criminal Evidence Act’s use of the term ‘impracticable’ as meaning ‘difficult’ or ‘inconvenient’, dramatically lowering the bar for continuing detainment. The finger has also been pointed at Local Authorities. It was found staff are not always aware of their absolute legal duty to provide accommodation and often believe that a lack of available space in children’s homes justifies leaving a child in a police cell. To help prevent these issues, the government, along with other bodies including the College of Policing and the NPCC, has drawn up a concordat to set out clear guidelines to avoid “further ambiguity or confusion” and strongly advises forces and local authorities to adopt these. The success of the document will now be down to whether or not a decline in the number of children held overnight will be achieved, and when all children are held in full accordance with the law, according to the report. It will also highlight best practice to help police forces and Local Authorities prepare for future HMIC and Ofsted inspections of child transfer arrangements. National Police Chiefs' Council Lead for Children and Young People, Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said: “Police forces are determined to ensure that children and young people avoid being detained in custody wherever possible. The welfare of children must be put first in these situations where they are often particularly vulnerable. “Forces are working to implement the principles and practice of the concordat in collaboration with local authorities and other agencies. "There has been substantial training to help custody officers understand the needs of children and the alternatives to custody. “The big challenge faced by local authorities is in finding suitable accommodation for those young people refused bail. The aim of the concordat is to bring different agencies together to address and find solutions to this challenge.” A College of Policing spokesman said: “The College of Policing welcomes the publication of the concordat and will continue to work with national policing leads and other agencies to implement its aims and principles. “We have previously published national guidance on detention and custody, which includes a detailed section on children and young people, and have been clear that children should only be held in custody as a last resort. “The College, with the National Police Chief's Council (NPCC), has been recognised for providing guidance and learning to ensure officers and staff working in custody have the skills and knowledge required to support and inform their decision making.” So far 25 forces have agreed to adopt the set out principals along with 86 councils. View On Police Oracle Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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