Campaigners urge police forces to stop holding youngsters in cells overnight (From The Northern Echo)
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Howard League for Penal Reform urges forces to stop holding under-17's in cells overnight
A PRISON reform charity is urging the region's police forces to hold fewer under-17s in cells overnight.
The Howard League for Penal Reform says figures for the region reveal two forces, Durham and North Yorkshire, detained 972 and 579 youngsters respectively during 2011.
The total for England and Wales was 40,716 –an average of 112 detentions per night.
But the charity says the true number is likely to be higher as some forces – including Northumbria and Cleveland - were unable to provide figures.
The number of overnight detentions is falling nationwide – a success for the Howard League’s campaign to reduce the number of children getting caught up in the criminal justice system.
But now the charity is calling for an end of the practice.
It is urging police to work more closely with parents and children’s services to provide safe and appropriate care.
Howard League Chief Executive Frances Crook 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.
“It is encouraging to see that the number of detentions is falling nationwide, thanks in part to our successful campaigning..”
Chief Inspector Steve Ball, Durham Police's operations manager for custody and criminal justice reform said: “There will always be some offenders for whom there is little alternative than to be detained in custody, but Durham Constabulary is determined to drive down the overall arrest rates and criminalisation of young people and to focus instead upon intervention and positive lifestyles.
“With that in mind we have been involved in a number of projects with other agencies, including local youth offending services."
Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Mason , of North Yorkshire Police, said: "It is an unfortunate reality that it is sometimes necessary to detain someone under the age of 18 for their own safety or because they are suspected of committing a significant criminal offence against others.
“Depending on the time of day or night, and after careful assessment of threat and risk posed by or towards them, this could mean an overnight stay in police custody as a last resort.
“North Yorkshire Police make every effort to achieve the most positive outcome for both victims and young people in trouble.”
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