Written 25th September 2013 by Olliers Solicitors

Campaigners for youth justice have criticised the Home Office’s plans for expansion of rights of 17 years old’s in police custody, by saying they do not got far enough.

Unlawful Treatment

In a landmark ruling in April of this year, it was ruled that the treatment of 17 year old offenders, who received the same treatment as adults at a police station, is unlawful. Currently, Police are obliged to contact a parent or other appropriate adult for offenders aged 16 years or younger but not for 17 year old offenders, unless they are considered to be vulnerable.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

“The Government believes the welfare and protection of all those held in police custody, especially young people, is extremely important and we are taking the necessary steps to fully comply with the judicial review.
“Interim guidance has been issued to all chief constables, advising them that 17-year-old’s in custody must be offered the assistance of an appropriate adult, and we are now in the process of consulting on revisions to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Codes of Practice.”

The Home Office is accordingly taking steps to amend the codes of practice to adopt the ruling. The main area of amendment is for an appropriate adult to be called for all 17 years old’s at the police station.

Criticism and Consultation

However, there has been much criticism as the changes do not appear to be incorporating all requirements that currently apply to appropriate adults and juveniles. The permission of appropriate adults will not be required for 17 years old’s for intimate searches, ultrasound scans, and the taking of fingerprints and DNA as it is with 16 year old’s and under.

Shauneen Lambe, Director of Just for Kids Law, said:

“I think they are trying to do as little as they can to comply with the judgment…

“It is potentially unlawful given the judgment in April and a bit short-sighted.

“By doing it in a piecemeal way they leave themselves open to challenge.”

A consultation on the changes ended yesterday, the 25th September 2013, with the planned implementation of the changes to commence in October 2013.

Lin Hinnigan, Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board, said:

“It is our clear view the youth justice system should be distinct and were pleased with the High Court ruling, which recognised the present anomaly in PACE.
“As part of the Government’s consultation on PACE Codes C and H, we will be submitting a response, reflecting our long-standing view that 17-year-old’s in police custody should not be treated in the same way as adults.”

Ruth Peters

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