Fifteen children locked up overnight in South Wales Police cells every week
FIFTEEN children are locked up overnight in South Wales Police cells every week, according to figures from a penal charity.
The research by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveals there were 798 overnight detentions of children aged 17 and under in police stations across South Wales during 2011.
The figure is a drop from the previous year when it stood at 917.
The total across England and Wales was 40,716 — an average of 112 detentions per night.
The charity has been calling for the practice of holding children overnight in police cells to be brought to an end altogether.
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.
“It is encouraging to see that the number of detentions is falling nationwide, thanks in part to our successful campaigning.
“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.
“Police are to be congratulated for the significant fall in the use of police cells in recent years. It is extravagantly expensive to detain children at a time of austerity, particularly when almost all of them are innocent, or have just been naughty and that behaviour can be dealt with quickly and safely by parents.”
The Howard League says police need to work more closely with parents and children’s services to provide safe and appropriate care for boys and girls who come to their attention.
A spokesman for South Wales Police said: “Tackling youth crime is a priority for South Wales Police and the force places a strong emphasis on intervention and diverting young people from anti social behaviour and criminality. We work with a range of partners to prevent crime through early intervention.
“The figures for South Wales show a significant reduction between 2010 and 2011.”