Detention of boy accused of sex offence in adult jail cell leads to chiding for Northamptonshire Police

Police guidance states that holding juveniles in adult cells should only ever be "a last resort"

The police watchdog has chided Northamptonshire Police after an 11-year-old boy was detained in an adult cell.
The police watchdog has chided Northamptonshire Police after an 11-year-old boy was detained in an adult cell.

Northamptonshire Police has been chided over a decision to detain an 11-year-old boy in an adult cell.

In 2020, the juvenile was arrested following an allegation of a sexual offence against another child in a care home setting.

But when the boy was detained overnight, the decision was made to hold him in an adult cell in contradiction of force guidance, and is meant in all cases to be "a last resort".

A statement by police watchdog IOPC reads: " rationale for why he was placed in a cell [was recorded] or what alternatives were considered to placing him in a cell."

Police guidelines state that a juvenile "shall not be placed" in a police cell unless no other secure accommodation is available.

Further, the watchdog remarked that the custody officer at the time would have been pressed with "a difficult decision" whether to lock the boy up or not as they did not have anyone readily available to contact and ask for advice.

It reads: "They were unable to consult with the child protection team as they were not available... The custody officer was presented with a difficult decision as to whether to authorise the detention of a child.

"Ensuring custody officers are able to access advice or support regarding whether to detain a child in police custody is consistent with the National Police Chiefs' Council’s aspiration that custody is used for children only as a last resort."

As a result, Independent Office for Police Conduct instructed Northamptonshire Police to show it had appropriate systems in place for dealing with juveniles and make sure custody officers can find support in the future.

In response, the county police service said it had implemented a "golden hour" principle to speak with social services within an hour of a child coming into custody.

It comes after an inspector's report in March warned that there still work to be done over how Northants Police protect children following a scolding review in 2018.