A campaigning charity, Transform Justice, report that police remand of children is being overused. The police remand over four times more children in custody than the courts due to the application of ‘significantly looser’ criteria. In 2022, over 3,200 children were held on remand by the police, compared to only 787 held on remand by the court.
In addition, in 2022, despite being charged with non-violent offences, 54% of children were refused bail. A third of those children held on remand went on to eventually be discharged, dismissed, or have their case withdrawn, whilst another third went on to be given a community sentence or a fine.
In response, Transform Justice have recently announced their amendment, which aims to reduce the number of children in police custody, has been tabled for discussion as part of the Criminal Justice Bill. The aim would be to bring the grounds for police refusal of bail for children more closely in line with those used by the court to ensure remand of children remains a last resort. This would also look to prevent the remand of children for drug testing, and include provision to obligate custody officers to consider the best interests and welfare of the child when deciding whether to hold a child on remand.
Research and policy lead for Transform Justice, Fionnuala Ratcliffe, has described the remand of children as a process that ‘deprives children of their liberty, disrupts education, severs positive social relationships with family and friends, and is a traumatic experience’. Research also suggests that the approach of the police in holding children on remand is damaging children’s trust and causing them to build resentment towards law enforcement.
Furthermore, whilst data recording of the ethnicity of children held in custody is poor, police remand of children appears to be used disproportionately against Black or Mixed Heritage children. Where ethnicity has been recorded it shows that 35% of those children detained by the police post-charge in 2022 were of Black of Mixed Heritage. It is therefore hoped that the proposed amendment will also help to reduce inequality within the youth justice system.
With the proposal now tabled for discussion, it remains to be seen whether the draft amendments will become a legislative reality as part of the new Criminal Justice Bill.