A legal charity has applied for a judicial review into decisions that led to the detention of a 15 year-old boy.
The “vulnerable” youngster was held in custody for two nights by the Police after he failed to pay fines. Officers attended the children’s home where he lived after receiving reports that he was acting aggressively. When they checked police records, however, they found an outstanding warrant for £129 in unpaid fines.
As the name suggests, the Howard League for Penal Reform campaigns for changes to the criminal justice system. Projects include reducing the “criminalisation of children”.
Detention of the 15 year-old had no legal basis, the League insists. Courts cannot order the arrest or imprisonment of children for failure to pay fines, it says, because as minors have no means to make such payments themselves.
Chief Executive Frances Cook explained:
“This is the second time in only a few weeks that we have had to take action on behalf of children who have been unlawfully detained following warrants for non-payment of fines issued by magistrates’ courts. It is disappointing that a charity has to act on behalf of these children when the law is clear that there is no power to issue such warrants. We know that locking up children in police stations overnight is frightening and damaging, and it wastes police time.”
She called for urgent action to ensure the incident was not repeated.