14 Jun 2017

Keeping youths in cells overnight is 'not good enough'

From Morning Report, 6:44 am on 14 June 2017

The Children's Commissioner is making a strong plea to the government that now is the time to abolish the option of children being remanded in police cells overnight.

Prison cells

Prison cells Photo: 123rf

A 16-year-old boy spent a third night in a police cell last night, and was facing a fourth night there because there were no youth beds available.

The teenager, who has been held in police cells in the Auckland area since Sunday, also spent six nights in police custody last year.

The boy's lawyer, Helen Bowen, told Morning Report young people should not be housed in the same place as adult offenders.

"I personally think it's not good enough and that beds should be found for young people in this situation.

"It's not a good look for young offenders and if they are part of a gang then they do see it as something to be proud of."

She said the same problem remained on Monday and yesterday and she had not yet heard but it was possible he would be in the cells for a fourth night.

Sometimes young people were sent to motels with 24-hour trackers instead of being housed in cells, but that did not appear to be available in this case either.

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft said the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children - Oranga Tamariki must come up with other options.

"We play with fire - this is an academic debate we're having, [but] lives are at risk," he said.

"We know that there are psychological risks - we know one boy took his life in a police cell back in 1996 or '97.

"It's simply not good enough in a civilised country to keep this option."