28 Sep 2015

CYF failed teen kept in police cell, says lawyer

11:02 am on 28 September 2015

An Auckland teenager spent four frightening nights in a police cell because Child, Youth and Family could not find a bed for her in a youth justice facility, her lawyer says.

The 16-year-old was facing 18 charges when she was taken into custody earlier this month.

Her lawyer, Jenny Verry, said the girl was held in a cell by herself but was distressed and unsettled.

"She had to listen to adult prisoners screaming, carrying on, during the night," said Ms Verry.

She said the teenager suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Ms Verry said she knew of at least three other similar cases in Auckland.

She told Morning Report she understood Child Youth and Family's national office had made a policy decision not to take girls at the youth justice centre in Auckland instead sending them to Palmerston North or Christchurch.

The judge in the case was not impressed, Ms Verry said. "Her Honour's view was that Child, Youth and Family were not meeting their statutory obligations to provide beds for our girls and our boys in the largest city in the country."

Labour Party children's spokesperson, Jacinda Ardern, said it was not the first time CYF had used a prison cell to inappropriately house a young person.

She said it beggared belief the agency did not have enough available beds in the country's biggest city.