Home Affairs Correspondent
Judge Stephen Tumim, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, has called for action after a report revealed a 86 per cent increase in the number of unconvicted children being sent to adult prisons while awaiting trial.
Despite legislation three years ago designed to end the remanding of 15- and 16-year-olds to prison, numbers have nearly doubled to nearly 1,500 a year.
Concern over bullying, self harm and suicide among people of this age held in adult institutions has been expressed by Judge Tumim, Lord Woolf, and the Boards of Prison Visitors.
The study by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders and by the Association of Chief Officers of Probation found that they are also serving longer periods on remand - some several months.
The increase coincides with the closure of one of the country's two specialist treatment centres for disturbed young offenders, in Essex.
Yesterday, Judge Tumim said: "No right minded person wishes to see such very young people, whose guilt is unproven, sent to prison and often into contact with hardened criminals."
Most of the young people had been remanded to jail accused of property and motoring crime - only 30 per cent faced charges of violence or robbery.
The report also found young people were more likely to be held in custody in certain areas - Manchester, Calderdale, Tyne and Wear, Cleveland, Lambeth and Leeds came out top. In some areas there was also a high use of remand for young blacks. In London, 53 per cent of those sent to Feltham Remand Centre were from ethnic minorities. In Birmingham it was 51 per cent and Manchester 43 per cent.
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