Girl of 12 released from Manx prison

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The Independent Online
A 12-year-old girl who has been held on remand at an Isle of Man jail for the past seven days was released into the care of a children's home last night.

It also emerged that the girl who faces nine charges of assault and criminal damage has been crying and shouting while at the prison in the island's capital Douglas.

In addition, it has been revealed that a 14-year-old boy has been sent back to the Victoria Road jail on remand after breaking his bail conditions. A 16-year-old boy is already serving a 32 week sentence at the five-cell juvenile annexe.

The girl's lawyer said last night that the child, who is described as very disturbed, was "happy and pleased" to be leaving the Victorian prison.

The island's social services have agreed to provide extra staff and 24- hour surveillance to ensure the girl is kept secure at Cummal Shee children's home in Douglas. The U-turn - the home had refused to take her because it does not have a secure unit - follows a furore caused by the publication in The Independent about the jailing of children.

In the past three years there have been 31 cases, some involving repeat offenders, of juveniles aged up to 16 being jailed on the Isle of Man. The youngest was aged 12, five were aged 14, and the remainder were aged 15 and 16.

A "deemster" - an Isle of Man judge - at a hearing in chambers at the court in Douglas yesterday released the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, on custody and bailed her to reappear in court today.

It is understood that the conditions of bail are that she must stay at the home at all times and only leave with a member of staff.

When the girl appeared before a court last week she was said to be in moral danger, but was jailed after she refused to accept conditions that she should live at the home and not go out unaccompanied. She is accused of assaulting members of staff at the home.

The Isle of Man does not have a specialist secure unit, and children as young as ten can, under Manx law, be sent to a special annexe at the adult jail. This practice was condemned as "barbaric" by civil liberty groups.

Terence McDonald, the girl's lawyer, yesterday criticised the police for charging the girl. "The police are not looking into the circumstances of juveniles and are treating child offenders like adults. They are exaggerating the juvenile delinquency by charging so many young people."

Commenting on the decision by social services to provide extra staff at the children's home, he said: "I welcome it but feel it is a great pity that something could not have been done sooner. There is desperate need for a separate secure unit for children."

Allan Bell, the island's home affairs minister, said plans to redevelop the prison were being considered and were likely to include moving the juvenile annexe away from the main jail. And he added: "The prison officers are trained specifically to look after youngsters and have a different method of approach to them than they would the regular prisoners.

"I inherited a situation I can do nothing about. I have to live with what I have got."