Justice minister admits five children were detained in adult jails

 

Five children have been placed in adult prisons, breaking an international treaty on children's rights, it has emerged. The Youth Justice minister, Jeremy Wright, admitted the under-18s had been transferred from youth custody to adult prisons in 2011, in answer to a parliamentary question earlier this month.

The decision to hold young people in adult prisons contravenes Article 37 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child [UNCRC], which states that "every child or young person who is locked up must be separated from adults, unless it is better for him or her to be with adults".

The campaign group the Howard League for Penal Reform described the practice as "a cause for great concern", that "endangers" young people.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the charity, told The Independent: "What we sometimes see is young people who tend to be seen as 'difficult' being moved into adult prisons" so as to separate them from other young offenders. "Effectively, what the Prison Service does in these instances is to designate the cell [that the young offender is moved to] as 'young offender institution'."

It is a practice that should be investigated, according to Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust. She told The Independent: "In exceptional cases you do need to detain young people but if you use an adult prison which has limited staffing levels and no specialist skills with teenagers, you are bound to make matters worse. Young offender institutions should have the systems in place to deal with difficult youths within their own units."

The fact that some units are unable to deal with young people in their charge raises questions as to whether custody is the most appropriate place for deeply disturbed young people in the first place.

One in 10 young people in custody have some form of psychosis and far more have other mental health needs. The number of young people who were held in custody has dropped by 45 per cent in the past five years, a move welcomed by the Prison Reform Trust.

"Putting young people in prison is the surest way to ensure an adult prison population," said Ms Lyon.

Locking up under-18s with adult offenders, Mr Neilson added, is "inappropriate" and raises serious concerns about the fitness of the juvenile prison service. "It limits the access they will have to programmes and services and positive activities because they are going to be restricted to their cell so that they are not mixing with adults," he said.

The issue of children in adult prisons was raised during parliamentary questions on 10 January. Sadiq Khan, the shadow Justice Secretary, asked: "How many offenders under the age of 18 were held in the adult secure estate in 2011?". Jeremy Wright replied: "Five young people aged under-18 years were authorised to move into the over-18 secure estate during 2011."

While the Prison Service refused to comment on individual cases, a spokesman said: "In exceptional circumstances, any young person can be transferred to an adult prison. This will usually happen because a young person's violent or disruptive behaviour presents an unacceptable risk to the welfare of other young people."

Mr Neilson said: "If this is happening then it is not a temporary thing... It could be days or even weeks."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas