ONE hundred children a week were held in police cells overnight last year, according to figures released yesterday by the Metropolitan Police (Met).
Documents requested by Mayor of London Boris Johnson revealed that in the six months between November 2014 and May 2015 over 3,000 under-18s had been kept in police custody.
The 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act requires police forces to transfer minors into local authority accommodation.
“The fact that vulnerable under-18s were held overnight in London cells over 3,000 times in six months alone shows there is a serious problem,” said Labour London Assembly member Andrew Dismore.
“The police tell me that a combination of budget cuts and housing shortages are having a devastating impact on councils’ ability to place young people and prevent them spending the night in a police cell.
“It cannot be right that young people — many arrested on relatively minor offences — end up forced to spend the night in a cell just because the government won’t give councils the resources they need to provide safe alternative accommodation.”
Met documents also showed that 483 of the incidents took place at the weekend.
Mr Dismore warned the government that its austerity agenda was worsening the lives of London’s children and making the work of local authorities harder.
In a statement, Mr Johnson defended Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, insisting that he was “committed to ensuring that all detainees are protected and treated appropriately while in police custody.”
Howard League for Penal Reform director Andrew Neilson told the Star that the procedure was unjustifiable.
“It is a frightening and intimidating experience which does more harm than good,” he said.
“What boys and girls need in most cases is simply to go home.
“On rare occasions, somewhere safe — not somewhere secure — should be provided by the local authority.
“It is extravagantly expensive to detain children at a time of austerity, particularly when most are innocent, or have just been naughty and that behaviour can be dealt with quickly and safely by parents.”