Fatal flaws in the way children are screened for vulnerability
when remanded in custody are putting lives at risk, according to
research from the Children’s Society, writes
The process of assessment between court and prison is fragmented
and haemorrhages crucial information, leaving prison staff with
little choice but to admit children with few details, it shows.
Author of the research Barry Goldson said: “The so-called
vulnerability assessment process is like a cattle market. Children
are herded into over-crowded and unsuitable prison reception areas
and processed with indecent haste.”
The report reveals how children are transported from court to
prison in “sweatbox” pens, no bigger than a telephone box and with
no toilet facilities.
At prison reception areas, they are asked about their mental
state, family relationships and suicidal tendencies in public, and
many are reluctant to discuss their vulnerability in front of
On their first night, children are often locked up with little
support or counselling, and as a result children often experience
confusion and despair.
The research highlights how the introduction of new government
legislation, section 130 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act
2001, will not help the situation. Children as young as 15 can be
placed on remand in prison for ‘persistent’, but petty
offences, such as stealing sweets or vandalism.
The charity is calling for the government to immediately repeal
section 130 of the act, end all prison remands for anyone under 16,
raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 in England and
Wales, and for children in prison to be protected by the Children
Act 1989 to give them the same rights to protection from abuse as
all other children.
‘Vulnerable Inside’ is available from 020 7841 4415.