Adult jail not best for girl, says judge

A High Court judge ruled this week that although it was not a
breach of human rights to hold a teenage girl in an adult prison,
it was not in her “best interests”.

The girl challenged the legality of her detention at Eastwood Park
prison, near Bristol, where she was held in a unit for women aged
between 18 and 21.

The girl, known only as DT in court, was sentenced to three years
detention in early 2002 when she was 16 and put in a secure
children’s home. In the summer of 2002, she was transferred to
Eastwood. There, she said she came into contact with drugs and with
some women who were so distressed that they self-harmed or
attempted suicide.

She was released last spring.

Her counsel Ian Wise said the transfer violated the European
Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of
the Child.

Mr Justice Hooper declined to rule that the transfer was unlawful
but said it was “difficult to see how it can be said to be in the
best interests of a 16-year-old” to spend considerable time with
women over 18.

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform,
which backed the case, said the judgement suggested that putting
children in prison with adults, “might be lawful, but it is not

A Youth Justice Board spokesperson did not comment on the case but
said there were no girls under 17 currently in adult prisons and
only in exceptional circumstances would girls be placed in them.

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