Overnight detention of children in police cells


The Howard League for Penal Reform is aware that children aged 16 and under in England and Wales are routinely being held in police custody overnight. The charity wants to know about whether the practice of holding school age children is routine and why it happens, as well as  to identify pressure points to change this practice. Other concerns relate to the conditions in which children are held, their treatment and the training which police officers receive. 

We will seek to bring the findings to the attention of the public and policy makers.

The research

The Howard League commissioned a secondary analysis of the information secured by the Howard League following a Freedom of Information request; published data, inspection reports and literature; and, domestic and international standards and expectations regarding children in police custody.

The report

The report was published on Tuesday 13 December.

Report summary

Buy the report

The researcher

Dr Layla Skinns is a Lecturer in Criminology at the Centre for Criminological Research, School of Law, University of Sheffield and formerly the Adrian Socio-Legal Research Fellow, Darwin College and Teaching Associate at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge. After completing her PhD in Cambridge she also worked at the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, King’s College London.

She has conducted a wide array of research on subjects such as crime prevention, multi-agency criminal justice partnerships, drug users and the criminal justice system, restorative justice and policing. Of most relevance to the research commissioned by the Howard League are her two recent studies on the much neglected topic of the police custody process:

  1. An exploration of police custody in England, examining how different practitioners cooperated with each other and suspect access to their due process rights. This was supported by a research grant from the ESRC (RES-000-22-1719).
  2. Comparative research on police custody in common-law jurisdictions in America, Australia and Ireland, examining due process rights in theory and practice. This was supported by a research grant from the British Academy (RG54278). 

Layla has also authored a number of scholarly publications, as well as policy reports aimed at a wider audience of criminal justice practitioners and policy-makers. These include a forthcoming book entitled ‘Police custody: Governance, legitimacy and reform in the criminal justice process’ (Routledge, 2010).