The Director of Partnerships and Strategy (DPS), Andy Dempsey, presented the report in great detail. The Committee noted the progress made in relation to further developing the local arrangements for Youth Justice with a particular emphasis on the work being undertaken to prevent the detention of children in police stations following charge. It was explained that the development of the protocol had a great deal of support from the Assistant Chief Constable and custody suite officers. All parties recognised that children being detained in the cells overnight was a difficult issue to deal with and were supportive of reducing the opportunity for such situations to occur. It was reported that in the last quarter, three children had spent the night in the cells.
A vigorous discussion took place which assisted officers in the development of the plan. Officers explained that the local authority was not provided with a specific grant or funding stream to meet this duty, as such the costs for children transferred to the care of the local authority were met from existing budgets for children in care.
There was unanimous support for this protocol and members offered to liaise with officers if they required further support. The DPS informed members that the protocol was written with a small number of individuals in mind. It was evident that the compounding issues were only known at the point of arrest, it was suggested that the charging flow chart, as published in national guidance should be amended accordingly and worded sensitively to assist custody officers who had to process the child. The aim of the protocol was to provide continuity and safeguard the child.
Members felt it was an appalling experience for a child to spend a night in the cells and were deeply concerned for those children, where there was no option but to bed down in the cells overnight before being interviewed. The DPS explained unfortunately at times there was no option but to detain a child in the custody suite overnight, rather than transferring a child in the early hours of the morning. The DPS accepted members concerns and agreed to take the point on board.
It was noted that many children in authority care were often disconnected from their social worker over the weekend. Therefore, it was essential that each agency understood and gained a clear understanding of the reality of the situation.
The DPS explained that the protocol wouldn’t ‘land’ until they had met with custody suite staff to implement the process and develop an understanding. It was evident that there was a great deal of work to do, in order to get it right.
In response to a question, it was noted that if a child breached an Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction (ASBI) they would be arrested, naturally this appeared to be an ever decreasing circle. Some situations were of a contradictory nature and colleagues were open to new lessons in order to bring about change.
The Committee were advised that children out of school were vulnerable, as such a focused piece of work was being undertaken which would involve multi agency meetings to avoid unintended consequences. In response to a question, it was noted that a presentation had been given to Safer Gloucestershire Board.
Members unanimously requested that this item be revisited at a future meeting, where a detailed update, including the revised protocol could be presented. (Action – Andy Dempsey/AG)
The DCS agreed the development of the protocol was a good starting point, however some cohorts were not covered in the protocol. It was suggested that perhaps an appendix should be included to cover the omitted cohorts. The Committee welcomed and agreed this approach as a helpful way forward. Cllr Coleman offered to work with officers to devise the cohort list. (Action - Andy Dempsey/Cllr Coleman)
The DPS informed the Committee that the police were supportive of this area of work, however all parties would need to be persistent and work together to expand the cohort and the fine detail.
That the report be received.