The United Nations has demanded urgent government action to reduce the numbers of vulnerable children behind bars in Britain.

The UN's scathing critique of this country's failure to respect the human rights of young offenders follows the deaths of 27 children in custody since 1990, including two this year. About 2,700 people aged 10 to 17 are held in British jails, at an annual cost of £283m. The incarceration rate will be condemned by Jap Doek, the chairman of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, at a conference in London tonight.

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