Young offenders at serious risk of harming themselves are being locked up although they are too vulnerable for life behind bars, the head of the Youth Justice Board (YJB) admitted yesterday.

Following a spate of suicides among children in custody in recent years and fears that the number of teenagers behind bars could be about to rise, Rod Morgan delivered a grim warning of the pressures faced by the youth justice system. In an interview with The Independent, he appealed to the courts to jail fewer youngsters and called for extra resources to be found for children with severe mental health problems. Twenty-seven children have died in custody since 1990, including two last year, prompting the United Nations to accuse Britain of failing to respect the human rights of young offenders.

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