Children in police cells – who is policing the police?
Many of you would have seen our Vice President Kerry Hudson’s tweets and the Law Gazette article following the appalling treatment of an 11 year old child in a central London police station 2 weeks ago.
We all know children in the cells pre-charge has worryingly become the “norm” in London, not to mention the lack of Local Authority accommodation for detention post-charge. This is only likely to get worse with the announcement of Sajid Javid’s knife crime prevention orders which will target children as young as 12.
Custody not answering the phone, Solicitor representations falling on deaf ears, cuts in resources causing delays in sourcing timely Appropriate Adults and lack of prompt access to a PACE Inspector – we are all familiar with the drill. Somewhat bizarrely the police appear content to invite people for voluntary interviews for serious cases such as rape but insist on locking up children in police cells for hours at a time only to later RUI, and in Kerry’s case take no further action less than a week later.
A formal complaint is being made in this case but we are aware this is only one of many. Kerry is now collecting case examples with a view to assisting Just for Kids Law in producing a briefing paper on this issue. If you have similar case examples, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
PACE is arguably vague on the treatment of children in the cells pre-charge and the officers involved in this case (both on the ground and in custody) were worryingly unaware of any of the recent guidance on how to treat children; what is the point of all the special measures/overarching youth principles required in court if the proverbial horse has already bolted at the police station? Does it really have to take a child death or serious self-harm in a police cell for those in charge of police training/resources to take action on this concerning trend?
Let’s see if we can encourage a formal review in this area and ultimately some meaningful change to the current law on children in police cells.
The committee has been busy attending various meetings in January promoting and raising the concerns of our members.
National Disclosure Implementation Plan (NDIP) – Phase 2
We attended the first Summary Justice Cross-Agency Seminar. This is the start of NDIP Phase 2 which will focus on improving disclosure issues in the Magistrates’ and Youth Court (the so called “volume” cases).
We are all familiar with the ongoing disclosure problems faced in all courts across London. This group is working on making changes at a National level.
Please email us with any ideas or suggestions you wish us to put forward.
In particular, your feedback/suggestions will be very welcome in relation to the following:
- The “Rebuttable Presumption” list of items as per the AGO Review suggestions published in November 2018 (a list of items which should always be disclosed to the defence unless good reasons not to);
- How to improve the ongoing communication barriers between the Defence and CPS;
- Whether Disclosure Management Documents (DMDs) now being used in all complex and RASSO cases should be extended to some more serious/complex Magistrates’ and Youth Court cases;
- Whether more defined timeframes for disclosure (maybe akin to the stage directions model in the Crown Court protocol) would be beneficial for summary cases. Should there be a London-wide protocol?
The CPS always want specific URN examples for cases where there has been catastrophic disclosure failures. If you have any good examples, please email us with details.
CPS/Defence Engagement Meeting
It was great to see a large turnout of Defence practitioners at this meeting. This is a great forum for raising the more day to day issues encountered with the CPS.
We raised a number of issues emailed in by our members.
The CPS is aware of the ongoing communications problems with the defence and they are committed to improving this. They have created contact lists for CPS North and South which we are able to share with our members (attached) and these will be periodically updated and circulated.
Digital Update from CPS – what is on the horizon?
The CPS is currently still receiving hard media from the police but soon the police will be moving to a new system called “Box”. The police will upload the media to Box, the CPS will then upload it to Egress where it will be shared with the Defence. They will be holding a Pilot in Haringey/Enfield with a view to rolling this out across London around March time. It is hoped this will speed up the timeframe within which the Defence are given access to crucial CCTV/BWV.
Issues raised with Egress:
We were informed that Egress is not compatible with Mac. It is not clear why or whether this will be changing any time soon.
Egress is currently a one way channel so the Defence cannot upload and share any media with the Prosecution.
The CPS is very keen to work with Defence practitioners to resolve any Egress problems. All Digital issues can be directly raised to Richard Marley at Richard.Marley@cps.gov.uk
The CPS is also keen to share good practice across London so don’t forget to leave positive feedback as well by emailing the CPS Managers – spread the love!
Solicitor Advocates & the AGFS/Fees Review – have your say
The Bar continues to hold consult meetings and invites Solicitor Advocates to proactively contribute.
Please attend meetings if you can or encourage SAHCA to do so.
You will remember that we sent a missive to Alison Aedy in response to the letter that all duty solicitors received directing that vulnerable defendants ought to be prioritised. As a result, we were invited to a meeting with the HCMTS lead on the issue.
The purpose of the meeting was to explain to the Defence Community what the London Overnights/ Vulnerable Prisoners Project were trying to achieve. The reason the Defence Community had not been invited prior to that day was because our role was not impacting the processes they were introducing. It was helpful for us to provide input as to how to make the process more efficient from a Defence point of view. Theresa Hendrickx attended from the LCCSA committee and as a result it was agreed that a number of positive steps would be actioned.
Following the statement arising out of events last week, Richard has asked us to pass on the following message to members:
“As I am not on twitter I have no way of appreciating the great support from LCCSA lawyers. Can you pass on my huge appreciation to everyone who has expressed support. I felt quite alone dealing with this. Now there is an army if lawyers standing next to me so please let members know how much it means to me as we stand together. Thanks. Richard. “