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Examining the impact of PACE on the detention and questioning of child suspects

Kemp, Vicky; Carr, Nicola; Kent, Hope; Farrall, Stephen

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Professor of Criminology

Hope Kent


The Nuffield Foundation funded this three year project which involved examining the efficacy of legal safeguards for children held in police custody. A mixed methods approach was adopted drawing on over 50,000 electronic custody records drawn from eight police force areas and having undertaken 32 observational case studies with child suspects in eight custody suites in three police force areas.

For the first time in England and Wales, researchers engaged with children while held in police custody about their legal rights. From the child's perspective, the findings highlight the isolation children feel when held in a cell for many hours waiting to be interviewed by the police. Custody is experienced as harsh and punitive and undermined trust in the police and the wider criminal justice system.

From statistical analysis of custody records it was found that the police refuse detention in less than 1% of cases, 80% of children request legal advice and children are held in custody on average for 11 hours and 36 minutes. So far as case outcomes are concerned, 56% of children had no further action taken, 21% were charged and 14% received an out-of-court disposal - 5% of cases remain outstanding.

A comprehensive set of measures are set out in the report to adopt a Child First approach in police custody. With Nuffield funding, the next stage will involve working in partnership with the police and other agencies in piloting Child First arrangements in police custody.

Report Type Project Report
Acceptance Date May 24, 2023
Online Publication Date May 24, 2023
Publication Date May 24, 2023
Deposit Date May 27, 2023
Publicly Available Date May 30, 2023
Pages 121
Keywords Child suspects, police custody, legal rights, legal advice, appropriate adults
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