Youth held in ‘barren and desolate’ cell

June 21, 2017 | By More

A Youth Court judge has gone to the Christchurch Central Police Station to see the “barren and desolate” cell where a 14-year-old charged with robbery has been held for days.

Judge Jane McMeeken said it was “outrageous” that he should continue to be held in a police cell since his arrest at the weekend because there were no youth justice beds available for him.

She has put the Ministry of Social Welfare on notice that the youth will be bailed on Thursday morning at the Youth Court sitting, unless proper accommodation can be found.

The boy is one of about 11 young people around in the country who are in police cells because there are no youth justice residence beds available.

The boy was back in the Youth Court today for a third time being remanded by Judge McMeeken with the police opposing bail. He first appeared on Monday morning on charges of aggravated robbery and unlawfully taking a car.

The judge spoke to him on Tuesday about what he was doing all day in the cell, what food he was eating, and whether he could take a shower.

She went to see him in the police cells on Tuesday afternoon.

“I make absolutely no criticism at all of the police. In m view they are doing all that they can to ensure that he is properly cared for while he is in their custody.

“The stark reality, however, is that the police cells in Christchurch are not made for people to be held in for days at a time. They have certainly not been made to hold young people.”

The cell was barren and desolate, she said. There is nothing in it at all apart from a mattress on a raised platform and toilet facilities. There is no natural light, no exercise yard, no specially designed visitors’ rooms, or a day room.

“It is inappropriate by any measure that he be detained in a police cell,” she said.

The youth had been found to be in need of care and protection. “In those circumstances it is outrageous that he should continue to be held in a police cell.”

He needed monitoring and assistance but none of that could be provided while he was being held in a police cell.

She also made no criticism of the very hard working social workers. It was not their fault or responsibility that there was no residence available. But she had reached the point where it was untenable that the youth could be held any longer in a police cell.

The “put the Ministry on notice” that she considered he would have to be bailed on Thursday. By then, she expected the Ministry of Social Welfare to have some option for him.

Because of the large number of young people awaiting beds, if the youth was not bailed he may stay in the police cells for several more days, she said.

Other judges have raised similar concerns over the past year, with one saying that the continued detention of a boy in these circumstances breached the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.


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Category: Focus

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