"Children may be criminalised unnecessarily", warns police ethics committee

Police overseers have questioned Home Office counting rules which require forces to record playground spats as crimes – even when children are below the age of criminal responsibility.

Members of Leicestershire’s Ethics, Integrity and Complaints Committee were asked to consider a series of ethical dilemmas facing the Force regarding the criminalisation of children at its recent meeting.

Currently, when any child who is below the age of criminal responsibility commits an offence, the incident must be recorded and the child referred to as a suspect.

This means incidents involving playground scuffles between pupils must be formally recorded even though a prosecution is not possible because the child is under the age of criminal consent of 10.

It also means children of any age who send illicit photographs of themselves to another child through “sexting” will also be deemed a criminal suspect for making/sharing indecent images.

Linda James, committee chairman, said: “The committee agreed that each case should be looked at on an individual basis, enabling specific risk identifiers to be assessed, instead of a generalised approach due to recording rules.

“Obviously where there are real safeguarding issues identified it is absolutely right that we do everything we can to protect those at risk, however officers should be allowed to use their judgement for the greater good in those cases where such serious intervention is unnecessary in the long-term.

“There was also concern such records could affect job interviews and college applications where children are asked to specify whether they have been involved with the police before.”

The Committee also discussed the importance of raising awareness of the long-term implication of such behaviour in schools which, members felt, was an alternative method of intervention.

The PCC, who was informed of the discussions following the meeting, said: “I share the view that it is both excessive and unrealistic to record every single incident involving a police response even if that situation is merely a playground “fallout” with no apparent injuries.

“Common sense should surely prevail and officers given the respect and discretion to be able to make decisions based on the individual circumstances.

“The danger of this type of recording is that it can present a misleading picture of overall crime and suggest a greater risk of crime than the reality.” 

In one case considered by the panel a parent called the police reporting her eight-year-old son had been struck with a stone in the playground by another eight-year-old. The mother felt the school should exclude the individual responsible however the school refused and the mother contacted the police to intervene.



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Posted on Wednesday 11th October 2017
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