Unlike young people aged 16 or under, current legislation means that 17-year-olds are treated as adults while held in police custody.
This means that either a parent or an “appropriate adult” is not routinely contacted to offer them support and advice, unless they are deemed to be “vulnerable”. They also have no right to have a parent or guardian present during police interview.
But the charity Just for Kids Law says the situation contradicts both international and domestic law, since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that under-18s must be treated as children.
The charity has been granted a judicial review into the issue on the back of the case of a young person with no criminal record, who was detained at a police station for more than 12 hours without the assistance of an appropriate adult, or being able to speak to his mother.
Just for Kids Law said he specifically asked police for his mother to be informed of his arrest and for her assistance while he was at the police station, but she was not contacted.
The High Court has accepted that it can be argued that the Home Secretary and the Met Police are in violation of both international and domestic law, by failing to provide 17-year-olds with the protections they are entitled to. The case will now go to a full hearing.
Director of Just for Kids Law, Shauneen Lambe said: “In our experience, this is not an isolated incident; 17-year-olds are routinely treated as adults when dealing with the police. Just for Kids Law believes that all children should be entitled to the same protection at the police station.
“Young people can be traumatised by their experiences at the police station and the role of the appropriate adult is to ensure and monitor the child’s wellbeing.”
In July it emerged that the government shelved plans to class all 17-year-olds taken into police custody as children.