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14 October 2013, 07:34
Cambridgeshire police are being praised for a reduction in the number of children being arrested by officers.
The Howard League for Penal Reform, a charity which wants to see fewer people in prison, is calling for all police forces across the country to stop keeping children in cells overnight.
New research by the charity shows that there were 291 overnight detentions of children aged 17 and under in police stations across Cambridgeshire during 2011.
The data shows that the number of overnight detentions is falling nationwide, a success for the Howard League's campaign to reduce the number of children getting caught up in the criminal justice system.
The Howard League is urging police to work more closely with parents and children's services to provide safe and appropriate care for boys and girls who come to their attention.
The figures for Cambridgeshire:
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "Holding children as young as ten in police cells overnight is unjustifiable.
The vast majority of children who are locked up are innocent of any crime, and it is a frightening and intimidating experience which does more harm than good.
It is encouraging to see that the number of detentions is falling nationwide, thanks in part to our successful campaigning.
This is a victory for common sense, prudent use of police resources and improved community relations.
But the number remains far too high and it is particularly worrying to see that practice varies widely from police service to police service.
What boys and girls need in most cases is simply to go home.
On rare occasions, somewhere safe not somewhere secure, should be provided by the local authority.
Parents, not police, should be taking responsibility for their children."