There are a number of rights that apply specifically to children under the age of 17 who are arrested. Parents should be aware of these rights that begin as soon as the child is arrested.
Child Arrest in the UK
Just over 200,000 children are arrested in the UK each year, according to Home Office statistics. The average age of the children arrested is between 10 and 17 years old. Children at this age will usually not be aware of their rights when arrested. It is important that parents, guardians and anyone who is responsible for children know the rights children have when arrested. These rights begin when the child is arrested and continue to the court proceedings stage.
Informing a Parent When a Child Is Arrested
If a child is arrested for committing a criminal offence and they are under 17, the police must inform the parents as soon as possible. Children who are arrested should be made aware of their rights when they are first brought to the police station. One of these rights will be that a parent or guardian can be informed of the arrest straight away. Children under the age of 17 also have the right to have an adult present at the police station. Children should also be allowed to talk to this adult in private if they wish to do so.
Children’s Rights and Police Interviews
The police should not begin interviews if the child has requested that an adult such as a parent is present. If no adult is present the police may interview the child under certain circumstances. It may be the case that delaying an interview would mean that further crime could be committed such as harm to another person. If this is the case then the police may well interview the child in the presence of an appropriate adult. Steps should be taken first to contact the child’s parent before the interview takes place.
Detention Time Limits at a Police Station
If the police believe a child has committed an offence they can hold the child for 24 hours. But this is not the maximum time period a child can be held for. A further 12 hours can be added to the 24 hour period if the crime committed is of a serious nature. The police can actually ask the court for an extended period of detention. But this extended period cannot be longer than 96 hours before the child is charged with an offence.
Searches at the Police Station
The police do have the right to search a child under the age of 18 at the police station. If all clothing is to be removed during the search an adult of the same sex must carry out this search. Intimate searches can only be held in private where no one else can see the search. The child does have the right to have an adult such as a parent present during the search. This search can be conducted at any time whilst the child is held at the police station.
Obtaining Fingerprints from Children
The police can take fingerprints and photographs if the child is over 16. If the child is under 14 the police will need permission from the parent to proceed with fingerprinting. Children aged 15 and 16 will need to agree along with the parent’s agreement for fingerprinting to take place. Children over the age of 16 will be required to submit to fingerprints and photographs even if they have not agreed.
Intimate Samples Taken By the Police
If the police are intending to take hair and saliva samples then they must have the agreement of the child and parent if no charges have been made. If charges have been made then these samples can be taken without agreement from the child or parent. Blood and urine samples cannot be taken unless both the parent and the child have agreed to this. Even if the child has been charged they cannot be forced to give these intimate samples.
Children Under 17 Years and Court Proceedings
If a child is 10 years old then they cannot be charged with an offence and taken to court. Children over 10 years old but under 17 years will be treated as a young offender and criminal cases will be dealt with by the youth courts. If the child has committed an offence and an adult was also involved then the court proceedings can be held in either the magistrate’s or the Crown courts.
The expertise of a legal advisor should always be sought if a child has been arrested. The Children’s Law Centre will be able to provide free help and advice to parents of children who have been arrested or charged with a criminal offence. Learn about stop, search and arrest rights, here.
Approximately 10 years ago my girlfriend I have now had a son 14 years old got caught having sex with a 12-year-old girl they brought him to jail kept him in jail for 4 days charged him and he had to register as a sex offender until he unfortunately committed suicide a few years later I just found this information out is what happened to him legal thank you I really think it affected the child it could be the reason that he's no longer with us
Rick - 9-Jan-23 @ 5:25 PM
My son (16) has previously been cautioned for harrasment, sent on youth offending course for 6 months, during which time he sent a few more messages to the person he was harrassing. The police were informed, as were youth offenders but the police did nothing at the time of the additional offence. Now he has successfully completed all the actions required of him they have gone back to these previous instances and arrested him? Can they do this?
Mum - 8-Jul-22 @ 5:02 PM
i am 14 years of age, and i have been but in cuffs and taken to a police station for fighting and grabbing a bottle and smashing it off another persons head as it was a 3 v 1 i couldn’t defend myself with just my fist, so i grabbed a bottle and smashed it off the top of his head, police put me in cuffs, and took me to the police station and my parents came down , they asked me for my age and name and i gave them a false name and eventually got let off with a warning and they now have my face and name logged as the false information i gave them, can i get a punishment for this?
Jack - 20-Aug-21 @ 5:17 PM
My son is 17, 18 in early December
Last year I had the police call a round a total of 10 times (assault, criminal damage, driving without a licence/insurance/permission, drugs)
I called the police on him myself when I found 7 packets of drugs when doing the laundry.
The final straw was him stealing over €400 from the dining room which was set aside for 2020 holidays.Stealing from me was the final straw and I put him in to the care system.He lasted 2 days before leaving to live with friends.
He's dropped out of college and is now involved in County Lines drugs, he has taken a car without permission and written it off and as of 18th Nov I have learnt that he's been arrested again.
Both of my children have had the same opportunities and whereas my daughter is a grade A student taking her A levels my son thinks he can live like a rap star and get everything he wants dishonestly.
By example I leaned he earned £1700 from his latest drug deal in the Summer.Did he put it towards driving lessons and a small banger to get him around (like any sensible person would).Nope he spent £1200 on a Canada Goose body warmer...IN THE SUMMER!
Much as it pains me I now have to wash my hands of him, I have worked for everything I have and expect everyone else to do the same.Will always love him but don't have to like him.
Oh, I used to be a magistrate and do a job that involves me being DBS checked, if he had styed with me and the my house had been raided I'd have lost my DBS, my job and my house...and what would my daughter do??
MarkyTM - 20-Nov-20 @ 10:26 AM
Hi my 16 year old sonwas stopped by one police officer on his motorbike for looking suspicious! He smelt cannabis and searched him found cannabis and then drug swabbed him i was only 2 minutes away.He then got arrested him hand cuffed him and took him to the station he wouldn’t even tell me what station. He then interviewed him took his clothes and even took his blood without even asking him if he wanted an appropriate adult or getting consent from me? Is this allowed ??
Tinah - 5-Oct-20 @ 9:33 PM
Hi, I was just reading general points in relation to crimes carried out by young people. It says on your web site that youths can't be charged aged 10 but anything over, you can be? What does that mean exactly?
Is over 10 years 6 months or aged 11 as I thought the criminal age of responsibility was 10?
Paulo - 29-May-20 @ 12:21 PM
Can police take my rights away as a parent of 13 year old and call other people in why I’m sitting in the police station
Mal - 12-Mar-20 @ 10:28 PM
My 13 year was put on probation for fighting do I have to give my daughters social security number to probation officer
Buttons - 1-Jan-20 @ 3:32 AM
See the finger prints a wis 15 n they just took my finger prints n photos so wit dis that mean then
Tyreboyy - 18-Aug-19 @ 6:40 AM
Im a 16 year old form the bronx I have adhd and I was arrested the day before yesterday but the cops didnt tell my mother that i was being detaned and when i was in the cop car the pointed thier body cams at me and Also one of them hit me be because i told him to leave my brother alone
Justin - 7-Aug-19 @ 9:10 PM
I am 11 years old and I have been charged with something I didnt do what should I do I'm scared
Ford - 14-Jul-19 @ 2:39 PM
I’ve just reported my son to the police for criminal damage to my home. This is about the 5th time he’s done it. The police have taken him into the police station until morning as I’m scared of him. I feel so bad but he is out of control and committedother
offences. Who can be with him if I’m pressing charges. His dad isn’t interested in him as he isn’t a “good boy” anymore. I feel so dreadful for doing this
Mandy - 25-Jun-19 @ 2:17 AM
My 14 yr old son has been charged with an offence. How do I obtain legal representation and will I have to pay for this.
Kez - 1-Jun-19 @ 5:28 PM
I got arrested at the age of 16 for “smashing into cars” although I didn’t smash into any vehicles I got caught with a stolen credit card which one of the boys gave me. I’m being charged with criminal damage 2x, theft of a motor vehicle x3, possession of stolen goods, I’m being taken to court any ideas what will happen? Will I get tag or go to young offenders? Also first offence
Liamjedwards - 25-May-19 @ 2:34 PM
hi i have a 10 year old grandson who has been charged with attempted murder and has more charges to go up for hes been hanging about with 16 and 17 year olds and seem to get the blame hes got court on saturday the at the sheriff in glasgow could you give me an idea what might happen please thank you
bella - 18-Apr-19 @ 11:00 AM
My nearly 14 year old son has been Brough t home by police in handcuffs and chargef having a stanly knife its the first time ever.. Wat will happen i was to upset to take everything they said that social services will be contacted n i dont know wat happens i wish they coukd of just put him in a cell to give him a fright
Elaine - 10-Apr-19 @ 7:52 PM
My 14 year old daughter bought a 3 inch knife off another student at school and got caught with it police were called, what could happen she is not a violent child or planned to use it was just to show off
Pat - 27-Mar-19 @ 4:14 PM
My child is in a special needs school and sent home yesterday for fighting the other buys parents may get the police involved what will happen he is 14yrs old
Tee - 18-Dec-18 @ 9:54 AM
SAMMY- and I still believe your son is fine with a solicitor in interviews. Even though he asks for his mummy once he’s in the cells
The realist - 13-Dec-18 @ 12:32 AM
SAMMY- I see my previous reply to you has been deleted by moderators. So il say it in a nicer way. Your son is off the rails. The reason you aren’t being asked to be an ‘appropriate adult’ is because your not. Try teaching your son the good way to live. Not the bad. He’ll only get worse and worse and end up in big mans jail. Then he won’t feel so much of a ‘big man’ as he does now. Hope that makes sense and hope that version is ok with moderators
The realist - 13-Dec-18 @ 12:27 AM
HUNTER- record them doing it and also log times/dates so you can show how often it happens and then go to your local police station. Hopefully an officer going round speaking to their parents will put an end to it. Good luck
The realist - 12-Dec-18 @ 1:48 PM
When I was 14 I was arrested for shoplifting (I got in with a bad crowd). Nevertheless I was taken and put into a police cell for about 5-6 hours. My parents were contacted and collected me, I wasn’t charged but got a warning. However when I was locked up I was refused a phone call whereas others who were arrested alongside me for the same offense were given a phonecall and were not locked in a cell they got to sit around in a room. I’m now 32 but feel like this one incident has traumatized me all my life and I keep reliving it. Did they handle this correctly and is there anything I can do about it considering it was so long ago?
Sam - 6-Dec-18 @ 10:31 PM
We have a group of 11to13yr olds knocking on the door and running away is there no
Any thing we get do to try and stop them talked to the parents no joy
Hunter - 4-Nov-18 @ 3:54 PM
Do police informed the parents if their child (aged 14 with autism) coming home from school is stopped and searched.
JINGENIE - 19-Oct-18 @ 5:22 PM
My son is 16 yrs old, and he is an suspect of an assault can and damage property and they said there are crowd of boys doing this thing and the older one refused to take a blame. They pointing only 2 a 18yrs and my boy, bt they said there are 5 people who were stabbed. I'm really confused because the witness said that there were throwing bottles not using knives. What I'm must suppose to do when the police come. Ineed an advice as a parent. Thanks.
Thaby - 30-Sep-18 @ 6:33 AM
My Brother was a victim of Grievous Bodily Harm, he has a deep cut above his eye and was almost stabbed by a group of 17 year old boys. The assault was intended to cause harm. What will happen to the young offenders??
PoPo - 27-Sep-18 @ 9:37 PM
My son is 16 and has been arrested a few times for various things everytime he is arrested they don't contact me I hear it from other people then call them and I'm not allowed to be his appropriate adult even tho I have nothing to do with the cases when I call for a update they never tell me why they have arrested him just that h is safe and well even tho my son ask for me everytime m really getting sick of them doing it now I need to no what my rights as his mum he due to appear in court today I have asked him what for and they won't tell me I said what time is he in court they said don't no they all go together
sammy - 27-Sep-18 @ 5:17 AM
Nadz - Your Question:
My 9 year old has just been charged for breaking a bit wooden fence In the back garden (scotland) however here it says a child of 10 cannot be charged so how come a 9 year old can? He wasn't arrested or anything just charged in our home
The age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is 8 years old. The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 10 years old.