NI: Criminal Justice Inspection recommends new Bail Act for children

A new report by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) has recommended legislative reform to allow custody officers to release young people from police custody into other suitable accommodation.

The Police Custody report examines the standards and conditions of police custody arrangements in Northern Ireland.

It states that a new Bail Act should be brought forward to “implement the recommendations of the Northern Ireland Law Commission in respect of the right to bail for children and young people to the Assembly at the first available opportunity”.

Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, said challenges in relation to dealing with children and young people in police custody need to be addressed.

Mr McGuigan said: “Over 2,400 children and young people aged 17 or under were detained in police custody during 2014-15. While this may sometimes be necessary, it should be possible for Custody Officers to release young people to other suitable accommodation so that they are not held in police custody after being charged with an offence.

“This is particularly relevant for ‘looked after’ children or young people and we have recommended legislative reform be taken forward, during the next Northern Ireland Assembly mandate, to bring forward a Bail Act in respect of the right to bail for children and young people.

“We have also recommended legislative changes be made to PACE to make alternative accommodation available for children and young people charged with an offence which will clarify the position for Custody Officers.”

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