Hundreds of children suspected of being mentally ill have been held a year in police cells across England and Wales rather than medical facilities, new figures show.
According to the statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act on Sunday, the number of detentions in cells of under-18s under the Mental Health Act was 305 in the first 11 months of 2013, with some held for more than 24 hours.
The data, obtained by BBC Radio 4’s the World This Weekend, revealed that a 10-year-old was among more those youngsters assessed in British police cells.
It was reported that in 2012 some 317 and in 2011 about 385 of potentially unwell children were placed in cells after being detained as police officers had no place else to take them.
Under the Mental Health Act, police can take those suspected to be mentally ill and a potential danger to themselves or others to a “place of safety” to be assessed by a doctor.
Sarah Brennan, chief executive of charity Young Minds, described the data as "really shocking,” adding it was a “terrible indictment” that the practice of locking children suspected of being mentally ill in cells was still ongoing two years after it was first disclosed.
"[Children and young people] need to have appropriate care in the appropriate setting and that should never be a police cell when they have mental health problems," Brennan said.
Earlier this month, Manchester Assistant Chief Constable Dawn Copley said hundreds of children are still being held illegally in police cells overnight because of "chronic breaches" in the UK law.