Revealed: Five children sent to adult prison in past year
FIVE children aged under 16 were held prisoner in adult jails in Scotland over the past year, new figures reveal.
In one of the worst cases, a schoolboy was detained for ten days in a jail without being convicted of any offence.
He was among five under-16-year-old suspects held behind bars by sheriffs in adult institutions while awaiting trial.
The new figures, which were obtained under Freedom of Information laws and go back to January last year, reveal "unruly certificates" are still being used to imprison children, despite Scottish Government moves to scrap the practice.
The Scottish Prison Service said holding children in prison was "not ideal" but admitted it is still going on.
The five boys, all aged 15, were held for a total of 23 days. They were charged with a range of offences including housebreaking, driving under the influence, attempted rape and assault.
Prison leaders said no child had to share a cell with an adult and each youngster was given an individual care plan to address their vulnerabilities.
The decision to remand children in custody lies with a sheriff but the Scottish Government has said it is determined to stamp out the practice.
That goal came a step closer this week when the justice committee voted to progress amendments to the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill. A final debate on implementation has been scheduled for next month.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Prison is no place for children – that is why we made provision in the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill to abolish unruly certificates.
"It is frustrating that a small number of under-16s were imprisoned over the past year, however there are currently no under-16s in prison.
"We are committed to ensuring we have excellent secure care provision to keep Scotland's most high-risk young people and their communities safe.
"This government is committed to delivering a modern, coherent penal policy and to keeping children out of prison, in line with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child."
Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, Richard Baker, said other accommodation should be used. He said: "It is important to balance public safety with the need to recognise adult prison is not an appropriate place for children. The support and control of these difficult and sometimes dangerous young people is not something that should be skimped on."
Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesman Robert Brown said:
"Keeping children in jail is brutal and criminalising.
"There should be measures in place to make sure there are more suitable facilities to hold children when they pose a risk to the public."
After the justice committee voted through the second stage of the bill amendment, convener, and Conservative MSP, Bill Aitken said: "I am very unhappy at the prospect of children being detained in adult prisons and their detention in any circumstances should be a last resort.
"At the same time we have to recognise youngsters are capable sometimes of acts of great violence and indeed sexual violence.
"There has to be a facility for holding children in these extreme cases and secure accommodation is the only answer."
The Scottish Prison Service said it had to act appropriately when a sheriff had ordered that a child be imprisoned.
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