Children and Young People in Police Custody: Metadata for Exploration of the Experience of Children and Young People Detained in Police Custody Following Arrest, from the Perspective of the Young Suspect, 2016-2017


Anonymised schedules of data collected as part of a doctoral study into the experiences of children and young people detained in police custody following arrest in England and Wales. Owing to the ethical protocols used at the time of data collection (2016-2017) transcripts of interviews and logs of observations are not included (with the approval of the UK Data Service).The aim of this post-doctoral fellowship is to enable me to maximise the impact of my doctoral research into the experiences of children and young people when detained in police custody. Arrest and detention by the police is the only substantial contact with the criminal justice system that the vast majority of young people have. My doctoral research is the first empirical consideration of how the police custody process functions as a whole for children and young people in England and Wales, and the first to explore with a substantial group of children and young people their experiences as they underwent the custody process, from arrest to release. The picture which emerges of young suspects' experiences in police custody is deeply troubling. Many young research participants struggled to cope with a detention experience which was punitive, unnecessarily lengthy and very minimally adjusted to account for their youth. Their accounts are dominated by feelings of uncertainty, helplessness and desperation to "get out" of the cell. The protections which should be in place to support them through the process are often not implemented, or function ineffectively. In particular the research identifies the challenges for young people in accessing legal advice, and the really problematic limitations on the support that can be provided by an 'appropriate adult'. Young participants' reflections, combined with the other fieldwork, raise real concerns about children's abilities to make the significant decisions required of them in custody and to participate effectively in police interview. The findings call into question the fairness of the custody process for young suspects and the reliability of the evidence produced. From a more theoretical perspective, the research raises fundamental questions about the ability to ensure effective protections for vulnerable suspects in the adversarial setting of the police station. My research has significant scope for conceptual and instrumental impact. I aim to use the post-doctoral fellowship to produce academic publications from the research. In particular I plan to produce two journal articles from my thesis and to convene a symposium bringing together police, practitioners, policy-makers and academics to consider effective participation in police custody and later youth justice processes. These activities will feed into work to produce a monograph from my doctoral research: "All but invisible: children and young people in police custody". I hope to complete a first draft of the monograph by the conclusion of the fellowship. I have throughout the last four years worked to create and maximise opportunities to shift understanding about the police custody experience for children and young people and to influence changes in policy and practice. I have engaged with a wide range of actors involved in the custody process - police bodies, Independent Custody Visitors, Appropriate Adult groups, Youth Offending Services, legal practitioners and intermediaries, as well as policy-makers within the Ministry of Justice and Home Office. The fellowship will also enable me to continue that work.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with children and young people who had recent and/or repeated experience of detention as a ‘juvenile’ in police custody in England and Wales (n=41). They are referred to collectively as ‘young participants’ and individually by pseudonym. The sample group included a range of ages at interview: 10-14 years (n=5), 15-16 years (n=19), 17-18 years (n=15) and over 18 (n=2), including eight girls and 14 young people who identified themselves as Black or of minority ethnic status (BAME). Levels of police custody experience varied – some had only one detention experience (n=6), some several (2-4 episodes, n=18) whilst others had been detained more frequently (5+ episodes, n=17). They were accessed through gatekeepers, with particular care being taken to ensure that fully informed, and ongoing, consent was obtained from all young participants, and from an adult with parental responsibility for those under 16. The interviews were semi-structured, designed to treat young participants as ‘experts by experience’ (Cohen, 2000) with freedom to focus on aspects that they considered important. In addition, 192 hours of observations were conducted in 6 police custody blocks across 3 force areas - a major regional metropolitan force, and two county forces. The observations involved tracking all young suspects (YS) passing through the block (n=47), observing processes and conditions within the block, and holding face-to-face discussions with officers, predominantly COs, and custody staff (CA) (n=96), AAs (n=11), healthcare practitioners (n=14), legal representatives (n=9), and independent custody visitors (ICV) (n=3). Further interviews were carried out away from custody blocks with additional AAs (n=11), legal representatives (n=4) and ICVs (n=3). Numerical signifiers are used for all young suspects, forces, blocks and adult participants. All data was transcribed in full and subjected to thematic analysis - the material being coded using a hybrid approach, combining both deductive and inductive methods (Fram, 2013).

Metadata Access
Creator Bevan, M, Goldsmiths, University of London
Publisher UK Data Service
Publication Year 2022
Funding Reference Economic and Social Research Council
Rights Miranda Bevan, Goldsmiths, University of London; The Data Collection only consists of metadata and documentation as the data could not be archived due to legal, ethical or commercial constraints. For further information, please contact the contact person for this data collection.
OpenAccess true
Language English
Resource Type Text
Discipline Jurisprudence; Law; Social and Behavioural Sciences
Spatial Coverage England and Wales; United Kingdom