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Boy, 13, With Aspergers Wins Adult Cell Ruling

May 4, 2013

Child protection rules were breached when a teenager with learning difficulties was held in a court cell for adults, the High Court has ruled.

Insufficient arrangements were made to prevent 13-year-old “T” associating with adult inmates while in custody at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.

This led him to become “incredibly distressed” following his arrest for for breach of a bail condition in 2011.

He was placed in adult cells because the local youth court was closed.

Although he was alone, he was surrounded by cells occupied by “shouting” adults, the court heard.

‘Particular vulnerability’

The teenager, who has Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also suffered distress when taken to an interview room and had fleeting contact with at least two adult inmates.

Ian Wise, QC told the court T’s solicitor, Steven Jonas, had to calm him down in an interview room and adults were shouting in the busy cell area.

Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, and Mr Justice Cranston ruled that T’s treatment amounted to a breach by the Justice Secretary, who has responsibility for those in custody, of Section 31 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.

This requires arrangements be made to prevent young people associating with adult defendants.

In a joint ruling, the judges said: “The evidence is that this 13-year-old claimant, with his particular vulnerability, was in a cell for some three hours, with a glazed door opposite the custody desk, had transitory contact with at least two adult prisoners in the corridor and could hear adults shouting either at him or at other prisoners.”

After the ruling, Mr Jonas, said: “This ruling will have a significant impact on the way young people are dealt with in future when in custody in both magistrates’ courts and in police stations.”

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