New High Court Challenge in ‘No Child In Cells’ Campaign

Just for Kids Law is bringing a legal challenge in the High Court against the London Borough of Waltham Forest focusing on children being held overnight in police cells.
25 Feb 2020

Just for Kids Law is bringing a legal challenge today in the High Court against the London Borough of Waltham Forest for failing to provide secure accommodation for children, who are kept overnight in police cells due to a shortage of appropriate accommodation.

Since 2016 Just for Kids Law has brought a series of legal challenges against police forces and local authorities concerning the detention of children in police cells overnight as part of our No Child In Cells campaign.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Sam Jacobs from Doughty Street Chambers are acting for Just for Kids Law in this latest case, which concerns a child who was held overnight for two nights by the Metropolitan Police.  Waltham Forest were contacted after the first night and were unable to provide him with suitable accommodation.”

The Home Office’s concordat on the use of police custody for children states:

‘A night in a cell is an intimidating experience. Police custody facilities are designed to detain adults suspected of criminal activity, and they offer little in the way of comfort or emotional reassurance. For a child – especially one deprived of familial support – a prolonged stay in this environment can be harmful.’

Despite this official government position, the court has recognised that the case is an example of a widespread problem and not an issue that affects Waltham Forest alone. Consequently, the Secretary for State for Education, the London Councils and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, along with the Metropolitan Police have all been named by the court as interested parties to the case.

Just for Kids Law has found that last year more than 7,000 children were held overnight in police custody in London alone. Of these, more than a thousand were held as a result of a lack of appropriate accommodation provided by councils. There is no secure accommodation available at all in the capital, or close to the London area, meaning that for many children there is no alternative place for them to be placed. 

Enver Solomon, CEO of Just for Kids Law, said:

‘The Home Office recognises that police cells are traumatic, inappropriate places for children yet the practice of detaining them overnight continues. This deeply damaging and unlawful practice must come to an end. Government needs to work with local authorities to enable them to comply with their legal duties to provide alternative accommodation for children who are detained by the police.’

This press release was revised on 03/03/20 following a request from Waltham Forest Council.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Under the Children Act 1989 the local authority has  to provide accommodation when requested to do so by the police. Local authorities have to have a “reasonable system” in place to provide secure accommodation. 
  2. Just for Kids Law will argue that a system that can only decline requests for secure accommodation, such as that maintained by Waltham Forest, cannot be deemed a ‘reasonable system’ as required by current legislation. Instead, it highlights the longstanding shortage of secure accommodation and the failure to meet requests for secure accommodation for young people.
  3. The Home Office concordat on the use of policy custody for children is available at:
  4. For further information contact, Enver Solomon on 07939 221 381.