Juveniles held in police custody
Bearing in mind its preventive mandate, the CPT’s priority during visits is to seek to
establish whether juveniles deprived of their liberty have been subjected to ill-treatment.
Regrettably, deliberate ill-treatment of juveniles by law enforcement officials has by no means been
eradicated and remains a real concern in a number of European countries. CPT delegations continue
to receive credible allegations of detained juveniles being ill-treated. The allegations often concern
kicks, slaps, punches or blows with batons at the time of apprehension (even after the juvenile
concerned has been brought under control), during transportation or subsequent questioning in law
enforcement establishments. It is also not uncommon for juveniles to become victims of threats or
verbal abuse (including of a racist nature) whilst in the hands of law enforcement agencies.
It is the period immediately following apprehension when persons are most at risk of illtreatment. Therefore, the CPT has advocated three fundamental safeguards (namely the rights of
detained persons to notify a close relative or another person of their detention and to have access to
a lawyer and a doctor), which should apply from the very outset of deprivation of liberty (i.e. from
the moment a person is first obliged to remain with a law enforcement agency). Given their
particular vulnerability, the CPT considers that juveniles held in police custody should always
benefit from the following additional safeguards against ill-treatment:
- law enforcement officials should be under a formal obligation to ensure that a relative or
another adult person trusted by the juvenile is notified of the fact that a juvenile has been
detained (regardless of whether the juvenile requests that this be done);
- a detained juvenile should never be subjected to police questioning or be requested to make
any statement or to sign any document concerning the offence(s) he/she is suspected of
having committed without the presence of a lawyer and, in principle, a trusted adult person
(the option“ does not wish to see a lawyer” should not apply to juveniles);
- a specific information sheet setting out the above-mentioned safeguards should be given to
all juveniles taken into custody immediately upon their arrival at a law enforcement
establishment. The information sheet must be child-friendly, written in simple and clear
language and available in a variety of languages. Special care should be taken to ensure that
juveniles fully understand the information.
The CPT considers that nobody should be held in law enforcement establishments for
prolonged periods as such establishments normally do not provide suitable conditions and an
appropriate regime. Moreover, experience has shown that persons in police custody are more
vulnerable and often run a higher risk of being subjected to torture or other forms of ill-treatment. It
follows that even greater efforts should be made to keep the detention in law enforcement
establishments to a minimum for juveniles. In some countries, juveniles continue to be held in police
stations for periods of ten days or more; such practices are unacceptable. The CPT considers that, as a
rule, juveniles should not be held in a law enforcement establishment for more than 24 hours. Further,
every effort should be made to avoid placing juveniles in ordinary police cells but rather to hold them
in a juvenile-friendly environment. To this end, it would be highly desirable for separate police units
for juveniles to be established so that juveniles can be removed as quickly as possible from the
general population of persons in police custody and accommodated in a specialised holding facility.
Regrettably, the Committee continues to find juveniles in police custody being
accommodated together with adults in the same cells. Such a state of affairs is not acceptable. The
vulnerability of juveniles means that as a matter of principle they should be accommodated
separately from adults.
100. Further, law enforcement officials who frequently or exclusively deal with juveniles or who
are primarily engaged in the prevention of juvenile delinquency should receive specialised initial
and ongoing training.