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Student wins child custody victory

Student wins child custody victory

A sixth-form college student has won a legal victory against a government policy which treats 17-year-olds in police custody as adults.

The student concerned, Hughes Cousins-Chang from south-east London, was arrested, strip-searched and held by Metropolitan Police for 12 hours despite having committed no crime. The force say they detained him on suspicion of robbery but later found him to be innocent.

The legal battle, fought out in the High Court in London, ended with two judges ruling that the Home Office policy is not compatible with the law governing human rights. The Government treating 17-year-olds as adults deprives them of the protections afforded to children under 16 who are entitled to contact their parents or carers, or get advice from an independent “appropriate” adult whenever they are detained by police.

The High Court ruling comes after two 17-year-olds, Joe Lawton and Edward Thornber, killed themselves following their arrest over drink-driving. Jane and Nick Lawton, the parents of Joe, insist that their son would still be alive if he was able to receive their support while in custody. Lord Justice Moses, who made the ruling alongside Mr Justice Kenneth Parker, said “it is inconsistent with the rights of the claimant and his mother, enshrined in Article 8 (of the European Convention on Human Rights) for the secretary of state to treat 17-year-olds as adults when in detention” and that it “disregards the definition” of a child in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the “preponderance of legislation affecting children and justice“.

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