ERWIN CHLANDA reports
The notion which underpins the current debate within the Town Council, that children at risk who are roaming the streets at night can be detained, does not necessarily conflict with the current practice of the police.
We asked Commander Danny Bacon if such a child is picked up by police, and later wanted to leave, would police allow him or her to go back out into the street?
Commander Bacon replied: “If there is an identified risk to the youth, the youth will remain in the custody of police until an appropriate alternative accommodation has been resolved.”
This was our exchange by email with Commander Bacon:–
NEWS: Do police have a duty of care for these kids?
BACON: Police have a duty of care to protect and serve the community; this includes youths who come into contact with police for a wide variety of reasons.
NEWS: How is this articulated?
BACON: Police are governed under a number of legislative frameworks to protect youth at risk and a number of powers are provided to police to achieve this task. The majority of the legislation is contained within the Care and Protection of Children Act 2016.
[The Act states] a child is in need of care and protection if:–
(a) the child has suffered or is likely to suffer harm or exploitation because of an act or omission of a parent of the child; or
(b) the child is abandoned and no family member of the child is willing and able to care for the child; or
(c) the parents of the child are dead or unable or unwilling to care for the child and no other family member of the child is able and willing to do so; or
(d) the child is not under the control of any person and is engaged in conduct that causes or is likely to cause harm to the child or other persons.
NEWS: What do police do when they encounter such kids?
BACON: Firstly police establish if the youth is in need of care or protection. If an assessment is made that there is an immediate action required, they will ensure the youth is conveyed to a place of safety where there is appropriate supervision for the youth. Department of Family and Children (DCF) are notified through Supportlink to follow up with the youth and their guardians if required.
Further information is shared with Government and Non-government stakeholders who work in the youth space of individuals who may or may not be repeat engagements.
On this sharing of information between stakeholders further strengthening of support can be provided to a youth and the youth’s family.
On the rare occasion that a youth cannot be accommodated with other family members that are willing to care for the child, DCF are contacted and they provide an alternative accommodation solution for the youth at risk.
NEWS: Can protective custody provisions be applied or are they strictly bound to the person being drunk, notwithstanding that drunkenness is not an offence?
BACON: No, this is separate piece of legislation.
NEWS: Are drunk adults who are taken into protective custody at liberty to leave whenever they like, or are they required to stay till 7am?
BACON: Any individual taken into Protective Custody is assessed on a continual basis to determine whether the continuation of custody is required.
ERWIN CHLANDA reports