In My View: Janet Daby, MP for Lewisham East

For me politics is about fighting for justice, fairness, and equality.

Since becoming an MP I have been drawn by my constituents to turn my attention to the Criminal Justice System.

I have campaigned to improve the rights of children held in police custody.

On average, children are detained for more than 13 hours, with 21,369 detained overnight in 2019 in the UK.

This is despite the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) requiring an appropriate adult to safeguard children and vulnerable people, so that their well-being is prioritised.

An appropriate adult is also there to ensure that due process is carried out.

In 1972, PACE came from public concern over the Confait case, which involved the killing and burning of a trans person in a house in Catford.

It led to the wrongful sentencing of three children, although this was later overturned.

This case is significant to defending and protecting the rights of children.

Therefore, on the Confait case’s 50th anniversary, it marks an opportunity to review these existing protections.

This is because sufficient safeguards are not in place to protect children as PACE’s minimum standards are being ignored.

Children are left alone in police cells for hours waiting for an appropriate adult to be requested.

They should not be punished by being held in the police cells designed for adults.

I have been told of children crying, screaming and having emotional meltdowns in a cell.

I am also calling for mandatory in person legal advice for children in police custody as well as for data on strip and intimate search of children by police (both in police custody and outside) to be published.

The Government also needs to address serious funding shortfalls in the criminal legal aid sector.

Recently, I spoke with Boothroyds Solicitors in Catford.

They told me that the fees that criminal legal aid solicitors receive are out of date.

Small solicitor firms are facing pressure because their business models are no longer viable.

This could create legal aid deserts where local people cannot access legal aid solicitors in their hour of need.

I raised this directly with the Government, who said that the fees received by criminal legal aid solicitors would be increased.

Nevertheless, these solicitors are under mounting pressure, and they must be paid fairly to keep afloat.

I will press the Government on these issues.

Whether it is for access to an appropriate adult or to criminal legal aid, because justice delayed is justice denied.

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