EUROPE: Children and young people talk about violence against children in custody


The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) has today published a reportpresenting the views and experiences of over 120 children and young people across Europe on violence in custody and presenting their suggestions for change.

The report sets out the findings of research conducted by young investigators in Austria, Cyprus, England, the Netherlands and Romania with children and young people in custody and includes recommendations for ending violence in custody aimed at governments, governors of custodial settings, prison officers, police forces, and judges. 

Children and young people described a claustrophobic atmosphere in custody where boredom, frustration and stress act as triggers for violence. ‘There is not much to do. Then we start looking for something, irritations arise and fighting starts.’ (Male, 17, the Netherlands).Young people in all the partner countries called for there to be more positive activities in prison to help reduce tension.

Many of the young people felt that staff provoke violence in custody. Staff members were criticised for goading young people by bringing up their offence and for using force excessively when intervening in an incident. Young people in Austria, Cyprus, England and the Netherlands called on the authorities to look again at the kinds of staff who are employed in youth custodial settings and to employ people who are able to relate to young people.

Several children described police officers using humiliating and threatening language and higher levels of force than experienced in custody. One female in England (aged 16) said, ‘In police stations I’ve had my finger slammed in cell doors… And I’ve almost broken my jaw when he slammed us down on concrete…’.Young people in Cyprus, England and Romania called for better regulation of police behaviour when they are in contact with children and young people.

Other common recommendations to emerge across the five European countries were the need for a distinct system for children and young people in trouble in the law, more effective complaints mechanisms and a call for judges to give a second chance before sentencing a young person to custody and to be sensitive to the particular circumstance that young people find themselves in.

Paola Uccellari, CRAE’s Director said:

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees every child the right to be free from all forms of violence and children do not lose their rights when they are in custody. Yet our research, released today, confirms that vulnerable children continue to experience unacceptable levels of violence in custody. Young people have developed a set of common-sense recommendations for how violence in custody can be reduced. We hope that the authorities will take these simple steps to achieve violence free custody for all children.



Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.