A CHILD aged three is one of the 89,936 kids police have held in custody since 2015.
Forces across the country have kept under 18s in custody for up to 35 days while investigating them for crimes.
However youth justice guidelines say youngster should not be held in a cell overnight, instead they should be transferred to local authority accommodation.
Wiltshire Police held a three-year-old in a cell for more than four hours in 2015.
Lincolnshire held a 16-year-old for 35 days – the longest any of the forces have held a child in custody in the past three years.
Enver Solomon, CEO of Just for Kids Law: “It is shocking that thousands of children, including the very young, are being held in police custody for long periods of time.
“A police cell is completely inappropriate for children, even if they are being held there for their own safety.
“It is traumatic, frightening and extremely damaging causing children great levels of mental distress. Police custody should only ever be used for children for the shortest possible time and never in a police cell.”
The 23 forces that responded disclosed that many detained 10-year-olds in cells for up to seven hours after arresting them.
England and Wales largest forces The Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police did not provide figures when asked.
South Yorkshire Police said they had placed children as young as 8 in cells but refused to disclose how long they were held for.
Kent and Lancashire police both detained 8547 kids between 2015 and 2017, the highest number out of the forces which responded.
Under the law children should not be kept in a police station overnight after they have been charged with a criminal offence.
Official commands say kids who are not bailed should be transferred from the police station local authority accommodation.
Forces held 29,451 children in 2015, 31,034 in 2016 and 29,541 in 2017.
A Spokesperson for Wiltshire Police said: “In this instance, custody was used as a place of safety for the child [aged 3] and their parents, while a safe placement could be found for the family as a unit by a partner agency. The family were found hiding in the back of a lorry at a service station in Wiltshire prior to being brought to custody.
“While this was done, they were kept at the police station. The child was not arrested and not held. They were not kept in a police cell.
“Any child under the age of 10 is not arrested, but may be at the custody suite as a place of safety until social services can accommodate them.”
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Children and Young People, Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said: “Police forces are determined to ensure that they avoid detaining children and young people in custody wherever possible. The welfare of children must be put first in every situation especially where they are often particularly vulnerable.
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“Sometimes arresting a child is unavoidable and in those circumstances, it is important that they are dealt with as quickly as possible.
“In instances where they are refused police bail, forces are working to implement the principles and practice of the national concordat in collaboration with local authorities and other agencies. There has been substantial training to help custody officers understand the needs of children and the alternatives to custody.
“The big challenge faced by local authorities is in finding suitable accommodation for those young people refused bail. The aim of the concordat is to bring different agencies together to address and find solutions to this challenge.”
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