Childline Gibraltar has received more call-outs to assist detained juveniles through its Appropriate Adult scheme in the past six weeks than it usually does during an entire year.
The charity provides an Appropriate Adult Service formed by staff and volunteers who are ‘on-call’ to assist detained juveniles when their parents or guardians either refuse or are unable to attend the police station.
But over the past six weeks, the charity’s volunteers have been called out 26 times with multiple juveniles often being the subject of a single call-out.
“That would normally be what we do in a year,” said Childline Manager Jenny Olivero.
In an interview with the Chronicle, Childline representatives Annie Green and Mrs Olivero described those figures as “unprecedented” and “concerning” and flagged how a number of the juveniles they have been called upon to assist are repeat offenders.
This comes against a backdrop of year-on-year increases in demand for its services assisting juveniles detained by the police.
The issue also places a spotlight, once again, on the lack of rehabilitation facilities in Gibraltar for youth offenders.
However, this is a wide ranging issue that encompasses the role of not only the police but of Social Services, the Care Agency and the community as a whole.
Asked if Childline was concerned about the hike in call-outs Mrs Green said: “We are always concerned about the welfare of children that is our rationale and the reason that we’re here.”
“We are here for children and yes that does concern us.”
“In terms of the way that our AA volunteers attend a call out inevitably they are concerned, we are human beings.”
“And whilst we’re all trained and conscientious enough to be available at any time of the day and night, it is concerning for us because we leave the police station and we wonder what will happen next and, of course, we have no official involvement thereafter.”
Asked what the local community could do more to assist in the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders, Mrs Green said: “I think the community in Gibraltar is overall really a genuinely altruistic community, that is clear to everyone.”
“But with this number of call-outs over such a short period, clearly something has gone awry and there are juveniles who are not having the parental guidance or support [they need] and that is obvious because we have been asked to come and support them during the time they are in police custody,” she added.
Mrs Olivero flagged the number of repeat offenders and added that one juvenile in particular was detained by police nine times during the six week period.
Gibraltar currently lacks a formal youth offending service to deal with young offenders and reduce the risk young people offending and re-offending.
Across the United Kingdom youth offending teams work with young people that get into trouble with the law.
They look into the background of a young person and try to help them stay away from crime.
They also engage young offenders in a wide range of tasks designed to put something positive back into the local community through unpaid activities, as well as preventing them from re-offending.
The program also ensures that offenders have a lower chance of re-offending by performing checkups during the rehabilitation process, checking on their accommodation, friends, possibilities of coercion into offending or drug and alcohol use.
Childline’s vitally important Appropriate Adult service sees trained and very dedicated volunteers attend New Mole House police station to assist juveniles following an arrest.
This is because when a minor is arrested an adult needs to be present. But if the child’s parents or carers are not available, for whatever reason, an Appropriate Adult will be called.
Key among the responsibilities of the AA is to ensure that when a child or young person is arrested they understand what is happening to them and why.
The AA will also safeguard the health and well-being of the detained juvenile. When the child is arrested he or she may be under the influence and it is up to the AA to determine if the child is in a fit state to be interviewed.
The AA has a positive and important role and is not expected to be simply an observer of what happens at the police station.
For example, the AA must observe whether the police are acting properly, fairly and with respect for the rights of the detained juvenile. The AA must speak up if they are concerned the police are not doing this.
If you would like further information on the service provided by Childline Gibraltar or would be interested in becoming an Appropriate Adult please call 200 43503, or contact the charity via its email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Young teenager remanded in prison over curfew breach
A 13-year old child was remanded in custody at HM Windmill Hill prison last week for breaching his court imposed curfew.
The boy, who cannot be named, was subject to a curfew between the hours of 9pm until 8am following an allegation of burglary. He allegedly breached the curfew up to five times.
The courts response was to order he be remanded to prison.
Lawyers said the case once again places a spotlight on the lack of alternative custodial facilities for juvenile offenders in Gibraltar.