Home Office @ukhomeoffice: Change the law so 17-year-olds are treated as children in custody #4Joe
  • Petitioned Rt Hon Damian Green

This petition was delivered to:

Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice
Rt Hon Damian Green
Secretary of State for the Home Office
Rt Hon Theresa May

Home Office @ukhomeoffice: Change the law so 17-year-olds are treated as children in custody #4Joe

    1. Nick and Jane Lawton
    2. Petition by

      Nick and Jane Lawton

      Lancashire, United Kingdom

April 2013


On April 25th, the High Court ruled that 17 year olds must be treated as children in police custody and that the Government has been acting unlawfully by treating them as adults.

This is a fantastic victory and means that the Home Office must ensure that 17 year olds are treated as children in custody and their parents or another adult be informed about their arrest.

This wouldn't have been possible without your support. Over 55,000 joined you and signed our petition calling for the change in the law. We've been blown away by the response and all the comments that have been left in support have been amazing. Thank you.

Although this change won't bring back Joe, we are so pleased that no other parent will have to face what we did. As the judge ruled yesterday, a parent has the right to know what their child is facing and to support them. We know that if we had been there for Joe then it could have all been very different.

The Home Office has said that they accept the court's judgment and will consider the next steps they should take to implement the changes. We hope they will do this with speed and issue immediate guidance to police forces on how to protect 17 year olds.

We haven't had much to celebrate since we lost Joe. But thanks to you, everyone who signed our petition and all those who have supported us, we can celebrate today - an historic change to the law in memory of Joe.

Joe was our only son. Last August he was arrested and kept overnight at Cheadle Heath Police station after a positive breath test. He was just seventeen and had made a bad decision to drive home after a party. Two days later Joe took his own life.

It was only then that we, his parents, found out he had been arrested -- because he was seventeen he was treated as an adult in custody. We were not called when he was arrested or given the opportunity to give him the support he needed.

The fact that a seventeen-year-old is treated as an adult whilst in custody is an anomaly of British law once they are charged they are then treated as children, this simply does not make sense.

Joe is not they only child to take his own life after contact with or arrest by the police, for someone of any age being held and charged in a police station is a traumatic experience and especially so for young people without the life experience of an adult.

Few seventeen-year-olds could make a rational judgement about contacting family or legal advice in that situation without support. Perhaps most importantly of all they are fearful of disappointing and letting down their families. This is perhaps why some young people don’t want their families to be contacted at the time of their arrest, thereby depriving them of the support they really need. It is this that makes them so vulnerable.

We believe if the law had been different Joe would still be alive.

With this in mind we are looking for your support to ask the Government to change the law to ensure seventeen-year-olds are treated as children upon arrest.

This will bring the UK into line with the United Nations Conventions on the rights of the child which state that every person under eighteen must be treated as a child if they are considered such in the eyes of the law of that country.

Please sign our petition calling on the Government to change the law.

Recent signatures


    1. Reached 50,000 signatures
    2. Reached 2,000 signatures


    Reasons for signing

      • over 1 year ago

      Absolutely made up with this outcome, I'm positive this will make a huge difference to those kids in police custody. Well done every one and a massive thanks to Joe's parents for Initiating this. I hope you can find a little comfort in a great result. I'm sure Joe would be very proud. Best wishes to Joe's family.

      • over 1 year ago

      Congratulations on your success! I signed this petition as I have a nephew of the same age and can't imagine the fear and loneliness at that age of being detained without support. Also I have suffered a bereavement by suicide and it is a horrendous situation to come to terms with. This tragic story touched me when I first saw in on Channel four news. Best wishes for the future. x

    • Maria Qureshi BRAMPTON, CANADA
      • over 1 year ago

      17 is still too young!

      • over 1 year ago

      I am a parent

    • Yami Manchanda-Corless LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
      • over 1 year ago

      Some control in discretion needs to be present when police exercise their powers. It is common sense that a younger person may not be familiar with the processes that they are subject to and whether guilty or not support should be given. It is a fundamental rights to have the support of parents when in such a situation. The reassurance may have made a significant difference to the choices made by Lawton and Thornber. If you cannot buy cigarettes at 18 why be charged and treated under the same standards in a police station in relation to a different offence?


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