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Petition: How Should 17 Year Olds Be Treated At The Police Station?

Meet Joe.

He was a typical 17 year old boy, who made a foolish decision to drive home after a party.  He was stopped by the police and arrested for drink driving.  He was taken to the police station, where he was treated as an adult despite his young age.  His parents, Nick and Jane Lawton, weren’t rang and informed of this.

Joe was kept overnight in the police cells.

Was he scared?

We can only assume that he was, because he never got the chance to tell his loved ones his side of the story.

Two days after his arrest, Joe took his police charge sheet and shot himself at his family’s farm.  As his devastated parents discovered his body, they also discovered this incident.

Nick and Jane Lawton feel sure that if they had been informed of his drink driving incident, they could have supported him and reassured him that they could come through the matter as a family.

While 17 year olds are classed as children for Court proceedings, they are considered adults in the police station, and have to go through the traumatic experience without the support of an adult.

Joe’s parents have started a petition asking the Government to change the law so that 17 year olds are treated as children in the police station, meaning their parents would have to be informed and an appropriate adult present for them.

You can sign the Joe Lawton petition to show your support for this.

This story touched me on two levels.

Professionally, I am very used to representing clients aged 17 who face motoring matters.  In my experience, I find them all to be usually responsible, mature kids who have had lapses of judgement or who have made momentary mistakes.  And, in my experience, none of them ring me themselves.  There is always a supportive – but disappointed – parent or relative handling the matter for them, and the case always has to be handled with an extra sensitivity.

I am always struck during these cases by the fact that, despite bravado, these 17 year olds are still so very, very young.  These are cases where I see my job not only as representing the person, but very much about assisting the whole family.  They are cases where I choose barristers based not only on advocacy skills but on ability to offer additional TLC.

Professionally, I believe a 17 year old should be treated as a child in the police station.

Personally, I am father to a 20 year old daughter who has recently passed her driving test, and I would still hate to think that she could find herself in a situation where she would be arrested and detained in a police station without my knowledge and support.

I signed the petition, and I hope you do too.

Steve Williams


Forrest Williams TV