Updated: Saturday, 20th April 2019 @ 3:28pm

‘Simply isn't right’: Parents campaign for changes in youth arrest law after Greater Manchester teenage suicides

‘Simply isn't right’: Parents campaign for changes in youth arrest law after Greater Manchester teenage suicides

By Aimee Howarth

The families of two Greater Manchester 17-year-olds who killed themselves after being arrested delivered a petition to Downing Street yesterday calling for a change in the law.

Joe Lawton and Edward Thornber each committed suicide following arrest but, in both cases, their parents were not informed of the arrests as they were treated as adults in custody.

Joe’s Father Nick Lawton appeared on BBC Breakfast, urging the government to address the ‘anomaly’ that sees 17-year-olds treated as adults when arrested, but children if charged.

"Joe was our only child so we're not doing this for ourselves," he said. "We don't want other families to go through what we went through. It's dreadful."

Mr Lawton said he hopes the ‘groundswell’ of public support would encourage ministers to act after more than 50,000 people signed the petition.

Joe, from Stockport, was arrested when police stopped him after he decided to drive his new car home from a party.

He was kept overnight at Cheadle Heath Police Station, without his parents' knowledge, and left a suicide note when took his own life two days later using a shotgun from the family farm.

The police charge sheet was at his feet when his father found him, and Mr Lawton said Joe felt ‘ashamed’ and ‘embarrassed’ about his arrest.

"He couldn't find the words to tell us and he needed the support of his family at that very difficult time," Mr Lawton added.

"But we were denied that opportunity to help him because at no time while Joe was in custody were we told of that.

"Very few people are aware of this anomaly in the law. How can you be an adult one moment and a child the next? That simply isn't right."

Teenage lacrosse star Edward, from Didsbury, also committed suicide after receiving an order to appear in court after being caught smoking cannabis in Cornwall.

The former head boy was found hanged on September 15, 2011, two days after receiving the order.

Both families say if the law is changed it will bring the United Kingdom into line with the United Nations’ convention on the rights of the child.

It states every person under 18 must be treated as a child if they are considered such in the eyes of the law of that country, and a judicial review into the issue is ongoing.

Shauneen Lambe, executive director of support charity Just For Kids, said: "The Home Secretary can easily make this change. She has said the decision is finely balanced.

"I would hope calls from 50,000 people across the UK and the heart-breaking stories of these two families is enough to tip the balance."

Picture courtesy of SalFalko, with thanks.

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