Children and teenagers due to stand trial are being forced to sleep in police cells until their cases can be heard.

If a child is not granted bail after being charged with a criminal offence, it falls on local authorities to find them a safe place to stay before they are tried.

But some local authorities are failing to do this, according to a London Assembly report.

It says many requests made by the police to local authorities for secure accommodation for child offenders are not being met – forcing children into police cells overnight.

Caroline Pidgeon, London Assembly police and crime committee member, said: “The current situation of children in police cells overnight is unacceptable and shames our justice system.

“London needs the right accommodation for detained children.

“We are especially concerned about the experiences of children being held in police cells.”

In 2017 just under 2,000 children were charged and detained by the Metropolitan Police in London for a criminal offence.

A total of 394 requests were made to local authorities to provide children with secure accommodation but only 50 children were provided with secure accommodation leaving the rest in police cells overnight.

Two of these children were sent to secure accommodation facilities in Leeds and Manchester.

One of the reasons for the failure to provide these children with secure accommodation is because there are only six secure units for child offenders in the whole country – none of them within the M25 region.

The London Assembly is now urging the Mayor of London, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and local authorities to act and help to provide more overnight accommodation for children being detained.

Although it recognises it is unlikely that one borough would have enough demand to justify creating a local secure unit but says one borough needs to take a lead in proving secure accommodation for children all over London.

Ms Pidgeon added: “We are disappointed by the apparent lack of action to improve the provision of alternative accommodation for children in custody.”

“We urge the Mayor, MOPAC, London Councils and the London Safeguarding Children Board to urgently find a solution.”