by Nisha Chopra
A charity is today calling for a stop to holding under-16s for minor offences in police cells overnight.
The Howard League of Penal Reform has revealed that in 2008 and 2009 Kent Police locked up 2,700 boys and girls, according to a Freedom of Information request.
Spokesman Andrew Neilson said: "A police custody suite is not geared up for someone to spend any length of time there - particularly a child.
"What is most shocking is there were children as young as nine being held in these suites."
Nationally more than 53,000 children under 16 were held in police cells overnight during that period, with 13,000 of those aged between nine and 13.
Out of those forces surveyed, Kent had the fourth highest rate for overnight detention.
Mr Neilson said the practice was often distressing for both the child and their family.
He said it was not likely to get easier for police - with social services departments in local authorities under increasing pressure on staffing. They were being called upon to help and rehouse the young offenders where necessary.
A Kent police spokesman said children were not kept in police cells any longer than was needed for investigations.