Police unlawfully administered an informed warning to an allegedly “out of control” 11-year-old boy without providing access to legal representation, the High Court ruled on Thursday.
Senior judges in Belfast quashed the decision to implement the diversionary option because his consent could not be regarded as properly informed.
Lord Justice Coghlin said the informed warning should be removed from his record.
The boy at the centre of the legal action, referred to as “D”, was detained in September 2013 following allegations that he had tried to stab his father with a knife.
He had left his mother’s home to live with the other parent due to a serious deterioration in his family relationships, the court heard.
Police called to the house in Belfast after receiving a report that the boy was out of control found his father restraining him on the floor.
He was handcuffed, arrested and told to calm down.
At that stage D was taken into custody on suspicion of committing assault occasioning actual bodily harm, possession of an offensive weapon with intent, resisting police, and threats to kill.
Although his father later confirmed he would be making no complaint, the boy was interviewed in the presence of an appropriate adult and solicitor.
He was later released unconditionally on all charges except for resisting police.
The PSNI submitted a report to the PPS recommending no prosecution on the remaining offence.
It was not deemed to be in the public interest to pursue a charge based on D’s age, troubled family background and lack of previous offending.
However, the PPS took a contrary view and considered a number of diversionary options, including an informed warning, caution, or a youth conference.
The prosecuting authority decided the informed warning was appropriate because it was considered less serious and had a shorter lifespan.
In December 2013 the informed warning was administered by a PSNI youth diversion officer in the presence of the boy’s father and social worker.
During the process the officer confirmed D was admitting the resisting arrest offence and consented to the form of disposal.
Judicial proceedings were subsequently lodged over the decision to administer the warning without providing the boy with legal representation.
Delivering judgment on Thursday, Lord Justice Coghlin said that in this case “the applicant’s consent could not be regarded as sufficiently or properly informed”.