A teenager spent five nights in a police cell because authorities were unable to find a bed for him.

Yesterday the Hastings Youth Court heard the situation was "totally unacceptable" by lawyer and youth advocate Don Kennedy.

The 15-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been remanded in custody since March 8 despite a Judge being told on Thursday that a bed would be available on Friday last week.

In a brief hearing yesterday Mr Kennedy expressed his concerns about the youth spending a sixth night in custody to Judge Max Courtney. Oranga Tamariki (the Ministry for Children) wasunable to find a bed for him.

"I understand there is still no bed available and I understand that the national office are looking into it. They are aware of the urgency of the problem but it hasn't been solved."


While adults remanded in custody were taken to the Hawke's Bay Regional Prison, youth remained in police cells until beds at youth residences around the country were made available, he told Hawke's Bay Today after the hearing.

In court Mr Kennedy had said the situation was "totally unacceptable" as there were a range of custody options available to them under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.

Section 328 states that where a child or young person appears before the Youth Court the court shall order that they be detained in the custody of the chief executive, an iwi social service, or a cultural social service.

Mr Kennedy said he thought this meant there were alternative options for the youth and asked Judge Courtney for a direction that a bed be found for the teenager.

At the hearing, a representative from Oranga Tamariki told the court the youth couldn't be placed with social service Te Ikaroa Rangatahi and much of the region's alternative accommodation was fully booked due to Horse of the Year.

Judge Courtney said the situation was not good enough.

"I want an option other than a police cell today. He's been in a police cell for far too long ... I don't care where you find it or how you find it, you've got to.

"I understand there's issues in terms of beds becoming available but Judge Mackintosh was led to believe a bed was available six days ago. It's just not good enough."

Less than one hour after the hearing Mr Kennedy's office was notified that a bed for the teenager has been found in Palmerston North, however he was skeptical about the prompt response.

"While I'm pleased that they have found a bed I'm cynical because it has taken them a week to do so."

Oranga Tamariki [Ministry for Children] general manager of youth justice residences Ben Hannifin said residential bed availability could fluctuate from full capacity to holding 5-10 vacancies in a matter of days.

A further 10 residential beds and 15 community beds had been added since April 2016 and the Ministry worked hard to place all young people held in police cells into more appropriate placements, he said.

"This work has seen a significant reduction in young people spending more than 24 hours in a police cell compared to a year ago ... ultimately the aim is to have no young people needing to stay in cells longer than 24 hours."

Mr Kennedy said the unfortunate reality was that this case wouldn't be the last time a situation like this would arise.