Big drop in number of children arrested by police

By agency reporter
August 7, 2017

Arrests of children in England and Wales have fallen by 64 per cent in the last six years, figures published by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today (7 August 2017). Research by the charity has found that police made 87,525 arrests of children aged 17 and under last year, down from almost 250,000 in 2010.

The statistics underline the success of a major Howard League programme, which involves working with police forces to keep as many boys and girls as possible out of the criminal justice system.

The total number of arrests has fallen every year since the Howard League campaign began in 2010, and the impact can be seen in every police force area in the country. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23491)

Keeping children out of the criminal justice system helps prevent crime. Academic research has shown that the more contact a child has with the system, the more entrenched they are likely to become, which increases reoffending rates.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said, “For the sixth year running, we have seen a significant reduction in child arrests across the country. This is a tremendous achievement, and we will continue to support police forces to develop their good practice and reduce the number to an absolute minimum.

“Police should be applauded for their positive approach, and the Howard League is proud to have played its part in a transformation that will make our communities safer. By working together, we are ensuring that tens of thousands of children will have a brighter future and not be dragged into a downward spiral of crime and custody.”

Every police force in England and Wales made fewer child arrests in 2016 than in 2010. All but four forces brought down their number of arrests by more than half. There were 703 arrests of primary-age children (10- and 11-year-olds) in 2016, a reduction of 18 per cent from the previous year.

The statistics have been published in a Howard League briefing, Child arrests in England and Wales 2016, which shows how reducing the number of children entering the system has stemmed the flow of children into custody.

Between 2010 and 2016, the number of children in prison in England and Wales fell by 58 per cent.

As in 2015, arrests of girls are falling at a faster rate than arrests of boys. Police recorded a 69 per cent drop in girls’ arrests between 2010 and 2016, and the number of girls in penal custody fell by 78 per cent during the same period.

The briefing states that the positive trend across police forces has been led at a national level, most notably by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, which has prioritised improvements in the policing of children.

The Howard League regularly meets and corresponds with forces and shares examples of good practice in local areas. A good example has been set by the Chief Constable of Durham Police, who has met each of his officers individually to impress upon them a problem-solving approach rather than a reliance on arrests.

Surrey Police has given training to all custody and frontline staff, focusing on the need to reduce the number of children arrested. The force also ran an internal communications campaign to encourage people to see the “child first and the offence second”. Thames Valley Police, like many forces, now has a system in place so that an inspector reviews every child arrest.

There is still more work to be done, however. Two forces recorded slight increases in child arrests last year and, although improvements have been made, arrests remain all too common – a child was arrested every six minutes in England and Wales in 2016.

The research briefing, Child Arrests in England and Wales 2016 can be read here

* Howard League for Penal Reform http://howardleague.org/

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