Howard League welcomes significant reduction in child arrests – down two thirds since 2010

Arrests of children in England and Wales have fallen by more than two-thirds since the start of the decade, according to new figures.

The number reduced from nearly a quarter of a million in 2010 to just under 80,000 last year, research by the Howard League for Penal Reform found.

The charity welcomed the decrease, saying that keeping children out of the criminal justice system helps prevent crime.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, said: “This is the seventh year in a row that we have seen a significant reduction in the number of child arrests.

“It is a phenomenal achievement by the police and the Howard League, and it means that tens of thousands of children will have a brighter future without their life chances being blighted by unnecessary police contact and criminal records.”

Statistics compiled from responses to Freedom of Information requests showed police made 79,012 child arrests in 2017 – equivalent to one every seven minutes.

The number of arrests of children was down by 68% compared with 2010, when there were 245,763, according to the study.

It found recorded arrests of girls – of which there were 12,495 last year – have fallen at a faster rate than for boys since 2010.

The paper said there were 616 arrests of primary school-age children in 2017, a reduction of 12% from the previous year.

While welcoming the decrease, the Howard League flagged up areas where further progress could be achieved.

The report said: “In particular, the criminalisation of children in residential care, the criminalisation of children who are being exploited by county lines gangs and the disproportionate levels of criminalisation of children from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are key areas that all forces should be aware of and be actively seeking to address in order to further reduce the numbers of child arrests and the unnecessary criminalisation of children.”

County lines refers to a drug distribution model which typically involves city gangs branching out into county or coastal towns to sell heroin and crack cocaine.

The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 10 years old.

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