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Child arrests down 59% in 5 years

A 5 year campaign by the Howard League plus big changes in police approach to arresting children has led to the number of arrests more than halving since 2010.

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Drop in arrests correlates directly with fall in number of children in prison

Arrests of children have fallen by 59 per cent in the last five years – after a concerted effort by police across the country and a successful campaign by the Howard League for Penal Reform to keep as many boys and girls as possible out of the criminal justice system.

Figures published by the charity earlier this month (10 October 2016) reveal that, during 2015, police in England and Wales made 101,926 arrests of boys and girls aged 17 and under.

The number has fallen every year since 2010, when police made 245,763 child arrests. Many forces have reviewed their arrest procedures and policies after the Howard League’s positive engagement with them.

Every police force in England and Wales made fewer child arrests in 2015 than in 2010. Thirty-four forces brought down their number of child arrests by more than half, including 10 who achieved reductions of more than 70 per cent.

The most successful force in the country was Humberside Police, which recorded a 77 per cent drop in the number of arrests.

There were 871 arrests of primary-age children (10- and 11-year-olds) in 2015.


The statistics

The statistics have been published in a Howard League briefing, Child arrests in England and Wales 2015, which shows how reducing the number of children entering the system has stemmed the flow of children into custody.

Between 2010 and 2015, the number of children in prison in England and Wales fell by 58 per cent – decreasing at about the same rate as child arrests.

Arrests of girls are falling at a faster rate than arrests of boys. Police recorded a 63 per cent drop in girls’ arrests between 2010 and 2015, and the number of girls in prison decreased by the same proportion.

The briefing states that the welcome fall in arrests can be attributed to better use of resources to solve problems, the removal of national targets, improved staff training, and support from communities.

There is still more work to be done, however. Eleven forces recorded an increase in child arrests last year and, although improvements have been made, arrests remain all too common – a child was arrested every five minutes in England and Wales in 2015.

Child arrest figures for England and Wales

2010: 245,763
2011: 202,961
2012: 150,600
2013: 131,673
2014: 115,483
2015: 101,926

This is a fantastic success story but it does beg one question:

Why isn’t this sustained fall in child arrests and custody numbers feeding through into a drop in the number of adults in prison?

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The children who are being criminalised whilst teenagers are the same children who, when younger, were sympathetically viewed as vulnerable, innocent and highly deserving of society’s help and protection.

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