Arrests of children have fallen by 59 per cent in five years, figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today (Tuesday 27 May).

Research published by the charity shows that every police service in England and Wales made fewer child arrests in 2013 than it did in 2008.

It follows a successful Howard League campaign aimed at keeping as many children as possible out of the criminal justice system.

Several police services have reviewed their arrest procedures and policies as a result of the charity’s engagement with them.

However, despite this positive trend, child arrests remain all too common – a child was arrested every four minutes in England and Wales in 2013.

Last year, police in England and Wales made 129,274 arrests of children aged 17 and under. These included 1,107 arrests of children who were aged 10 or 11, meaning that on average three primary school-age children were arrested every day.

In 2008 the total number of child arrests was as high as 318,053 – equivalent to an arrest every 99 seconds.

In total, police made more than 1.3million arrests of children between January 2008 and December 2013.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:

“It is encouraging to see that police have successfully reduced child arrests by a half since 2008, thanks in part to our effective campaigning.

“Most police services have developed successful local initiatives that resolve issues quickly and cheaply, involve victims in the justice process and, crucially, avoid criminalising boys and girls.

Prison Bars by Andrew bardwell via Wikimedia Commons

Prison Bars by Andrew Bardwell

“A sharp fall in the number of children entering the justice system is good news for everyone striving to reduce crime and saves the taxpayer untold millions.

“The challenge for police now is to maintain this trend. At a time of austerity, further reducing the number of children arrested would free up more officer time to deal with serious crimes.”

Children in England and Wales can be arrested by police from the age of 10 – the lowest age of criminal responsibility in Western Europe.

A Howard League briefing paper on the child arrest figures recommends that the age of criminal responsibility should be raised to 14, in line with the European average.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has stated that an age of criminal responsibility below 12 is unacceptable.

Child arrest figures for England and Wales:

2008: 318,053
2009: 282,077
2010: 246,480
2011: 206,402
2012: 149,983
2013: 129,274

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