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7 Aug 2017

Child arrests in England and Wales fall by 64 per cent in six years

Boys on South Bank, London

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 (Monday 7 August).

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.

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.

Child arrest figures for England and Wales

2010: 245,763
2011: 202,961
2012: 150,062
2013: 131,718
2014: 115,444
2015: 101,678
2016: 87,525

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform made freedom of information requests for data from all police services in England and Wales. 
  1. Child arrests in England and Wales 2016 can be read on the Howard League website.
  1. Child arrest data from each police service in England and Wales is shown in the table below:

 

Police force 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Avon and Somerset 7,255 5,608 4,321 2,929 2,342 1,767 1,533
Bedfordshire 1,853 1,692 1,770 1,390 1,290 1,175 1,085
British Transport Police**** * * 2,077 1,645 1,336 1,014 130*****
Cambs 3,440 2,099 1,473 1,067 1,060 979 1,013
Cheshire 1,870 1,904 1,508 1,269 1,266 1,292 1,187
City of London 273 192 136 122 77 80 51
Cleveland 4,367 3,368 2,407 1,862 1,527 1,358 1,206
Cumbria 1,274 1,864 1,263 1,125 1,073 1,034 900
Derbyshire 4,194 3,938 ** 1,930 1,840 1,573 797**
Devon and Cornwall 4,132 3,363 2,398 1,431 1,470 1,297 994
Dorset 2,310 1,053 1,252 815 770 916 447
Durham 3,658 2,841 1,767 1,445 1,493 1,193 1,157
Dyfed Powys 2,307 1,643 1,584 1,165 687 625 501
Essex 7,739 5,870 4,237 3,931 3,718 2,635 2,588
Glos 1,516 1,412 1,268 920 861 725 663
Greater M’chester**** *** 10,903 7,807 6,144 5,969 4,587 3,714
Gwent 2,503 2,163 1,698 1,569 980 1,172 930
Hampshire 8,267 6,533 5,091 6,058 3,192 2,295 1,711
Hertfordshire 3,948 1,809 2,478 1,776 1,753 1,632 1,558
Humberside 5,751 2,067 2,732 2,008 1,460 1,300 1,409
Kent 7,505 6,409 4,412 4,602 3,752 2,976 2,900
Lancashire 9,779 5,476 4,158 3,201 2,887 3,074 2,775
Leicestershire 3,322 2,685 2,252 1,670 1,553 1,103 806
Lincolnshire *** 1,911 1,290 1,027 990 1,117 913
Merseyside 10,197 8,421 6,213 5,066 5,295 3,273 2,570
Metropolitan 46,079 39,901 30,155 26,442 23,402 22,328 20,387
Norfolk 2,510 2,201 1,316 1,384 1,561 1,602 1,261
North Wales 3,420 2,596 2,022 1,780 1,554 1,577 1,532
North Yorkshire 4,525 3,644 1,152 1,556 1,445 1,317 1,291
Northants 2,594 2,177 1,660 1,289 1,270 1,115 885
Northumbria 11,407 9,280 6,983 5,990 5,280 3,829 2,838
Notts 5,743 4,640 2,989 2,189 2,319 1,840 1,466
South Wales 5,659 2,551 3,166 3,245 2,978 2,854 2,499
South Yorkshire 6,235 5,094 3,344 2,693 2,285 1,812 1,396
Staffordshire 4,163 3,316 2,491 1,741 1,418 1,808 1,350
Suffolk**** 3,716 1,684 1,388 1,118 1,030 1,011 858
Surrey 1,955 1,974 1,483 1,524 1,624 1,338 889
Sussex 5,779 4,564 4,423 4,018 3,220 2,679 2,185
Thames Valley 8,012 6,539 2,531** 3,808 3,225 2,872 2,446
Warwickshire 1,419 1,050 673 623 563 619 597
West Mercia 5,491 3,442 2,664 1,758 1,418 1,354 1,247
W. Midlands 14,387 10,487 7,484 7,123 5,803 5,438 5,244
W. Yorkshire 12,947 10,600 7,492 6,148 5,417 5,045 4,663
Wiltshire 2,262 1,997 1,054 1,122 991 1,048 953
TOTAL 245,763 202,961 150,062 131,718 115,444 101,678 87,525

*FoI requests were not submitted for data in 2010 and 2011

**Limited data – some data was lost when a new system was introduced
***Police force did not supply data
****Revised data provided
*****Data limited to the period from 1 January 2016 to 20 February 2016 as crime recording system was changed

Contact

Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
The Howard League for Penal Reform
Tel: +44 (0)20 7241 7880
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955
Email: robert.preece@howardleague.org

ISDN line available on 020 7923 4196 – uses a G722 system

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