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Children and Policing

The Howard League has been campaigning for improvements in the policing of children in England and Wales.

Four Metropolitan Police officers stand on duty in Central London.

Despite the significant reductions in the number of children in prison, England and Wales still has the highest level of child imprisonment in Western Europe.

The Howard League is concerned that too many children are still being brought into conflict with the criminal justice system, with negative implications for their future lives at the expense of their communities and the taxpayer.

As the primary gatekeepers to the youth justice system, the police determine who enters.

Child arrests

The Howard League has undertaken a programme of work on child arrests and has been publishing annual data on the number of child arrests in England and Wales since 2008. The indication in the early years was that there were approximately a third of a million child arrests annually.

In the intervening period there has been real change.

87,525 child arrests made by the police in England and Wales during 2016

There were 87,525 child arrests in 2016. This constitutes a reduction of 64 per cent since 2010.

Read the latest data →

Year Number of child arrests
2010 245,763
2011 202,961
2012 150,600
2013 131,673
2014 115,483
2015 101,926
2016 87,525

Overall, there has been steady progress year-on-year across the country – every force in England and Wales has reduced the number of child arrests, with one force achieving an 81 per cent reduction. This positive trend across all police forces is to be welcomed and commended.

We will continue to work with forces across the country to develop their good work and reduce the number of child arrests to an absolute minimum.

Criminalisation of children in care

The Howard League is undertaking a two-year programme of work to end the criminalisation of children living in residential care. The work will be supported by an advisory board, chaired by the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP.

The first briefing from the programme was published in July 2017.

Overnight detention

The Howard League has been working to reduce the number of children who are detained overnight by the police. We have produced research and continue to work with police forces across the country through a series of high level roundtables to discuss the policy, legislative and practice barriers to reduce the number of children held overnight.

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