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Criminal Care? · 9 Dec 2019

Child arrests in England and Wales reduced by more than 70 per cent in eight years

In 2010, the Howard League launched its campaign to reduce the numbers of child arrests. That year there were nearly a quarter of a million child arrests in England and Wales.

Today (9 December) we publish our annual report setting out the figures for all police forces in England and Wales. It is good news: in 2018, the numbers of child arrests continued to drop to an annual total of just over 70,000, a fall of 71 per cent since 2010.

Of note are the very significant reductions achieved by the Metropolitan Police – 22 per cent – and Greater Manchester Police – 12 per cent. It is impressive to see such sizeable reductions in these large urban police forces. Their achievements demonstrate how progress is possible even in complex policing environments.

For the first time since we started the programme there has been a plateauing of progress in some force areas and in a worrying number (13 forces) a small creep upwards. We will be working with forces around the country over the next few months to find out what is happening and what can be done to reverse the trend.

Data from more than 40 police forces show that 70,078 arrests of boys and girls aged 17 and under were made in 2018, down from almost 250,000 in 2010

Initial inquiries with several of the forces concerned suggest that efforts to tackle county lines may be playing a part. We will consider the police response to this problem in a briefing on the impact of child criminal exploitation on children in residential care which we’ll be publishing as part of this programme in February 2020.

We know that lots of good work is being done around the country to reduce police contact with children in residential care. As we reported in ‘Know your numbers’: Using data to monitor and address criminalisation, Department for Education data has shown a substantial reduction in the proportions of children being criminalised whilst in residential care during the course of this programme (from 15 per cent in 2014 to 10 per cent in 2018). This will undoubtedly be reflected in the child arrests data.

It is clear that we can’t rest on our laurels and that there is much more work to be done to end the unnecessary arrest and criminalisation of children living in children’s homes. We look forward to continuing to work with forces and other partners next year to encourage better collection of data and focused work to help keep children in residential care out of the criminal justice system.

Child arrests in England and Wales 2018: A research briefing

Claire Sands


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