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9 Dec 2019

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

Arrests of children in England and Wales have been reduced by more than 70 per cent in eight years, research published by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveals today (Monday 9 December).

The total number of child arrests has been reduced every year since the Howard League launched a major campaign in 2010, and the impact can be seen in every police force area.

Academic research has shown that each contact a child has with the criminal justice system drags them deeper into it, leading to more crime. This is why the Howard League is working with police forces across England and Wales to keep as many children as possible out of the system in the first place.

Data from more than 40 police forces show that they made 70,078 arrests of boys and girls aged 17 and under in 2018, down from almost 250,000 in 2010. Over the same period, the number of children in prison was reduced by 63 per cent.

Across England and Wales, arrests of primary school-age children have been reduced significantly. There were 383 arrests of 10-and 11-year-olds in 2018, a reduction of 38 per cent from the previous year.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Tens of thousands of children can look forward to a brighter future without their lives being blighted by police contact and a criminal record.

“Police forces up and down the country have diverted resources to tackling serious crime instead of arresting naughty children. This will make communities safer, and the Howard League is proud to have played its part.

“Building on this success and reducing the number of arrests still further would allow even more children to thrive.”

The largest police force in the country, the Metropolitan Police, made 13,791 arrests of children in 2018. This was a 22 per cent reduction on the previous year, when 17,672 arrests were made, and a 70 per cent reduction on 2010, when there were 46,079.

Other forces to record significant reductions between 2017 and 2018 included Gwent (38 per cent), Bedfordshire (28 per cent), Cumbria (27 per cent), North Wales (24 per cent), Kent (23 per cent), Cleveland (19 per cent), West Mercia (19 per cent) and Durham (18 per cent).

Some police forces recorded an increase in arrests between 2017 and 2018. The Howard League is studying the figures and hopes to meet with these forces to explore how the number of arrests can be reduced in future.

Two police forces – City of London and South Yorkshire – were unable to provide arrest figures for 2018.

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
2017: 79,012
2018: 70,078

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.
  2. The Howard League made freedom of information requests for data from all police forces in England and Wales.
  3. Child arrests in England and Wales 2018, which includes a table showing child arrest data for each police force in England and Wales, can be read on the Howard League website.


Rob Preece
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