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27 May 2014

A child is arrested every four minutes in England and Wales

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. 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

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the UK. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. The Howard League for Penal Reform requested freedom of information data from all police services in England and Wales.
  3. More information about the research can be found in a Howard League briefing paper.
  4. Generally, a child within the criminal justice system is aged 10 to 17 years old inclusive. However, in the context of the police station, until April 2013, a 17-year-old was treated as an adult. This meant that they were not afforded the additional protections offered to children when they were arrested, such as having a parent or an appropriate adult present during interviews. This was changed by a landmark judgment in the High Court, where it was acknowledged that the law was out of kilter with domestic and international provisions that recognise those aged 17 and under as children. The Howard League supported this judicial review, taken by Just for Kids Law.
  5. Child arrest data from each police service in England and Wales is shown in the table below:
Police service area 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Avon and Somerset 9169 7479 7255 5608 4321 2929
Bedfordshire* 3257 2737 2551 2106 1770 1390
British Transport Police         1461 1399
Cambridgeshire 4054 3795 3440 2099 1473 1067
Cheshire 2537 2037 1870 1904 1508 1269
City of London 274 251 273 192 136 122
Cleveland 4882 4735 4367 3368 2407 1862
Cumbria 1964 1676 1274 1864 1263 1125
Derbyshire 5608 4513 4194 3938 ** 1930
Devon and Cornwall 5495 4757 4132 2398 1431
Dorset* 3173 2822 2310 1600 1252 815
Durham 4594 4116 3658 2841 1767 1445
Dyfed Powys 2974 2610 2307 1643 1584 1165
Essex 10763 10006 7739 5870 4237 3931
Gloucestershire 3035 2435 1516 1412 1268 920
Greater Manchester *** *** *** 10903 7807 6144
Gwent 3185 2871 2503 2163 1698 1569
Hampshire 10458 9436 8245 6533 5091 3929
Hertfordshire 5366 4995 3948 1809 2478 1776
Humberside 6607 6272 5751 2067 2732 2008
Kent 10157 10089 7505 6409 4412 4602
Lancashire 11115 10511 9779 5476 4158 3201
Leicestershire 3752 3603 3322 2865 2252 1670
Lincolnshire *** *** *** 1918 1290 1027
Merseyside 11330 11001 10197 8421 6213 5066
Metropolitan 49292 46546 46079 39901 30155 26442
Norfolk 3341 2772 2510 2201 1316 1384
North Wales 5559 4567 3420 2596 2022 1780
North Yorkshire 6240 5269 4566 3904 1152 1556
Northamptonshire 3069 2757 2594 2177 1660 1289
Northumbria 16460 13717 11407 9280 6983 5990
Nottinghamshire 7008 6114 5743 4640 2989 2189
South Wales* 7087 6485 5659 4584 3166 3245
South Yorkshire 8974 7439 6235 5094 3344 2693
Staffordshire Police 5219 4438 4163 3316 2491 1741
Suffolk Police 4840 4376 3716 1684 1383 1092
Surrey Police 2913 2287 1955 1974 1483 1524
Sussex Police 7081 6653 5779 4564 4423 4018
Thames Valley Police 12288 10297 8012 6539 2531**** 3808
Warwickshire Police 2147 1774 1419 1050 673 623
West Mercia Police 7580 6458 5491 3442 2664 1758
West Midlands 23105 18397 14387 10487 7484 7213
West Yorkshire 19706 16233 12947 10600 7492 6148
Wiltshire 2395 2751 2262 1997 1596 1079
Total 318,053 282,077 246,480 206,402 149,983 1

*new updated figures supplied for all years – will be different from previously printed information

**half of the 2012 figures lost when new system was introduced.

***Police force did not supply data

****data limited to the period 15 May to 31 December 2012; the introduction of a new custody management database meant the force was unable to extract data from the system

Contact

Rob Preece
Press Officer
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

For enquiries outside normal office hours, please call +44 (0)7918 681094.

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