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
Notes to editors
- 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.
- The Howard League for Penal Reform requested freedom of information data from all police services in England and Wales.
- More information about the research can be found in a Howard League briefing paper.
- 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.
- 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|
|British Transport Police||1461||1399|
|City of London||274||251||273||192||136||122|
|Devon and Cornwall||5495||4757||4132||2398||1431|
|Thames Valley Police||12288||10297||8012||6539||2531****||3808|
|West Mercia Police||7580||6458||5491||3442||2664||1758|
*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
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