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23 Nov 2015

Child arrests fall by 54 per cent in four years

Four Metropolitan Police officers stand on duty in Central London.

Arrests of children have fallen by 54 per cent in the last four years, police data obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today.

The figures confirm the continued success of a long-running Howard League programme of work to keep as many children as possible out of the criminal justice system.

Every police service in England and Wales made fewer child arrests in 2014 than in 2010, with some constabularies reducing their numbers by more than 70 per cent.

Several police services have reviewed their arrest procedures and policies as a result of the Howard League’s engagement with them.

Police made 245,763 arrests of children aged 17 and under during 2010, but that number has fallen every year since. There were 112,037 arrests during 2014, of which boys accounted for 83 per cent and girls accounted for 17 per cent.

The sharp reduction in arrests has led to a significant fall in the number of children in prison – down by 56 per cent since January 2010.

Due to improvements in recording practices, for the first time the Howard League is able to publish a briefing paper that includes a robust breakdown of child arrests by ethnicity for 2013 and 2014.

The figures show that BME children accounted for 23 per cent of all child arrests last year. The proportion of BME children in penal custody is much higher, however, and now stands at 42 per cent. This disparity, between the proportion of BME child arrests and the incarceration rate, raises questions for both the Crown Prosecution Service and the Youth Courts.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The Howard League has worked closely with police forces round the country to stem the flow of children being sucked into the criminal justice system. The fantastic success of our programme of work and the police improvement to their practices means that thousands of children have not had their life chances blighted. It is for parents and schools to deal with normal childish challenging behaviour, not the police. It is to the credit of the police that they have introduced restorative approaches and given front line officers discretion to make professional decisions.”

Child arrest figures for England and Wales:

2010: 245,763
2011: 202,961
2012: 149,983
2013: 131,403
2014: 112,037

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 made freedom of information requests for data from all police services in England and Wales.
  3. More information about the research can be found in the Howard League Child arrests in England and Wales 2014 briefing paper.
  4. Child arrest data from each police service in England and Wales is shown in the table below:
Police service area 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Avon and Somerset 7,255 5,608 4,321 2,929 2,342
Bedfordshire 1,853 1,692 1,770 1,390 1,290
British Transport Police* 1,461 1,399 1,366
Cambridgeshire 3,440 2,099 1,473 1,067 1,060
Cheshire 1,870 1,904 1,508 1,269 1,266
City of London 273 192 136 122 77
Cleveland 4,367 3,368 2,407 1,862 1,527
Cumbria 1,274 1,864 1,263 1,125 1,073
Derbyshire** 4,194 3,938 1,930 1,840
Devon and Cornwall 4,132 3,363 2,398 1,431 1,470
Dorset 2,310 1,053 1,252 815 770
Durham 3,658 2,841 1,767 1,445 1,493
Dyfed Powys 2,307 1,643 1,584 1,165 687
Essex 7,739 5,870 4,237 3,931 3,718
Gloucestershire 1,516 1,412 1,268 920 861
Greater Manchester*** 10,903 7,807 6,144 2,517
Gwent 2,503 2,163 1,698 1,569 980
Hampshire 8,267 6,533 5,091 6,058 3,192
Hertfordshire 3,948 1,809 2,478 1,776 1,753
Humberside 5,751 2,067 2,732 2,008 1,460
Kent 7,505 6,409 4,412 4,602 3,752
Lancashire 9,779 5,476 4,158 3,201 2,887
Leicestershire 3,322 2,685 2,252 1,670 1,553
Lincolnshire*** 1,911 1,290 1,027 990
Merseyside 10,197 8,421 6,213 5,066 5,295
Metropolitan 46,079 39,901 30,155 26,442 23,402
Norfolk 2,510 2,201 1,316 1,384 1,561
North Wales 3,420 2,596 2,022 1,780 1,554
North Yorkshire 4,525 3,644 1,152 1,556 1,445
Northamptonshire 2,594 2,177 1,660 1,289 1,270
Northumbria 11,407 9,280 6,983 5,990 5,280
Nottinghamshire 5,743 4,640 2,989 2,189 2,319
South Wales 5,659 2,551 3,166 3,245 2,978
South Yorkshire 6,235 5,094 3,344 2,693 2,285
Staffordshire Police 4,163 3,316 2,491 1,741 1,418
Suffolk Police 3,716 1,684 1,383 1,092 1,005
Surrey Police 1,955 1,974 1,483 1,524 1,624
Sussex Police 5,779 4,564 4,423 4,018 3,220
Thames Valley Police**** 8,012 6,539 2,531 3,808 3,225
Warwickshire Police 1,419 1,050 673 623 563
West Mercia Police 5,491 3,442 2,664 1,758 1,418
West Midlands 14,387 10,487 7,484 7,123 5,803
West Yorkshire 12,947 10,600 7,492 6,148 5,417
Wiltshire 2,262 1,997 1,596 1,079 1,031
Total 245,763 202,961 149,983 131,403 112,037

*British Transport Police was not sent FOI requests in 2010 and 2011.

**Half of Derbyshire Police’s figures for 2012 were lost when a new system was introduced.

***Greater Manchester Police and Lincolnshire Police were unable to supply data for 2010.

****Thames Valley Police’s data for 2012 is limited to the period 15 May to 31 December, as 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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