Child arrests drop by 59% cent in five years
The number of arrests of young people aged 17 and under has dropped sharply by 59% in the last five years, according to the Howard League for Penal Reform. The group links the fall in child arrest rates to targeted efforts by police forces across the country to review their arrest procedures and policies following a campaign to keep as many under 18s as possible out of the criminal justice system.
The Howard League briefing – Child Arrests in England and Wales 2015 – reveals a dramatic fall in the number of boys and girls aged 17 and under who were arrested by police in England and Wales in the five-year period, from 245,763 in 2010 to just 101,926 in 2015.
According to the group, every police force in England and Wales now made fewer arrests of boys and girls in 2015 than in 2010. Thirty-four forces reduced the number of child arrests made by more than half, and 10 managed to cut the number by more than 70%. They also showed that the number of primary-age children (10- and 11-year-olds) arrested in 2015 had reduced by 19% based on the figures from 2014.
The briefing showed how reducing the number of children entering the criminal justice system has had a substantial effect on the number of children in custody. It highlighted a similar drop for the number of children in prison in England and Wales which fell by 58% between 2010 and 2015, decreasing at the same rate as child arrests.
The Howard League’s chief exec Frances Crook ‘applauded’ the police for ‘their success in reducing child arrests’. ‘It is particularly gratifying that the reduction in child arrests matches exactly the reduction in custody for children, and it is no coincidence,’ she said. ‘We have stemmed the flow of children into the justice system and the consequential downward spiral into crime and custody.’
The group attributes the drop in arrest rates to better use of resources when solving problems, the removal of national targets, improved staff training and increased community support.
While these results are positive, the Howard League also warned that work is still needed to ensure that under 18s are kept out of the criminal justice system. They highlighted that, although all police forces showed an overall decrease in arrests of boys and girls over the five-year period, 13 forces recorded an increase in child arrests last year, and that, across England and Wales, a child was arrested every five minutes in 2015.
Hannah is a paralegal at BSB Solictors and is currently completing the BPTC at University of Law in London. She is commissioning editor for the Justice Gap and tweets at @hnnhw3