Drop in number of child arrests – but experts say figure remains too high

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ARRESTS of children in the Northumbria Police force area have fallen by 64 per cent in five years, new figures today reveal.

Research shows the number of arrests dropped from 16,460 in 2008 to 5,990 in 2013.

In the Durham area, child arrests fell from 4,594 in 2008 to 1,445 last year, according to the Howard League for Penal Reform.

However, despite this positive trend, the organisation claims child arrests remain too common nationwide – a child was arrested every four minutes in England and Wales in 2013.

Last March, the Echo reported how a 17-year-old was arrested and admitted sexually abusing a five-year-old girl he had been babysitting.

The teen had originally denied touching the child while she was in his care.

He was given a two-year restraining order, banning the him from going near the victim, her parents or their home. The 17-year-old was also told he must register as a sex offender, and given a 12-month referral order.

Assistant Chief Constable Winton Keenen, of Northumbria Police, said: “These reductions show how we continue to be proactive in developing multi-agency solutions that do not automatically necessitate arresting younger people, although sometimes it is necessary; either for their protection or the protection of others.

“One of many examples of the kind of alternatives we are using includes schemes on Friday and Saturday nights and on other occasions when there is potential for disorder.

“We also work closely with partner agencies, including the local authority, schools and the voluntary sector, to provide alternative activities for young people to deter them away from crime and disorder and to find solutions that do not necessitate arresting and detaining younger people.”

Arrests of children by Durham Police fell by 69 per cent in the five year period.

Children in England and Wales can be arrested by police from the age of 10 – the lowest age of criminal responsibility in Western Europe.

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 2013 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 Northumbria Police are making significantly fewer arrests of children than they were in 2008, thanks in part to our effective campaigning.

“Most police services in England and Wales 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.”

Child arrest figures for Northumbria:

2008: 16,460

2009: 13,717

2010: 11,407

2011: 9,280

2012: 6,983

2013: 5,990

Child arrest figures for Durham:

2008: 4,594

2009: 4,116

2010: 3,658

2011: 2,841

2012: 1,767

2013: 1,445