Arrests of children by Cleveland Police falls dramatically – but pressure is on to keep figure down

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ARRESTS of children by Cleveland Police have fallen by 62 per cent in five years, according to figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Research shows that the number of arrests dropped from 4,882 in 2008 to 1,862 in 2013.

It follows a successful Howard League campaign aimed at keeping as many children as possible out of the criminal justice system.

Police forces across the country have reviewed their arrest procedures and policies as a result of the charity’s engagement.

But, despite this positive trend, they say child arrests remain all too common nationwide – with a child 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 2013 the total number of child arrests was 318,053 – equivalent to an arrest every 99 seconds.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It is encouraging to see that Cleveland Police are making significantly fewer arrests of children than they were in 2008, thanks in part to our effective campaigning.

“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.

Cleveland Police’s Acting Assistant Chief Constable Ciaron Irvine said: “Crime has fallen over previous years and, as a result, arrests have fallen overall.

“A number of changes have been implemented at a national level with the aim of diverting young people away from the criminal justice system and not unnecessarily criminalising them.

“One such change has encouraged officers to consider alternative ways of dealing with offenders and a larger proportion are now being dealt without recourse to arrest. This has particularly impacted children and young people. We are also committed to working with partners in education and social care to promote approaches which do not result in arrest where it is not needed.

“Cleveland Police has adopted the use of restorative justice to deal with first-time offenders under the age of 18 for certain offences, an initiative which is now extended across all age groups.

“This means that crimes are still recorded, but the offender can be given the opportunity to right their wrong and be subject to a restorative intervention – often involving an apology to the victim and a commitment to change their behaviour.”