70% drop in number of children arrested since 2010

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70% drop in number of children arrested since 2010

Old Bailey: the central criminal court of England and Wales

The number of children arrested in England and Wales has reduced by more than 70% in the last eight years, according to research published by the Howard League for Penal Reform.

In 2010 almost 250,000 children aged 17 years and under were arrested across England and Wales; each year the number has declined year on year to just over 70,000 arrests in 2018. The report also revealed that during the same period, the number of children in prison was also reduced by 63%. Arrests of primary school-age children (10 and 11 years old) in 2018 also showed a significant reduction of 38% compared to 2017 – a total of 383 arrests.

‘Tens of thousands of children can look forward to a brighter future without their lives being blighted by police contact and a criminal record,’ said Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League. ‘Police forces up and down the country have diverted resources to tackling serious crime instead of arresting naughty children. This will make communities safer, and the Howard League is proud to have played its part. Building on this success and reducing the number of arrests still further would allow even more children to thrive.’

The Howard League launched a campaign in 2010 with the aim of tackling the high rates of child arrests teaming up with police forces across England and Wales in investigating measures to allow children to avoid entering the criminal justice system in the first place. According to the charity, ‘each contact a child has with the criminal justice system drags them deeper into it’.

The Metropolitan Police force alone reduced the number of arrests of children made by 22% between 2017 and 2018, from 17,672 to 13,791 arrests in the year. This was an overall reduction of 70% on 2010.

The report shows that other forces across the country also recorded notable reductions between 2017 and 2018: Gwent (38%), Bedfordshire (28%), Cumbria (27%), North Wales (24%), Kent (23 per cent), Cleveland (19%), West Mercia (19%) and Durham (18%).


Child arrest figures for England and Wales

  • 2010: 245,763
  • 2011: 202,961
  • 2012: 150,062
  • 2013: 131,718
  • 2014: 115,444
  • 2015: 101,678
  • 2016: 87,525
  • 2017: 79,012
  • 2018: 70,078