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Move towards “child-centred” policing sees arrests fall by 59 per cent

10 Oct 2016

Arrests of children in England and Wales have fallen by 59 per cent over the last five years, according to figures gathered by the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Every police force made fewer child arrests in 2015 than in 2010 and thirty-four forces brought down their number of child arrests by more than half, including 10 who achieved reductions of more than 70 per cent.

Commenting on the reduction, the Howard League for Penal Reform - a charity which works for less crime and fewer people in prison - praised the “concerted effort” of police and put the change down to the better use of resources, the removal national targets, improved staff training and support from communities.

It follows news last month that the use of police cells as a “place of safety” for mentally unwell children fell by more than 80 per cent over two years.

In 2015, the National Police Chiefs’ Council published a new three-year Strategy for the Policing of Children and Young People, which champions a “child-centred” approach and lists the “detention, custody and criminalisation” of young people as a priority area. The foreword to the document states that:

“Children and young people are not ‘mini-adults’ and the better our policing is for them now, the less they may need us in the future. Every interaction leaves a mark and we need to think carefully about what sort of mark that is.”

Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney, the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Children and Young People, said:

“The 58 percent reduction is really good news and shows what we can do when we focus on intervening early and preventing harm before it happens. I would like to thank our officers, staff, volunteers and policing partners across the country for their hard work so far. Children are children first and should never be criminalised unnecessarily.”

Child arrest figures for England and Wales (aged 17 and under)

2010: 245,763
2011: 202,961
2012: 150,600
2013: 131,673
2014: 112,031
2015: 101,926


For more information and police force data visit the Howard League for Penal Reform website:

The NPCC National Strategy for the Policing of Children and Young People is available to read

Data on Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 2015/16 was published by the NPCC in September: