Police in England and Wales arrest a child every two and a half minutes

The Howard League for Penal Reform sent out a press release yesterday which points out that the police in England and Wales arrested a child every two and a half minutes last year.

But looking at the detail in the release what is clear is that there have been significantly fewer children being arrested than there were a few years ago.  In fact the numbers being arrested have fallen by a third in that time.

Child arrests in England and Wales 2009 - 11

The CEO of the Howard League, Frances Crook, argues:

Only a handful of children are involved in more serious incidents and they usually suffer from neglect, abuse or mental health issues.  A commitment to public safety means treating them as vulnerable children and making sure they get the help they need to mature into law-abiding citizens.

I thought this may be of interest to us because of the work we’re doing with Alcohol Concern about entry into the criminal justice system as a result of alcohol misuse in London.  The London figures (below) show a similar downward trend (if less pronounced) in the use of arrest.

Arrests in London 2008-11

What isn’t clear is what alternatives to arrest are being used by authorities to deal with those at risk of entering the criminal justice system, or whether there have been the sorts of drops in criminality that these figures suggest, or whether the changes to the performance management regime mean that the police are no longer incentivised to arrest young people.