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Child arrest figures drop across Staffordshire

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LESS children in Staffordshire are being arrested after officers covering Uttoxeter saw a 67 per cent drop in the last five years, it has been revealed.

The latest research from the Howard League for Penal Reform has found that the number of arrests across the county dropped from 5,219 in 2008 to 1,741 in 2013.

Staffordshire Police said the drop was down to a wide range of local interventions available to deal with young people who are responsible for crime.

Chief Inspector Karl Fellows, head of custody for West Midlands and Staffordshire Police, said: “We work closely with partners to address offending and offending behaviour. Each case continues to be dealt with on its individual circumstances.

“We are keen to ensure that those young people who are involved in criminality are dealt with appropriately and proportionately. When arrest is necessary then every effort is made to keep young people detained separately from adult suspects.

“Alternatives to arrest such as community resolution and restorative justice have played a part in the reduction of the number of arrests of young people. In these cases by involving victims in the justice process, issues can be resolved more quickly.

“With our partners we are continuing to strive to reduce offending and re-offending.”

The results also follow a successful Howard League campaign aimed at keeping as many children as possible out of the criminal justice system.

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

However, despite this positive trend, the charity said child arrests remain all too common nationwide – a child was 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 2008 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 1.3 million 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 Staffordshire Police is 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.

“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.

Child arrest figures for Staffordshire found there were 5,219 in 2008, 4,438 in 2009, 4,163 in 2010, 3,316 in 2011, 2,491 in 2012 and 1,741 in 2013.

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