A SIGNIFICANT number of those arrested over the disorder in West Yorkshire during the August disturbances were children, according to Home Office figures.
Nationally around one quarter of those arrested during the rioting were aged between 10 and 17 but in West Yorkshire the proportion was 44 per cent and included boys as young as 14.
The figures, released yesterday in a Home Office report, revealed that 70 arrests were made following disorder in Chapeltown, Leeds and Huddersfield. Most of the arrests, 56, were in Huddersfield.
Of those 70, 19 per cent were thought to have some involvement in a gang – a higher proportion that the national average of 13 per cent.
Some of the figures have been disputed by West Yorkshire Police.
A police spokesman pointed out that a total of 74 arrests were made and, of those, nineteen were 17 and under.
West Yorkshire Assistant Chief Constable John Parkinson said: “The incidents seen within our communities cannot be compared with other areas of the country, either in terms of the size and scale of disorder or the number of people arrested.
“When you consider that many of the incidents involved small groups of people within close-knit communities, it is perhaps inevitable that those involved may share common experiences, values and beliefs.
“However, it is extremely difficult to identify why some people within these groups identify themselves as members of a ‘gang’, as opposed to the majority within those very same communities who did not become involved in disorder and worked closely with ourselves to prevent incidents.
“Community spirit and partnership working quickly brought a halt to the disorder, and we continue working closely with local residents and partners to tackle the underlying issues which led to these incidents.”
Most police forces found that fewer than one in 10 of those arrested over the August riots were gang members and gangs “generally did not play a pivotal role” in the disturbances, the report said.
Even in London, where gang membership among those arrested was highest at 19 per cent, most of those held were not in gangs, the Home Office figures showed.
“In terms of the role gangs played in the disorder, most forces perceived that where gang members were involved, they generally did not play a pivotal role,” officials said.
But more than a third of young people aged 10 to 17 who were involved in the riots had been excluded from school during 2009-10, other figures released by the Ministry of Justice showed.
This compared with just six per cent of all Year 11 pupils.
Two-thirds of young people in the riots also had special educational needs, compared with a fifth of all pupils.
And two-fifths were in receipt of free school meals, compared with less than a fifth of secondary school pupils, the figures showed.
The findings appear to contradict top Tory Iain Duncan Smith’s claim earlier this month that gangs played a “significant part” in August’s riots.
The Work and Pensions Secretary said tackling Britain’s “violent gang culture” was vital.
In terms of ethnicity, 46 per cent of those in court were from black or mixed black backgrounds, 42 per cent were white, seven per cent were Asian and five per cent were classified as “other”.