New figures reveal 70 per cent fall in child arrests in Yorkshire and the Humber

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Arrests of children made by police across Yorkshire and the Humber have fallen by 70 per cent in the last six years, according to new figures.

Research published today by the Howard League for Penal Reform found the region’s four forces made 8,759 arrests of children aged 17 and under last year.

It marks a significant reduction since 2010 when the total stood at 29,458 and the charity began campaigning nationally to keep as many children as possible out of the criminal justice system.

However, it means there are still the equivalent of 24 such arrests made daily in the region.

The child arrests total for England and Wales has fallen by 64 per cent in six years, from 245,763 in 2010 to 87,525 in 2016.

Howard League chief executive Frances Crook said: “For the sixth year running, we have seen a significant reduction in child arrests across the country. This is a tremendous achievement, and we will continue to support police forces to develop their good practice and reduce the number to an absolute minimum.”

The charity’s Programme to Reduce Child Arrests is based on the belief that keeping children out of the criminal justice system helps to prevent crime.

Previous academic research has shown that the more contact a child has with the system, the more likely they are to reoffend.

Separate Youth Justice Board figures show the number of children in prison fell 58 per cent between 2010 and 2016.

In its report today, the Howard League said: “The rate of reduction in arrests and custody shows a clear relationship – if we reduce entrants to the system we stem the flow into custody.

“At a time when senior police officers have expressed concerns about having the resources to deal effectively with serious public safety incidents, such as terrorist attacks, it is welcome that valuable police time is not being wasted in pursuing the unnecessary criminalisation of children.

“It also means that tens of thousands of children have not been exposed to the harmful youth justice system and had their life chances blighted.”

The charity said the drive to reduce arrests of children across forces had been led at a national level, most notably by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).

In 2015, the NPCC published the ‘National Strategy for the Policing of Children and Young People’, which emphasised the importance of a proportionate and consistent response as well as avoiding unnecessary criminalisation if behaviour could be dealt with more appropriately through other means.

Nationwide, there were 703 arrests of primary-age children in 2016 – a reduction of 18 per cent from the previous year.

Every police force in England and Wales made fewer child arrests in 2016 than in 2010, and all but four forces more than halved their total number.

Regionally, the most significant reduction was recorded by South Yorkshire Police. Its arrests fell by 78 per cent, from 6,235 in 2010 to 1,396 last year.

Ms Crook said: “South Yorkshire Police should be applauded for their positive approach, and the Howard League is proud to have played its part in a transformation that will make our communities safer.

“By working together, we are ensuring that tens of thousands of children will have a brighter future and not be dragged into a downward spiral of crime and custody.”

But she stressed there was still more work to be done as two forces – one of which was Humberside – recorded slight increases in child arrests from 2015 to 2016.