Arrests of girls aged 17 and under still falling says charity

Fewer girls aged 17 and under are being arrested by police forces in Wales, according to the Howard League.

The penal reform charity claims the change follows a campaign aimed at keeping as many children as possible out of the criminal justice system.

Across the four police forces in Wales, 1,644 girls were arrested in 2011 compared to 2,895 in 2008.

Across England and Wales around 100 girls under 17 years of age are arrested every day.

Police in England and Wales made more than 34,000 arrests of girls aged 17 and younger during 2011, whereas three years earlier in 2008 more than 62,000 arrests were recorded.

"It is encouraging to see that police are making almost half as many arrests of girls as they were in 2008, thanks in part to our effective campaigning," said Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform.

"A significant fall in the number of children entering the justice system is good news for everyone striving to reduce crime and save the taxpayer untold millions."

The charity says its evidence shows the police were arresting girls "unnecessarily" when they were out partying "often with the mistaken intention of protecting them".

"Now the police are handing out flip-flops and helping the girls home, a much more sensible response."

Ms Crook said there are very few girls who have welfare needs such as poverty and substance misuse, or are victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

"Rather than being criminalised these girls need protection from serious harm and support to help them mature into law-abiding citizens."

She added that the challenge now was for police services to maintain the trend for arresting fewer children.

"Reducing the number of arrests still further would release resources to deal with real crime," Ms Crook added.

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