Child arrests down 59% in five years across Welsh forces

Teenager in handcuffs Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The Howard League wants the age of criminal responsibility raised from 10 to 14

Child arrests in Wales have fallen by almost 60% in the past five years, new figures show.

In 2008 police across Wales' four forces made a total of 18,805 arrests, compared with 7,759 in 2013.

The Howard League for Penal Reform said several forces had reviewed their arrest policies as a result of the charity's work with them.

But despite the downward trend it said child arrests remained "all too common" nationwide.

Figures released by the charity show police in England and Wales made more than 1.3m child arrests between January 2008 and December 2013.

Last year, officers made 129,274 arrests of children aged 17 and under - 1,107 of which involved children aged 10 or 11.

In Wales the overall drop was 58%.

  • South Wales police had 7,078 arrests in 2008, down to 3,245 in 2013, a percentage drop of 54%
  • Gwent police had 3,185 arrests in 2008, down to 1,569 in 2013, a percentage drop of 51%
  • North Wales police had 5,559 arrests in 2008, down to 1,780 in 2013, a percentage drop of 68%
  • Dyfed Powys police had 2,974 arrests in 2008, down to 1,165 in 2013, a percentage drop of 61%

The Howard League has been campaigning to keep as many children as possible out of the criminal justice system.

The charity's chief executive, Frances Crook, said most forces were now resolving issues quickly and involving victims in the justice process without criminalising children where possible.

"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," she said.

"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.

Chief Inspector Ian Jones from North Wales Police said: "The arrest of a child or young person is an absolute last resort and we will continue to work tirelessly with the Welsh Government, the Youth Justice Board and other key service providers to seek further opportunities to reduce first time entrants into the criminal justice system and break the cycle of those already within it."

The Howard League has called for the age to be raised to 14, in line with the European average.

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