Child arrests by Bedfordshire Police reduced by 64 per cent Image:Howard League for Penal Reform

The Howard League has been working with police forces to reduce arrests of children

The Howard League for Penal Reform has said that arrests of children by Bedfordshire Police have been reduced by 64 per cent since the charity began a campaign to keep boys and girls out of the criminal justice system.

For the last decade, the Howard League has been working with police forces across England and Wales to reduce arrests of children, helping to ensure that hundreds of thousands of boys and girls do not have their lives blighted by a criminal record.

The charity’s latest research briefing, Child arrests in England and Wales 2019, published today (Monday 14 December 2020) shows that there has been a 71 per cent reduction nationwide in the number of arrests of children aged 17 and under, from 245,763 in 2010 to 71,885 in 2019.

Every police force in England and Wales has achieved a reduction in arrests over this period, with all but three reducing their arrest rate by more than half.

Bedfordshire Police made 663 arrests of children in 2019. This compares to the 1,853 arrests recorded by the force back in 2010, when the Howard League campaign began.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:

“Every child deserves the chance to grow and fulfil their potential, and we must do all we can to ensure that they are not held back by a criminal record.

“The Howard League’s programme to reduce child arrests has shown what can be achieved by working together. Police forces have diverted resources to tackling serious crime instead of arresting children unnecessarily, and this means hundreds of thousands of boys and girls can look forward to a brighter future.

“After a successful decade spent embedding good practice across England and Wales, the challenge now is to keep up the momentum and reduce arrests still further. The Howard League will continue to support forces to make communities safer and allow more children to thrive.”

Child arrest figures for Bedfordshire Police (data supplied by the Howard League for Penal Reform)

Year Arrests
2010 1,853
2016 1,085
2017 943
2018 682
2019 663

Bedfordshire Police was approached for a comment.

Academic research has shown that each contact a child has with the criminal justice system drags them deeper into it, leading to more crime. This is why the Howard League is working to keep as many boys and girls as possible out of the system in the first place.

The figures published today reveal that, after eight successive years of significant reductions, the number of child arrests in England and Wales remained low in 2019, increasing only slightly from the 70,482 recorded in 2018.

Although 22 police forces recorded increases in child arrests between 2018 and 2019, their numbers were much lower than when the Howard League’s campaign began in 2010.

A significant number of forces reported that the rise was believed to be, at least in part, related to operations to tackle county lines.

The lack of experience and training of frontline officers also appears to be a significant issue. One chief constable told the Howard League that 80 per cent of his force’s frontline response team had less than two years’ experience. This could be an issue for many forces given the current drive to recruit 20,000 more officers nationwide.

The charity has encouraged forces to analyse their data and investigate how arrests could be reduced in future. Child arrests in England and Wales 2019 can be read on the Howard League website.