3,300 children arrested by Devon and Cornwall police in a year
A CHARITY has revealed Devon and Cornwall Police arrested more than 3,300 children last year.
A report from the Howard League for Penal Reform showed the force had arrested children aged 17 or under at an average rate of 64 a week.
The figure for 2011, which was the arrest of 3,363 girls and boys, does represent a steady decline over the past four years.
In 2008, the force arrested 5,495 children while in 2009 and 2010 officers arrested 4757 and 4132 respectively.
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The Howard League said it was pleased with the figures coming from Devon and Cornwall as it continued its own campaign to reduce the number of child arrests.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:
"Children who get into trouble are more often than not just being challenging teenagers and how we respond to this nuisance behaviour could make a difference for the rest of their lives.
"An arrest can blight a life and lead to a criminal record for just being naughty. The positive change in policing children will release resources to deal with real crimes.
"Only a handful of children are involved in more serious incidents and they usually suffer from neglect, abuse or mental health issues.
"A commitment to public safety means treating them as vulnerable children and making sure they get the help they need to mature into law-abiding citizens."
The charity's research has revealed that on the national scale, more than 2,000 children aged as young as 10 and 11 were arrested during 2011. Girls accounted for a fifth of the children arrested in England and Wales since 2008 – said to be more than a million – but overall there is a national downward trend in the arrest rate. Ms Crook said: "The fact that the number of child arrests across England and Wales has fallen by a third since 2008 is a testament to a change of culture, more focused on public safety than targets."
The campaign's success and the way forward to further reduce the number of children arrested will be discussed at the Howard League's Policing and Children Conference in Birmingham this week.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: "There are instances where it is or may be necessary to arrest a younger person to prevent or investigate crime or to stop an individual putting themselves or other members of the public at risk of harm.
"All police forces use out-of-court disposals to deal with offences where appropriate and these figures do show a declining trend in the number of young people being arrested and brought into the criminal justice system.
"However, in certain circumstances, for example perhaps late at night, when someone is under the influence of drink or drugs or otherwise incapable or when we cannot locate a young person's parents or appropriate carer, then taking them into custody may can be the only option available."