Arrests of children by Lancashire Police have fallen by 71 per cent in five years, figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform have revealed.
Research shows that the number of arrests in Lancashire dropped from 11,115 in 2008 to 3,201 in 2013.
It follows a successful Howard League campaign aimed at keeping as many children as possible out of the criminal justice system.
Police services across the country have reviewed their arrest procedures and policies as a result of the charity’s engagement with them.
However, despite this positive trend, child arrests remain all too common nationwide – a child was arrested every four minutes in England and Wales in 2013.
Last year, police in England and Wales made 129,274 arrests of children aged 17 and under. These included 1,107 arrests of children who were aged 10 or 11, meaning that on average three primary school-age children were arrested every day.
In 2013 the total number of child arrests was as high as 318,053 – equivalent to an arrest every 99 seconds.
In total, police made more than 1.3m arrests of children between January 2008 and December 2013.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It is encouraging to see that Lancashire Police are making significantly fewer arrests of children than they were in 2008, thanks in part to our effective campaigning.
“Most police services in England and Wales have developed successful local initiatives that resolve issues quickly and cheaply, involve victims in the justice process and, crucially, avoid criminalising boys and girls.
“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.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 – the lowest age of criminal responsibility in Western Europe.
A spokesperson for Lancashire Police said: “We are pleased with the reduction which we have worked very hard to try to achieve.
“We will always try to find an alternative to children spending time in custody if that can be achieved without compromising any investigation.
“Detentions of both children and adults in police custody are reviewed regularly to ensure that they are being held in accordance with the law and not for any longer than required.
“These figures represent a positive change in our focus and practice as well as reflecting some positive changes in behaviour by young people.
“Having fewer children in police custody can only be a good thing.”