A huge fall in the number of children arrested by police in Lancashire has today been welcomed.
New figures show Lancashire Police arrested 3,201 juveniles last year – a drop of 71 per cent compared to five years ago.
Police have the power to arrest children as young as 10, but efforts to curb the practice have seen the number of detentions fall steadily since 2008.
The figures were today released by the Howard Centre for Penal Reform, who praised the Lancashire force for its efforts to keep youngsters out of the justice system.
Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw also welcomed the news.
He said: “Arresting someone is a decision which is made by police officers on an individual basis for a variety of reasons, in accordance with the law.
“It is not a decision which is taken lightly – particularly when officers are dealing with young people.
“However, in Lancashire, we are working hard to drive forward an early intervention approach, which will see agencies get the help they need to people before they reach crisis point.
“This is particularly important for young people and it is hoped this approach will prevent them from entering the criminal justice system and lead to better outcomes both for them and for society as a whole.”
Across the country, arrests of children have fallen by 59 per cent, something campaigners say leaves police free to deal with more serious offences.
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.”