Fall in number of children arrested

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FEWER children than ever before are ending up behind bars – but youngsters in Blackpool are still finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.

A new report has shown the number of youngsters being arrested in the county has plummeted, with half as many children ending up in cells last year than in 2008.

But the figure still stands at an average of 105 a week, and in the last month alone children across Blackpool have been in trouble with the law for incidents ranging from tyre slashings to flashings.

A 17-year-old was charged after dozens of tyres were slashed in the Normoss area, a 16-year-old pleaded guilty last month to aggravated vehicle taking after problems with moped thefts on the Mereside estate and a 15-year-old was arrested last week after two children were flashed in Layton cemetery.

And just yesterday The Gazette revealed a thief as young as 10 had stolen £1,500 from a convenience store after breaking into the safe.

But Lancashire Police said age is not a factor in who they arrest if they are responsible for a crime.

A spokesman for the force added: “As with adults, detention of children in custody is authorised for a number of reasons, including to further a criminal investigation, to uncover the identity of any suspects or because the disappearance of that person would hinder any prosecution.

“The rules for the detention of suspects are set down in law and on every occasion must be authorised by a custody officer.

“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 for police investigations.”

In 2011 Lancashire’s officers made 5,476 arrests of boys and girls aged 17 and under.

Overall, the number of arrests has dropped each year since 2008, when 11,115 children were arrested.

And Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, which is campaigning to reduce child arrests, said: “It is very pleasing to see that Lancashire Police is arresting fewer children than it has in the past.

“I hope this trend continues.

“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.”

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