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Child arrests down after campaign

Worcester Editorial 29th May, 2014 Updated: 19th Oct, 2016

THE NUMBER of children arrested in the area has fallen by almost 80 per cent, new figures have revealed.

Data obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform showed the amount of 17s and under being arrested by West Mercia Police dropped from 7,580 in 2008 to 1,758 in 2013.

It follows a campaign by the charity to keep children out of the criminal justice system which called for forces across the country to review their arrest procedures and policies.

Youngsters in England and Wales can be arrested from the age of ten – the lowest age of criminal responsibility in Western Europe.

But the Howard League has called for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 14 in line with the European average.

A spokesman from West Mercia Police said the drop was the result of changes to the way the force responds to incidents involving children.

This included a response to allegations and recognition police should not seek to criminalise young people unnecessarily.

Using Restorative Justice and Community Resolution outcomes where the victims and offenders work together to find a resolution – also helped to reduce arrests.

Gareth Morgan, assistant chief constable, said: “Across West Mercia Police we encourage our officers to use their judgement and discretion when considering the range of options available to respond to a crime or incident in a proportionate way, no matter how old the people involved are.

“If allegations involve a young person a careful balance needs to be made between arriving at the right outcome for the victim whilst ensuring that the child has an opportunity to show remorse, learn from their mistakes and, with the appropriate support, move forward in a constructive way.”

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said it was encouraging to see the force were making fewer arrests of children.

“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.”

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