Arrests of children by Lincolnshire Police have fallen by 59 per cent in the last six years, figures published by the Howard League for Penal Reform have revealed.
Research by the charity has found that the force made 779 arrests of children aged 17 and under last year, down from 1,911 in 2011.
Out of the 44 forces in England and Wales, this places Lincolnshire as 10th lowest. There has been a national drop of 60 per cent in the arrest figures since 2011.
Assistant Chief Constable Kerrin Wilson said: “I’m pleased to see the dramatic drop in our numbers because it demonstrates the effectiveness of our partnership working and shows that we’re making real positive changes in the way we approach child arrests.
“We now have a well-developed partnership arrangement in this county. In essence, this means we give children a chance to take responsibility for bad behaviour without criminalising them. We have a chance to engage young minds and offer people an alternative, which will hopefully lead them towards making good choices.
“In 2017, the local authority and police launched a joint protocol aimed at reducing criminalisation of children. In 2016 913 arrests were made, that dropped to 779 in 2017. We have police officers working embedded with the Youth Offending Service, and have seen the successful expansion of the ‘Joint Diversionary Panel’, which ensures that all children who come into contact with the criminal justice system are dealt with proportionately and, where possible, diverted away from formal criminal justice sanctions.
“This mainly involves using out of court disposals and figures for 2017/18 compared to 2016/17 have shown a drop of 49 per cent of children going into the criminal justice system. This is entirely right because not only can alternative restorative solutions change behaviours and prevent offending but we also know from feedback from victims that this a positive approach.
“This joint protocol has also examined cases involving looked after children, who have traditionally been over-represented as offenders. The protocol gives agencies and care homes alike the tools and guidance to deal with children and provide meaningful positive interventions to ensure that children do not become unnecessarily involved in the Criminal Justice System.”
ACC Wilson added: “This work has been implemented against a backdrop of well-established and successful partnership arrangements, with the strong leadership of the Lincolnshire Children’s Safeguarding Board, Children’s Services and Youth Offending Service from Lincolnshire County Council, and Lincolnshire Police.
“We will continue this partnership work to ensure that we are always assessing and addressing how we deal with children and reach a resolution that is in the interests of the individuals themselves and the wider public.”
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is the seventh year in a row that we have seen a significant reduction in the number of child arrests across England and Wales, and Lincolnshire Police’s positive approach has contributed to that transformation.
“It is a phenomenal achievement by the police and the Howard League, and it means that tens of thousands of children will have a brighter future without their life chances being blighted by unnecessary police contact and criminal records.
“We have come a long way, but there is still more work to do. The Howard League has launched a programme to end the criminalisation of children in residential care, and our research also highlights the need for better understanding of child criminal exploitation. Children who have been trafficked to commit crime should be seen as victims first and foremost.”
Some core work areas from Lincolnshire Police’s initiative have included:
* The delivery by the Children’s Services manager of joint training with custody staff.
* There are now two established posts for constables seconded full time into Youth Offending Services (YOS).
* ARC (Assisting Rehabilitation through Collaboration) works with the YOS constables on the most prolific youth offenders, and is effective at reducing reoffending.
Child arrest figures for Lincolnshire Police