Arrests of girls by Cleveland Police have fallen by 32 per cent in three years, figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform revealed today.
Cleveland officers made 568 arrests of girls aged 17 and younger during 2011 – a significant drop compared to 2008, when 837 arrests were recorded.
It comes after the Howard League launched a campaign aimed at keeping as many children as possible out of the criminal justice system.
Across England and Wales, police arrest almost 100 girls a day, although the overall number has almost halved in three years.
Police recorded more than 34,000 arrests in 2011, compared with more than 62,000 in 2008.
Several police services in England and Wales have reviewed their arrest procedures and policies as a result of the Howard League’s engagement with them.
Alex Cunningham, the Member of Parliament for Stockton North, said:
“It is good news that fewer girls are being arrested across the Cleveland police area. The Howard League have done very good work in raising awareness of the amount of children currently in the criminal justice system, and offer challenges to all police across the country including Cleveland to do more to keep young girls out of the criminal justice system wherever possible.
“We must also recognise how many children are the victims of crime, and make sure that they are protected and it is important that the right strategies are developed to do that.
“I look forward to discussing the figures with our own chief constable, Jackie Cheer, who is the Association of Chief Police Officers lead council member on children and young people.”
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:
“It is encouraging to see that Cleveland Police are making fewer arrests of girls than they were in 2008, thanks in part to our effective campaigning. A significant 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.
“Our evidence shows that the police were arresting girls completely unnecessarily when they were out partying, often with the mistaken intention of protecting them. Now the police are handing out flip-flops and helping the girls home, a much more sensible response.
“There are a very few girls who have welfare needs such as poverty and substance misuse, or are victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Rather than being criminalised, these girls need protection from serious harm and support to help them mature into law-abiding citizens.
“The challenge for police services now is to maintain this trend of arresting fewer children. Only last week the Commons Justice Committee reported that too many children were being criminalised for trivial incidents, so it is remarkable that, although only 50 girls in the whole country are considered to have committed such serious crimes to merit custody, police carried out more than 34,000 arrests during 2011.
“Reducing the number of arrests still further would release resources to deal with real crimes.”
Fourteen police services recorded a fall in arrests of more than 50 per cent. They were Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Humberside, Lancashire, Northumbria, Suffolk, Thames Valley, Warwickshire, West Midlands and West Yorkshire.
Only one police service, City of London, recorded an increase.
The statistics were published following a year-long inquiry on girls conducted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System. The inquiry found that responding to teenage girls’ behaviour too harshly or disproportionately can make it more likely that they will be drawn further into the justice system, leading to more serious problems.
Last December, the Howard League published data which showed that the total number of children – boys and girls – arrested by police had fallen by a third between 2008 and 2011.
In total, more than one million child arrests have been made in England and Wales since 2008.
Girls’ arrest figures for Cleveland Police