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Scrapped Police Targets See Less Children Arrested in Dorset

Dorset Police Car 2

8:27am 27th May 2014

There's been a dramatic fall in the number of children being arrested by Dorset Police.

According to the Howard League of Penal Reform child arrests in the county have dropped by 74% over the last 5 years.

Research shows 3,173 under 17's were detained in 2008, compared to 815 in 2013.

Andrew Neilson from the Howard League Of Penal Reform says the high numbers were due to Police arrest targets which have now been removed.

"You could round up some kids on the streets late in the evening, and make quite a few arrests, whereas spending a bit more of police time of the local drug dealer or burglar will only get you one arrest.  Luckily these targets have now gone."

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "It is encouraging to see that Dorset 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."

Dorset Police gave this statement to Wessex FM:

"As long ago as 2007 Dorset Police identified that worrying high numbers of children and young persons were being arrested and finding themselves entering the criminal justice system for what were in many instances very minor offences.

"In response and together with one of the local Youth Offending teams in 2008 Dorset Police piloted a Restorative Justice Scheme for young offenders, where they were required to face up to their offending by meeting with the victim. The pilot proved very successful particularly with the victims involved and in successive years the scheme was introduced across Dorset."

"The reduction in arrests does not mean that we are not dealing with these young person's offending behaviour, and together with the Youth Offending Teams we have managed many Restorative Justice Conferences in Dorset where young offenders met with the victims of their crimes and were held personally to account for their actions."

"We continue to monitor and evaluate our approach to dealing with young offenders. We recognise that many of these offenders are potentially vulnerable and the Youth Offending Teams are involved right from the outset, with extensive background checks being made to ensure that the appropriate support is given to vulnerable offenders."

"Dorset Police and Dorset Youth Offending Teams are very proud of the massive reductions we have achieved in the numbers of children and young persons being brought into custody. For some young offenders it will remain entirely appropriate to arrest them, but where we can address young people's offending without bringing them into custody we will."

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