ARRESTS of children by Gwent Police have more than halved in five years, figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today.

The charity’s research shows that arrests in Gwent dropped from 3,185 in 2008 to 1,569 in 2013, a 51 per cent fall. The overall England and Wales fall was almost 60 per cent.

The league has campaigned to keep as many children as possible out of the criminal justice system, and police forces have reviewed arrest procedures and policies.

Last year, there were 129,274 arrests of children aged 17 and under, including more than 1,100 arrests of 10 or 11-year-olds.

“It is encouraging to see Gwent Police are making significantly fewer arrests of children than they were in 2008, thanks in part to our effective campaigning,” said the Howard League’s chief executive Frances Crook.

“Most police services 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.”

Children in England and Wales can be arrested by police from the age of 10, the lowest age of criminal responsibility in western Europe. The Howard League is recommending it be raised to 14.

A Gwent Police spokesman said: “It’s the duty of the police to investigate all allegations of crime, regardless of the age of the suspects, and arrests are made where appropriate.

“We are, however, conscious of ensuring we are proportionate and fair in our dealings with young people.

“In regard to the fall in the number of young people being arrested, it’s important to note that the number of crimes committed in Gwent has fallen by almost a third and inevitably the number of children and young people entering the criminal justice system has also fallen.

“That said, Gwent Police and partners in youth offending teams and other organisations also work hard to divert children and young people from crime and the criminal justice system.”