Arrests of children by Essex Police have been reduced by 75 per cent in the last seven years, figures show.

Research by charity the Howard League for Penal Reform, published today, show how the force made 1,923 arrests of children aged 17 and under last year, down from 7,739 in 2010.

Across England and Wales, the total number of child arrests has been reduced by 68 per cent – from almost 250,000 in 2010 to 79,012 last year.

The statistics were compiled from responses to Freedom of Information requests.

Arrests of children has dropped steadily every year since 2010, when 7,739 children were arrested, compared to 2017, where 1,923 children were arrested.

It saw a 26 per cent reduction in child arrests between 2016 and 2017. The force says it did this by educating officers about the issues some children face, such as childhood trauma. In April 2018, the Howard League was invited to present at a training day for police and partners on preventing the criminalisation of children in care.

The force has also set up an initiative called Project Advocate, which enables police officers quickly and easily to put children in care in touch with an advocacy service through the charity, Coram Voice.

One of the officers driving improvements told the Howard League how important it had been to have the support of the Chief Constable to get things done and to promote child-centred policing throughout the force.

The Howard League for Penal Reform credited the drop in child arrests to the Howard League Programme, which involves working with police forces to keep children out of the criminal justice system.

The total number of arrests has been reduced every year since the Howard League campaign began in 2010, and the impact can be seen in every police force area in the country, it claims.

The charity’s research briefing, Child arrests in England and Wales 2017, explores some of the changes that police forces have made to reduce arrest numbers, while also shining new light on areas where further progress can be achieved.

In particular, it identifies the criminalisation of children in residential care, the criminalisation of children who are being exploited by county lines gangs, and the disproportionate levels of criminalisation of children from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds as key areas that all forces should be aware of and actively seek to address.

The number of children in prison in England and Wales was reduced by more than 60 per cent between 2010 and 2017, as fewer boys and girls were drawn into the penal system.

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 Hertfordshire 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.”

Every police force in England and Wales made fewer child arrests in 2017 than in 2010.

The research briefing reveals that there were 12,495 recorded arrests of girls in 2017. Arrests of girls have been reduced at a faster rate than arrests of boys since 2010.

Arrests of primary school-age children have also been reduced. There were 616 arrests of 10- and 11-year-olds in 2017, a reduction of 12 per cent from the previous year.