ARRESTS of children by Gloucestershire Police have fallen by 56 per cent in the last six years, new figures reveal.

Research published by the Howard League for Penal Reform HLPR has found that the constabulary made 663 arrests of children aged 17 and under last year, down from 1,516 in 2010.

The statistics have been published in HLPR briefing, Child arrests in England and Wales 2016, with child arrest figures for Gloucestershire since 2010 as follows:

2010: 1,516

2011: 1,412

2012: 1,268

2013: 920

2014: 861

2015: 725

2016: 663

Across England and Wales, the total number of arrests has fallen by 64 per cent in six years – from almost 250,000 in 2010 to 87,525 in 2016.

Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl, who has made helping young people become responsible citizens one of the priorities of his policing strategy, said: “It is very encouraging to see that fewer young people are coming into the criminal justice system and that numbers have continued to go down over a period of years.

“Helping young people will always be a priority while I am in office and, as a parent myself, I know how difficult it can be for young people to make the transition through their teenage years to adulthood.

“We recognise that young people take risks and can make mistakes.

"I want the police to deal with them in a more sensitive manner so that they don’t start their adult life with a criminal record and the figures show it’s having an effect.

“It’s also vindication of the efforts of the network of groups and organisations who are working with the police and have been recognised by the Howard league for the excellent work they are doing”.

Superintendent Tony Godwin, who represents the Cotswolds at Gloucestershire Police, said: "This reduction is good news because custody units are not the place for vulnerable people.

“It reflects the hard work that we’ve been doing with our partner agencies in the last few years, focusing our attention on keeping children out of the Criminal Justice System by putting in place more effective diversionary measures that include Conditional Cautions and Restorative Justice.”

Frances Crook, chief executive of HLPR, said: “For the sixth year running, there has seen a significant reduction in child arrests across the country.

“Gloucestershire Police should be applauded for their positive approach.

Every police force in England and Wales made fewer child arrests in 2016 than in 2010.

All but four forces brought down their number of arrests by more than half.

Nationwide, there were 703 arrests of primary-age children (10- and 11-year-olds) in 2016, a reduction of 18 per cent from the previous year.

The statistics have been published in a Howard League briefing, Child arrests in England and Wales 2016, which shows how reducing the number of children entering the system has stemmed the flow of children into custody.

Between 2010 and 2016, the number of children in prison in England and Wales fell by 58 per cent.

As in 2015, arrests of girls are falling at a faster rate than arrests of boys. Police recorded a 69 per cent drop in girls’ arrests between 2010 and 2016, and the number of girls in penal custody fell by 78 per cent during the same period.

The briefing states that the positive trend across police forces has been led at a national level, most notably by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, which has prioritised improvements in the policing of children.