ARRESTS of children by Wiltshire Police have fallen by 55 per cent in five years, according to new figures.

Research by the Howard League for Penal Reform has revealed the number of arrests in the county dropped from 2,395 in 2008 to 1,079 in 2013.

However, despite this positive trend, child arrests remain all too common nationwide – a child was arrested every four minutes in England and Wales in 2013.

Last year, police in England and Wales made 129,274 arrests of children aged 17 and under. These included 1,107 arrests of children who were aged 10 or 11, meaning that on average three primary school-age children were arrested a day.

In 2008, the total number of child arrests was as high as 318,053 – equivalent to an arrest every 99 seconds.

Police made more than 1.3 million arrests of children between January 2008 and December 2013.

Superintendent Gavin Williams said: “It is encouraging to see the number of arrests of children by Wiltshire Police have fallen in the last five years.

“We always consider a number of factors when dealing with any incidents involving minors. The necessity to arrest and the proportionality of the crime are taken into consideration.

“If an arrest of a child does take place, the safety and well-being of that individual is always of the utmost importance to the Force. A risk assessment will take place on every occasion and the child will always be accompanied by an appropriate adult while in custody.

“The fall in the number of arrests involving children in the last five years is likely to be down to several reasons. Firstly, we have a number of alternative disposal methods available to us such as local resolutions or inviting the child into their local police station with a parent or guardian.

“The statistics fall in line with the general theme in Wiltshire that crime across the board is falling.”

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It is encouraging to see that Wiltshire 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.”

Children in England and Wales can be arrested from the age of 10 – the lowest age of criminal responsibility in Western Europe.

A Howard League briefing paper recommends the age of criminal responsibility be raised to 14, in line with the European average.

The United Nations Committee has stated that an age of criminal responsibility below 12 is unacceptable.