Britain’s Youngest Students Increasingly Treated as Criminals

Over 2,000 British students are longing for the day when the worst consequence for "naughtiness" was being struck off Santa's list. According to The Daily Telegraph, last year police in England placed over 2,100 children younger than 11 under arrest — but now some are claiming that as many as a quarter of those were never charged with a crime and were only picked up for indulging in minor "mischief." In total over 209,000 young people were placed under arrest in England and Wales over the previous 12 months.

Campaigners provide an example of four students who were arrested in Sussex for throwing sticks at a tree, while another in Cheshire was arrested and accused of a hate crime because he called a classmate a homophobic slur.

The arrests of minors throughout the country are on the decline at the moment, but the data collected by the Howard League for Penal Reform shows that a consequence of an arrest earlier in life could haunt a child long into adulthood. Consequences include difficulty finding work or even continuing their education. Furthermore, available research also points to the possibility that early incarceration could make kids more likely to commit crimes and end up in jail in the future.

Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "Children who get into trouble are more often than not just being challenging teenagers and how we respond to this nuisance behaviour could make a difference for the rest of their lives.

"An arrest can blight a life and lead to a criminal record for just being naughty. Only a handful of children are involved in more serious incidents and they usually suffer from neglect abuse or mental health issues."

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers defended the arrest of minors, saying that under certain circumstances detention was justified and necessary. In particular, detention might be required to further an ongoing investigation into a crime or to uncover the identify of criminal suspects. Occasionally, holding a minor is also advisable if their disappearance would hinder a criminal prosecution.

"The rules for the detention of suspects are set down in law and on every occasion must be authorized by a custody officer.

"Detentions of both children and adults in police custody are reviewed regularly to ensure that they are being held in accordance with the law and not for any longer than required for police investigations."

12 4, 2012
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