Campaigners raise alarm over ‘appallingly disproportionate’ number of black and minority ethnic children being arrested

Black and ethnic minority children account for more than a quarter of all child arrests across England and Wales — more than double proportion of BAME population as a whole.

Black and minority ethnic children account for more than a quarter of all child arrests across England and Wales, new figures show, raising concerns of “appalling” disproportionality in the justice system.

Data obtained through Freedom of Information law shows 26 per cent of all child arrests are youngsters from minority ethnic backgrounds — a figure more than double the proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the population as a whole.

Campaigners and politicians have said the findings are a cause for “great concern”, and have called on the Government to take urgent action to tackle the “institutional racism” in the criminal justice system.

The findings will fuel growing concerns about the high proportion of BAME children in custody, which has risen dramatically in recent years — to 49 per cent — despite the fact that the overall number of children entering the justice system has recently fallen to a record low.

The new figures, obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform, show 22,579 black or minority ethnic under-18s were arrested last year out of a total of 87,529. Five per cent of the total arrests were listed as “other”, indicating shortfalls in recording practices by police forces.

While a lack of population data in relation to boys and girls aged 10 to 17 means it is difficult to directly assess the level of disproportionality, Home Office figures show that the BAME proportion of the overall population is 13 per cent, providing an indication that the child arrest figures are disproportionate.

In London, more than half (60 per cent) of all child arrests by the Metropolitan Police were black and ethnic minority children — with this group accounting for 12,000 out of 20,000 of the total. The capital has a 40 per cent BAME population overall.

Minority ethnic children meanwhile accounted for 42 per cent of child arrests in Bedfordshire — a policing area where only 23 per cent of the total population is BAME, while in the West Midlands, where 30 per cent of the total population is non-white, police recorded the arrest rate of minority children at 41 per cent.

The disproportionality in several regions was particularly stark. In Dorset, which has a non-white population of 4 per cent, BAME children accounted for 14 per cent of child arrests by police, while in Dyfed Powys, where non-white people make up just 2 per cent of the population, BAME children made up 25 per cent of child arrests.

It comes after a report by the prison watchdog last week revealed that almost half (49 per cent) of children in jails are from a black or other ethnic minority background, compared with 41 per cent the previous year and 35 per cent the year before that. In 2006, the proportion of BAME young offenders in custody was just 25 per cent.

The increase comes despite the fact that the overall number of children entering the justice system has fallen considerably. Police forces across England and Wales made fewer than 88,000 arrests of children in total last year, down from almost 250,000 in 2010, and the number of children in prison fell by 58 per cent between 2010 and 2016, according to a report by the Howard League earlier this year.

First Published 26.11.17:

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Written by: May Bulman

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