Children as young as eight have been held in police cells by Lincolnshire Police, but the total number of minors arrested by the force has been dropping.
In a Freedom of Information request submitted by Lincolnshire Reporter, Lincolnshire Police were asked for the number of minors held in cells since 2015, as well as their ages. They were also asked to list the charges made against the youngest offenders.
The data shows that in 2015 both an eight-year-old and a nine-year-old were held by the force, although were unable to be charged due to falling under the criminal age of responsibility (10).
Of those charged, the youngest were all aged 11, and were banged up for a range of offences including assaulting a constable in the execution of their duty, criminal damage to a property valued £5,000 and shoplifting.
In total, the figures show that in the past three years 2,760 minors were held in police custody — 1,145 in 2015, 815 in 2016 and 800 in 2017.
A spokesman for Lincolnshire Police said: “I would highlight the point that generally, child arrests numbers have reduced significantly over the last 10 years, 1,911 arrested in 2011, and we see that as a really positive thing.
“Effective early intervention means we are able to take routes that address the behaviour without criminalising the child. If we reduce reoffending, we reduce crime, and working with the Youth Offending Service, we have done just that.
“Giving them the chance to make good choices, rather than ‘throw the book at them’ could mean a safer county in the long term.”
“We have looked at our policies and changed them where they do not work or are not fair.
“For example previously, children in care homes could be criminalised for a minor offence (like deliberately smashing a plate), whereas this would be a highly unlikely outcome for a child living at home.
“Our officers understand that an arrest for a criminal matter is a serious step to take, and their decision making about the proportionality and necessity of arrest is tested on every occasion.”