Arrests of children by Devon and Cornwall Police have fallen by 74 per cent in five years, figures reveal today.

Research by the Howard League for Penal Reform shows that the number of arrests in the two counties dropped from 5,495 in 2008 to 1,431 in 2013.

It follows a successful campaign by the charity aimed at keeping as many children as possible out of the criminal justice system.

Police services across the country have reviewed their arrest procedures and policies as a result of the charity’s engagement with them.

However, the charity says that despite this positive trend, child arrests remain “all too common” nationally, with a child 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 ten or 11, meaning that on average three primary school-age children were arrested every day.

In 2013 the total number of child arrests was as high as 318,053 – equivalent to an arrest every 99 seconds.

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

He now challenged the police to maintain this trend, adding: “At a time of austerity, further reducing the number of children arrested would free up more officer time to deal with serious crimes.”

Child arrest figures for Devon and Cornwall

2008: 5,495 arrests

2009: 4,757 arrests

2010: 4,132 arrests

2011: 3,363 arrests

2012: 2,398 arrests

2013: 1,431 arrests