Campaigners concerned after Home Office figures show rise in police use of force on Northamptonshire children

“Forces should review what might be behind this rise and work to reduce number of incidents involving children"

By Patrick Jack, Data Reporter
Thursday, 13th January 2022, 10:33 am
Updated Thursday, 13th January 2022, 10:37 am

Police are using more force on children in Northamptonshire, official figures reveal.

The Howard League said forces across England and Wales should reduce the 'worrying' rise in use of force incidents involving children.

Home Office statistics published in December showed Northamptonshire Police used force tactics — including police dogs — on under-18s on 1,112 occasions between April 2020 and March 2021.

Police in Northamptonshire used Tasers or handcuffs on childrens more than 500 times in a year, according to official figures

Seven of those incidents involved children under 11 years old.

This was up from 922 the year before but down from 1,263 in 2018-19, the first year such figures were recorded at police force level.

Last year, Northamptonshire officers handcuffed children 438 times, physically restrained them on the ground on 29 occasions and used 51 limb or body restraints.

Officers also recorded eight instances of firearms being used — though it is not known whether they were fired or aimed — and 13 occasions when dogs were used – one of which resulted in a dog bite being inflicted.

Across England and Wales, 77,000 use of force tactics on children were recorded in 2020-21 – including 551 on under-11s.

The number of tactics used on under-18s was up eight percent from 72,000 a year before, and the most since national comparable records began in 2017-18.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “A steep rise in the police use of force against children is a worrying trend, particularly when the levels of children arrested remain thankfully low.

“Police forces across England and Wales should review what might be behind this rise and work to reduce the number of incidents involving children."

Officers across the two nations drew or fired Taser devices 2,600 times on children in 2020-21 – with 55 uses logged by Northamptonshire Police.

Of these, one saw the device discharged.

Taser weapons are designed to temporarily incapacitate someone with an electric shock – either fired at someone from a distance or held against their body to stun them.

The Children’s Rights Alliance for England wants their use on children banned, or permitted in only the rarest situations.

Louise King, director of the CRA, said that even when not fired, a Taser gun is still 'frightening and traumatic' to be threatened with.

She added that police argue the conducted energy weapons help protect the public and police officers, but that “shouldn’t come at the cost of children’s safety and human rights”.

The National Police Chiefs' Council said a Taser weapon is only discharged in 10 percent of uses, and each one must be fully recorded, proportionate and justified.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, NPCC lead for self-defence and restraint, said officers must protect people of all ages from harming themselves or others, often in fast-moving violent scenarios.

He added: “Officers have thousands of interactions with the public every day and force is not used in the vast majority of those.

"Officers receive guidance and training with the starting point being that they should attempt to resolve confrontations with the public without the need to use force."

A Home Office spokeswoman said a change in the number of incidents is likely a consequence of improved recording methods and should not be seen as a worrying increase in the use of force.