The number of children arrested in Sussex has fallen by 62 per cent in six years, according to figures released by a penal reform charity.

Research by the Howard League found the force made 2,185 arrests of children aged 17 and under last year.

That figure compares with 5,779 arrests made against the same age group in 2010.

Sussex Police said the figures represented the sixth year in a row that child arrest figures had dropped in the county.

The force has asked officers to find alternatives, such as community resolution, to avoid arresting young people.

Officers have also worked with partner agencies to work with children in care, who they have said are a ‘particularly vulnerable’ group.

Assistant Chief Constable Laurence Taylor said he was encouraged by the results, but that the force wanted to make further improvements.

He added:

“We have been working hard as an organisation to emphasise to officers that all children and young people should be treated as children first and not as ‘mini adults’.

“Under our Operation Stepping Stone initiative we are continually look at how we, as an organisation, can reduce the criminalisation of children and young people.

“It is vitally important that vulnerability is identified and as far as possible a full understanding of their circumstances is sought before decisions which affect their future are made.”

The force said police intervention was not always necessary when considering what action to take involving young people.

Officers have worked with youth offending teams and child services in the county, in cases where they could offer best support in changing childrens’ behaviour.

The fall in child arrests in Sussex is part of a similar trend across England and Wales over the past six years, according to the Howard League.

Around 250,000 children under 17 were arrested in 2010 – that fell to 87,525 last year, a 64 per cent decrease.

The Howard League said the statistics underlined the success of a campaign started in 2010, to work with police forces in keeping young girls and boys out of the criminal justice system.

Its chief executive Frances Crook said:

“Sussex Police should be applauded for their positive approach, and the Howard League is proud to have played its part in a transformation that will make our communities safer.

“By working together, we are ensuring that tens of thousands of children will have a brighter future and not be dragged into a downward spiral of crime and custody.”

Despite this, the charity said a young person was still arrested on average once every six minutes across England and Wales in 2016.