Huge fall in child prosecutions over past decade
The number of child criminals being locked up in the Black Country and Staffordshire has plummeted over the last 10 years.
Ministry of Justice figures released today show far fewer youngsters are now being prosecuted compared with a decade ago.
In the Black Country the number of children aged between 10 and 17 being convicted or cautioned has dropped by 82 per cent, while in Staffordshire the fall was 80 per cent.
Meanwhile, the number of youths entering the justice system for the first time has fallen by an average of 19 per cent over the last year in the four Black Country boroughs.
Children's rights campaigners say that despite the reduced conviction rates, they still have concerns that too many young people were entering the criminal justice system.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the charity Just for Kids Law, said: "These figures show the benefits to society which come when police and youth offending teams focus on diverting children from the criminal justice system, rather than punitive methods that do little other than funnel them into a life of crime.
"We are concerned, however, that progress could be jeopardised by knee jerk policies such as the new knife crime prevention orders, which are likely to drag a large number of children into the criminal justice system."
He added that there were still "many outstanding issues", such as holding children in police cells for extended periods of time and poor quality legal representation.
"Children have different needs and entitlements to adults, but too few lawyers are specialists in how to work with them, leading to missed opportunities to divert young people from the justice system," he said.
Across the Black Country 1,970 young people were cautioned or convicted in 2008. This year the figure was 354 this year – a fall of 82 per cent.
According to the figures Wolverhampton has the highest rate of youth offenders, with 440 per 100,000.
England and Wales saw 13,000 youths convicted for the first time over the period.
They were outnumbered by re-offenders, more than 17,000 in total, who made up 57 per cent of the child criminals.
There were more than five times as many boys as girls who were cautioned or convicted.