Home Office statistics reveal increased use of force by police against children in the Humberside Force area

Home Office statistics show Humberside Police used force tactics against under-18s on 1,116 occasions in 2020-21 – nine of which involved children under 11. This figure was up from 888 the previous year and 862 in 2018-19. Photo: PA Images

The Howard League has said police forces in England and Wales should curb the “worrying” rise in use of force incidents involving children.

Home Office statistics show Humberside Police used force tactics against under-18s on 1,116 occasions in 2020-21 – nine of which involved children under 11.

This figure was up from 888 the previous year and 862 in 2018-2019 – the first year such figures were recorded at the police force level.

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Last year, Humberside officers handcuffed children 474 times, physically tied them to the ground 78 times and used 65 limb or body restraints.

Officers also recorded 17 instances of firearms being aimed and seven occasions of the use of dogs – three of which resulted in dog bites.

In 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 8% from 72,000 a year earlier, and the most since comparable national records began in 2017-18.

Andrew Neilson, Campaigns Director at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “A sharp increase in the use of force by police against children is a worrying trend, particularly when the number of children arrested remains fortunately low.

“Police forces in England and Wales should examine what may be driving this increase and work to reduce the number of incidents involving children.”

Officers in both countries drew or fired TASER devices 2,600 times at children in 2020-21 – with 49 uses recorded by Humberside Police.

Among these, one saw the device discharging.

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 to be prohibited or only permitted in the rarest of situations.

ARC Director Louise King said even when not fired, a TASER is still “frightening and traumatic” to be threatened.

She added that police say CEWs help protect the public and officers, but this “should not come at the expense of child safety and human rights.”

The National Council of Police Chiefs said a TASER weapon is only discharged in 10% of uses, and each must be fully registered, proportionate and justified.

Deputy Deputy Commissioner Matt Twist, NPCC’s chief self-defense and restraint officer, said officers must protect people of all ages from the risk of harming themselves or others, often in violent scenarios at rapid evolution.

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

“Officers receive advice and training, 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 .