The figures have been welcomed by the Howard League campaign for penal reform. The charity has backed alternative punishments to keep as many children as possible out of the criminal justice system.

Chris Jackson, a spokesman for Gloucestershire Police, said: “This reduction is partly due to a general decrease in crime and the introduction of alternative action.

"A community resolution could involve someone who commits vandalism helping carry out repairs, writing a letter of apology to the owners and paying for the damage caused. They have proven a more effective punishment than the criminalisation of offenders, particularly youngsters, and is more popular with victims, who often feel that the offenders are learning a lesson at the same time.”

Last year, a child was arrested every four minutes in England and Wales, with police making 129,274 arrests of children aged 17 and under. These included 1,107 arrests of children who were aged 10 or 11.

On average, three primary school-age children were arrested every day.

Children in England and Wales can be arrested by police from the age of 10 – the lowest age of criminal responsibility in Western Europe.

Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl said: “It’s great to see hard evidence of fewer young people are coming into the criminal justice system. I believe helping them become responsible citizens is a key element in reducing crime and bringing more peace and order to our communities. These figures indicate a very positive and encouraging trend. As a parent myself, I know how difficult it can be for young people to make the transition through their teenage years to adulthood."

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