Police turn to more forceful tactics to deal with violent children in Hampshire

INCREASINGLY forceful tactics are being used by police in Hampshire to deal with violent and unruly children, figures have revealed.

A library shot of police at a crime scene in Tangier Road, Baffins in January 2021.
Picture: Chris Moorhouse   (jpns 201021-)
A library shot of police at a crime scene in Tangier Road, Baffins in January 2021. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 201021-)

Home Office statistics show Hampshire Constabulary used force tactics – which includes the deployment of police dogs and Tasers – on under-18s on 1,234 occasions in 2020-21,with five involving children under 11.

This was up from 992 the year before, and 621 in 2018-19 – the first year such figures were recorded at police force level.

Last year, Hampshire officers handcuffed children 380 times, physically restrained them on the ground on 277 occasions and used 104 limb or body restraints.

Officers also recorded two instances of batons being used, two times when batons were drawn and two occasions when dogs were used.

A spokesman for Hampshire police insisted officers did the ‘utmost’ to resolve situations ‘without the use of force’.

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However, campaigners from penal reform group The Howard League have said police forces across England and Wales must do more to reduce the ‘worrying’ rise in use of force incidents involving children.

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 8% 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.’

The situation comes following a spate of violent attacks by gangs of children across Portsmouth in recent months.

The increasing violence has seen officers in Hampshire using Taser devices 30 times against children in 2020-21. Of these, three saw the devices being discharged.

Hampshire police told The News the force was regularly scrutinised about its use of force.

A spokesman added: Ensuring the safety of our communities, and of our officers and staff, is a priority, and on occasion we may be required to use reasonable force to do this.

‘Annual mandatory training is undertaken by our frontline officers and staff on the assessment of often fast-moving situations, decision making and the legal and practical aspects of using force.

‘Our officers and staff will do their utmost in seeking to resolve a situation without the use of force, but where it is required to protect the public, any person involved, or themselves, it must be recorded.

.The use of force is regularly scrutinised, both internally and independently, in order to ensure its use is lawful and proportionate.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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