Children arrested by Police in 2020-21

Published: September 14, 2022

This report will help us to understand more about children who offend and opportunities for change.

Background

This study informs work considering changes to the minimum age of criminal responsibility. The data provides an understanding of this group of children and what their behaviour means for developing possible new legislative settings if the minimum age of criminal responsibility is increased.

Key findings

There were 953 arrests of 491 distinct children aged under 14 in this period. One-third of the 491 children were arrested more than once within the year.

Over three-quarters of the 953 arrests involved children who were male (79%), Māori (79%), or aged 12 or 13 years (90%).

The arrest rate relative to the population of children was very high in Greater Auckland, 58% of arrests were in Greater Auckland, but only a third of all children aged 10 to 13 years live there.

Over half of the children arrested were involved in a stolen vehicle offence and 11% were arrested for failing to stop for police (usually in a stolen vehicle). The data did not indicate whether the child was the driver or a passenger.

There were considerable differences in the offences that led to arrest according to gender and ethnicity. Males were more likely to be arrested for car theft, while females were more likely to be arrested for assault, shoplifting or other forms of theft.

Pacific and Māori children were more likely than European/other children to be arrested for a stolen vehicle or failing to stop for police offence. European/other children were more likely to be arrested for assault or property damage.

For nearly all arrests, the police officer was satisfied that it was necessary to prevent the child from committing further offences. There can be more than one reason for arrest, with the next most common being to prevent the loss or destruction of evidence (28%).

Next steps

This study informs work considering changes to the minimum age of criminal responsibility.