Arson, burglary and weapons possession - rising number of children under 10 committing crimes
Hundreds of children under the age of 10 in the West Midlands have been snared for committing crimes including arson, burglary and almost 300 sex attacks, official figures have revealed.
Data from West Midlands Police shows that in the past five years 788 crimes were recorded where the culprit was under 10 years old – with 88 offences committed by children aged five or under.
The offences included 157 arson cases, 11 possession of weapons, 10 burglary, 295 sexual offences, 52 thefts and a 198 violence against the person.
According to the figures, which were released following a request under the Freedom of Information Act, crimes by under 10s have risen by 55 per cent over the last five years.
In 2012-13 the figure was 140, but last year it rocketed to 217.
Over the last five years 98 crimes were committed by under-10s in Wolverhampton. In Dudley the figure was 94, in Sandwell it was 74 and it was 72 in Walsall.
Children under the age of 10 are not considered to have reached the age of ‘criminal responsibility’ and cannot be charged with any criminal offence. They can be given a Local Child Curfew or a Child Safety Order, while those who break the law regularly can be taken into care, or their parents could be held responsible.
West Midlands Police says it is committed to preventing youngsters from turning to crime, and also runs a cadets scheme that aims to bring police and local young people closer together.
Force spokeswoman Deb Edmonds said: “West Midlands Police works with a raft of other agencies to help educate and divert children away from criminal activity such as our Precious Lives project, which is a hard-hitting presentation in schools on the dangers of carrying a knife. We have also launched the WMP Cadets scheme for the first time in almost 20 years.”
Lib Dem campaigner Rob Quarmby described the figures as ‘utterly shocking’ and called for stricter measures from police and local authorities. “We have to question the environment in which these kids are growing up in,” he added.
“It could be they have seen sexual activity or they’ve been victims of abuse themselves. We cannot allow children to become career criminals before they get out of short trousers.”