Children under nine committing crimes in Gloucester
CHILDREN as young as nine are committing violent offences in the county, but cannot be prosecuted because they are under the age of criminal liability.
Six children committed assaults causing injury, while three more aged nine or under were found to have committed other assaults.
The figures from a Freedom of Information request to Gloucestershire Constabulary show 40 “offences” were committed by children aged nine or under between June 2010 and the end of May. Some were aged just seven.
There were 22 crimes recorded in 2010/11, dropping to just five for the same time period in 2012/13.
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The Children and Young Persons Act 1993 states children aged under 10 are exempt from criminal liability. As soon as police know a child is under 10 they cannot be held in custody or punished.
Vanessa Worrall, a youth worker in Matson, was surprised at the seriousness of some of the crimes committed by children.
“In our work with children, we are aware of a lot of the petty crimes, but not so much the more serious activity,” she said. “It is good to see the numbers are falling and a lot of work is being done with children and families in our communities. We will never turn children away and want to work with police and these children to get them back on to the right path.
“Community payback is a good punishment, and we want to see more of these children working in our youth clubs and communities to engage them.”
The majority of crimes by youngsters were recorded in Gloucester, 16, with seven recorded in Cheltenham.
Delroy Ellis, a reformed offender who has turned his efforts to helping children avoid a life of crime, now runs Yes Mentoring in schools.
“Early intervention is crucial and it is important to speak with vulnerable kids in primary schools,” he said.
“Children under the age of nine are most at risk of being influenced, sometimes by their own families if they are involved in crime.”
Shoplifting was the most prevalent offence followed by criminal damage to vehicles.
Other crimes included six incidents of criminal damage to homes or businesses, three cases of property damage, one robbery of personal property and theft from a dwelling.
Two children under 10 caused racial or religiously aggravated fear, alarm or distress.
A spokesman for Gloucestershire police said: “We will of course speak to the parents and refer the situation to social care services where necessary. We also work as one of the partners in the youth offending team to reduce the risk of young people offending and re-offending.
“It is pleasing though to see that the number of under 10s linked to criminality in the county has decreased significantly in the last two years.”
Police in the county often punish children who have committed a minor crime by asking them to do community work and apologise to the victim, rather than formally arresting them.