The number of crimes committed by children under the age of criminality has almost quadrupled in the North East.
An investigation by SR News can exclusively reveal that the number of under 10-year-olds arrested by forces in Durham, Northumbria, North Yorkshire and Cleveland has increased in the past three years.
Figures have increased by nearly four times in Cleveland in the last three years. In 2012/13, Cleveland recorded 16 arrests that has dramatically increased to 62 arrests from April to September 2015.
Cleveland Police have related this increase to the way in which they now record the number of crimes committed.
A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police, said: “There is now better recording of crimes believed to have been committed by those under the age of criminal responsibility as a result of the crime outcomes guidelines released by the Home Office in April 2014.”
Northumbria Police also have the highest figures with 86 arrests in the year 2015, which is, however, down from 89 in the previous year.
Crimes recorded by the police forces include: arson and criminal damage, sexual offences, theft and theft by shoplifting, vehicle offences and violence against person, with the most common reoccurring offence being violence against person.
These figures were released after a series of Freedom of Information requests sent to each force:
- North Yorkshire has the lowest record with an increase from two arrests in 2012 to four arrests in 2015.
- Durham Police arrested 54 children under the age of criminality in 2015, showing four arrests fewer than in 2014
In England and Wales, under 10-year-olds are considered under the age of criminality, which means they are dealt with by youth courts and are sentenced differently, using local child curfews and child safety orders.
A spokesperson for Child Rights International Network said: “The minimum age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is much too low, drawing children into a justice system that can stigmatise them, damage their long term prospects and increase offending.
“Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility draws more children into the criminal justice system with several serious risks. Detaining children can disrupt education, damage personal relationships and expose children to violence.
“Where the criminal process results in a child receiving a criminal record, the stigmatisation can damage any attempt at rehabilitation by undermining the child’s ability to continue in education, get a job and return to his or her community. The evidence suggests, however, that avoiding the criminalisation of children and keeping them out of the justice system lowers reoffending.
“All of these factors seriously raise the risk of reoffending. The risk is particularly high in justice systems that lack well-developed rehabilitation programmes.
“The best way of combating offending by children is to intervene early when problems arise to establish what happened, why and then to respond appropriately.
“Working with parents and schools to support them in preventing their children from becoming involved in crime or more serious offences are likely to be particularly important for children who have become involved in crime at a very young age.”
There are charities and organisations that work to provide services for children, including support for when things in their childhood do not run smoothly.
A Barnardo’s spokesmen said: “Charities, such as Barnardo’s, are always concerned at any information suggesting that the number of children being criminalised is on the increase.
“We are also aware that the world is becoming an increasingly complex place to police thanks to issues such as the rise of the Internet.
“Recent reports we have published, such as Youth And The Internet and Digital Dangers, have highlighted the propensity for which childhood risk-taking can easily spiral into visible criminal behaviour online.
“We are currently working with parliament and other organisations to highlight these concerns and provide a greater platform for debate of this issue.”