Crimes by under-tens revealed

Nearly 3,000 crimes were committed last year where the suspect was too young to be prosecuted, new figures obtained by the BBC show.

A freedom of information request by the BBC revealed about 1,300 incidents of criminal damage and arson. There were 66 sex offences where suspects were under ten-years-old in England and Wales.

Under existing laws, children aged nine or under cannot be charged with an offence.

But the figures, from 32 police forces out of 43 in England and Wales, have sparked a debate over whether the age of criminal responsibility should be lowered.

Of the 2,840 crimes where the suspect was under ten years old, about half were cases of arson or criminal damage. Of the 66 sex offences, a number were sexual assaults on children under 13.

Lawrence Lee was the solicitor for Jon Venables, one of two ten-year-olds who abducted and murdered two-year-old James Bulger in Liverpool in 1993.

Mr Lee claimed reducing the age of criminal responsibility would deter young criminals.

“As a defence lawyer I would say no, it wouldn’t be a good thing,” Mr Lee said.

“But if I wear my citizen’s hat, I would say if you go along to any estate and see the age of kids marauding around like a pack of wolves, you’d see that reducing the age of criminal responsibility to eight or nine would be vital.”

But Bob Reitemeier of the Children’s Society said he wanted the age of criminal responsibility raised to 14.

“If you look at how children are treated by government and legislation you have to be 18 to be able to vote, 16 to have sex and yet ten to be held accountable for committing a crime,” Mr Reitemeier told the BBC.

Responding to the development, Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis said: “Every piece of new evidence shows that the age of criminality is becoming younger and younger.

“This demonstrates only too clearly that some of the fundamental answers to Britain’s broken society start in the home and the school – areas highlighted by David Cameron this week.”