UK Family Law Reform

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Unpunished: The 3,000 crimes committed by the under-10s

The suspects behind almost 3,000 crimes last year, half of them arson or criminal damage, went unpunished - because they were too young to be prosecuted.

Offending by children aged under 10 in England and Wales included about 1,300 incidents of criminal damage and arson and more than 60 sex offences, it has been revealed.

Children aged nine or under cannot be charged with an offence in England and Wales, although the crime is recorded by police.

The figures were based on data from 32 of the 43 forces in England and Wales and were collated for BBC Radio Five Live under the Freedom of Information Act.

Of the 2,840 crimes where the suspect was under 10, about half were cases of arson or criminal damage.

There were also 66 sexual offences, including a number of sexual assaults on children under 13.

The figures also revealed children too young to be charged were suspected of harassment, wounding and burglary.

They come just three days after a boy was convicting of killing a man when he was just ten years old. The child, now 12, was part of a gang five who stoned a father-of-two to death as he played cricket with his son.

Ian Johnston of the Association of Chief Police Officers said: "The law establishes that any offence committed by children under 10 is not crime.

"Many of these offences are minor acts of damage and by far the large majority of children under 10 would not feature in this data.

"In appropriate cases children can be dealt with effectively under arrangements of care proceedings."

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of The Children's Society, said the charity wanted the age of criminal responsibility raised to 14.

He said: "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 10 to be held accountable for committing a crime."

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