Primary pupils carry out robbery and sexual offences
PUBLISHED: 08:39 19 August 2014
CHILDREN as young as eight and nine have committed sexual offences and a robbery - but primary school pupils are committing crimes 'the police are not aware of'.
Nineteen offences were carried out by under-10s in North Somerset between 2011-13 but they were too young to be prosecuted.
Councillor Jeremy Blatchford believes that statistic is an underestimation and while improvements have stopped children as young as seven descending into a life of crime, more can be done.
Figures obtained by the Mercury reveal sexual offences were committed by an eight and nine-year-old last year in North Somerset.
A nine-year-old carried out a robbery in Weston and there have been several incidents of violence against people carried out in South Ward during that three-year period.
Cllr Blatchford, North Somerset Council’s executive member for education, said: “There are about 12,000 children in primary schools – and there were eight cases in 2013, so it is low.
“However there’s an awful lot more offenders than eight and the police aren’t aware of them because they are dealt with by their parents.”
The majority of crimes have been committed in the region’s most deprived areas, but that is not an excuse, according to Cllr Blatchford.
He said: “There are those that say the parents are responsible. I accept it is very difficult to bring up children properly. It can be a nightmare.
“Social deprivation is a feature but it isn’t the cause. There is support available and plenty of it.”
Cllr Blatchford said social workers will intervene and remove a child from its parents, if it is in the youngster’s interest.
He praised the ‘incredible’ work carried out jointly by the council, Avon and Somerset Constabulary and youth offending teams in tackling young offenders from an early age.
He added: “The majority of youth crime is committed by the same people.
“What we try to is identify those individuals and take them out of the equation. We don’t always succeed.”
Cllr Blatchford wants to offer more support organisations but conceded there is not the money available.
A police spokesman said the force has schemes, such as its high impact family programme, that work alongside parents to help children in the long-term.
He added: “These figures show the number of children committing crimes in North Somerset is low.
“On the occasions when children commit offences it is often the symptom of a more deep-rooted cause. While we cannot prosecute, we will give them, and their families, the support they need.
“The schools are very supportive – especially when the offences are committed between pupils.
“No-one wants our young people to set out on the wrong path in life and so between the children themselves, their parents, the schools and other agencies, we’ll work together to improve their behaviour.”