FORMER boxing champion Bradley Welsh believes that “society has failed” the youngsters who are becoming serial criminals in the Capital.
Welsh, 41, once a teenage offender who described himself as “feral”, now offers coaching to youngsters at his Holyrood Boxing Gym to provide them with more positive activities.
He insisted that reaching problem children at a young age is vital to stopping them from “spiralling” down into repeat offending.
His comments came in the wake of figures which showed that a hardcore group of ten child criminals – aged as young as 11 – were behind 800 offences across the Capital.
The Evening News revealed yesterday that the tearaways make up a list of the worst young offenders in Edinburgh, with three notching up 100 or more charges, including housebreaking, joyriding and robbery.
Welsh said: “These kids are being funnelled into youth cafes and, despite the good intentions of those who run them, that doesn’t work. All you do is mix together more serious offenders with youngsters who may only be there because their social worker told them to go. That exposes them to bad influences and make these places a breeding ground for crime.
“These kids with a lot of offences are from difficult backgrounds and marginalised areas. They will often have parents with a similar offending history who may have alcohol or drug dependencies.
“They have nothing at home, they are put out to fend for themselves, and some will seek the excitement of breaking into places with their friends or stealing cars. It comes from boredom and a sense of there being nothing else for them.”
Welsh added: “These kids are failed by society at every level. Firstly, they are failed by their parents. Next they are failed by the educational system. Then they are failed by the courts because there is no deterrent.
“You can’t lock them up so all you teach them is that there are no repercussions to offending. Either that or you give them Asbos, usually to keep them away from areas where businesses are, so they are left even more isolated.
“You have a system where these kids are taken by social workers to a movie or out bowling and that doesn’t solve the fundamental problems.”
Welsh, who won the British ABA lightweight title in 1993, was a Hibs casual and later worked in the security industry before being sentenced to four years in prison aged 20.
He added: “I was a feral youngster myself, out on the streets of Moredun at a young age with nobody to engage with me, then I got involved with football casuals. I went on to involvement in more serious crime and it was only when I went to prison that I learned this life was not what I wanted.
“The only way to deal with this problem is through early intervention. Get to the these kids when they are seven or eight-years old – as soon as they start showing signs off going off the rails.
“With me, I’m using boxing as a way to reach young kids and show them that their energies can go into something positive. Keeping fit burns off energy which Playstations and computers can’t do.”
Police chiefs said the force worked with social workers and other agencies on early intervention in a bid to stop youngsters becoming serial offenders.
One officer, who has dealt with youth crime issues, admitted that the force is often simply “trying to limit the damage” before the offenders reach the adult justice system.