THERE have been calls for stricter handling of children who commit crimes – and their parents – after it was revealed that more than 200 crimes were committed by under-tens in the space of a year.
Figures released by Lothian and Borders Police under Freedom of Information legislation show that children as young as three had been reported.
Two three-year-olds, four four-year-olds, and 18 six-year-olds were reported for committing crimes in Lothian and Borders in just one year.
Offences carried out by the under-tens included 40 minor assaults, 63 acts of vandalism – 21 of them on cars – and three cases of fireraising.
In all, 205 children aged nine and under were reported during the financial year 2010-11, committing 182 crimes.
There were nine cases of shoplifting by children in the age group. Other offences on the list included housebreaking, robbery and assault, the reckless discharge of a firearm, public indecency, and lewd and libidinous practices.
Tory MSP for the Lothians, Gavin Brown, said it was time to take the crimes more seriously: “They are staggering statistics. This is more than three a week over the course of a year and this includes some pretty serious crimes, and I think it serves as a reminder for all of us to start upping our game.
“I think we need far better education in schools in terms of warning people of the dangers and the risks, but we’ve also got to clamp down pretty hard on this kind of behaviour, otherwise they will spiral into longer-term career criminals.
“I would also want to see a clampdown on the parents and those responsible for the children, for parents to start being held to account for allowing this to happen.”
In March, the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland was raised from eight to 12. Children under the age of 16 who are accused of a crime appear before the Children’s Panel instead of going to court.
Convener of the Lothian and Borders Police board, Councillor Iain Whyte, said he thought incidents that might once have been brushed off as childhood scrapes were more likely to be reported today.
“I get the impression that more children are recorded as being involved in crimes these days with things that perhaps in years gone by would have been dealt with by schools or nurseries as internal matters.”
“Parents are more likely to bring in police now for things that would have just been thought of as fights in the playground previously. I know the force is working with education authorities throughout Lothian and Borders on its prevention strategy, and hopefully that work will bear fruit and reduce these numbers in the future.”
A police statement said: “Lothian and Borders Police are committed to reducing offending and reoffending by children and young people and embrace the concept of early and effective intervention.
“In many circumstances childhood offending is simply a manifestation of other issues within that individual’s life.”
“Lothian and Borders Police, along with partners, address the underlying causes of criminality to divert children away from involvement in the criminal justice system.”