‘Worrying’ increase in violent sex attacks among children

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CHILDREN as young as nine have been accused of sex attacks in the Capital, the Evening News can reveal.

Figures also revealed the number of under-18s referred to the Children’s Reporter for violent or sex crimes more than doubled in the last five years.

But of the 96 such cases since 2013, 88 never made a hearing and less than five led to supervision orders – all for assault to severe injury.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “It’s worrying to see a doubling of these referrals, particularly when you see how serious these crimes are.

“However, we should remember that they remain rare, and the overwhelming majority of young people would never dream of engaging in this kind of behaviour.”

Less than five nine-year-olds were accused of the most serious sexual assaults on a young child, other sexual assault on a young child and sexual assault between 2013 and 2017.

A 12-year-old was referred for assault to severe injury, as were 11 children aged 14 and 12 15-year-olds.

The vast majority of the cases since 2013 – 88 of the 96 total – involved offences allegedly committed by boys, with girls accused of eight.

Allegations of violence made against girls were assault to severe injury and assault disfigurement.

Girls were also accused of the sex crimes of causing a young child to participate in a sexual activity, causing a young child to look at a sexual image and coercing a person into looking at a sexual image.

Statistics obtained under freedom of information laws showed referrals more than doubling over the last five years, from 12 in 2013 to 29 in 2017.

There were 17 complaints of assault to severe injury in 2017 compared with fewer than five in 2013.

The Children’s Reporter receives referrals from police and investigates to decide whether a Children’s Hearing is required, which can pass compulsory supervision orders. Voluntary behaviour programmes can be devised also to help children.

Mary Glasgow, of charity Children 1st, said: “Sexual abuse is deeply traumatising and has a devastating impact on children and young people, families and communities.

“We must do all we can to prevent abuse, to protect children and to support them to recover when they are abused.

“Our ability to prevent sexually harmful behaviour is improved when we understand the reasons behind it and intervene early to stop it.”

Ms Glasgow called for more focus on protecting children who have been harmed, finding out what happened to children who have harmed and more support for sex abuse victims.

“At present however we know that there is a shocking lack of support services for children and families across Scotland,” she added.

“This needs to be urgently addressed if children who have experienced sexual harm are to recover and thrive.”

andy.shipley@jpress.co.uk