Edinburgh’s child criminals: Is a 9-year-old the Capital’s youngest ever housebreaker?

Youth crime appears to be falling despite the recent data.
Youth crime appears to be falling despite the recent data.

A NINE-year-old child was caught breaking into someone’s home in the Capital, it has emerged.

There were 65 housebreaking cases reported to the Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration (SCRA) in the city over the last three years – with the youngest nine, 12 and 13.

Nationally, children as young as eight have been caught while Glasgow has the biggest problem with 79 cases.

“Being broken into and robbed is one of the most upsetting things that can happen to a household,” said Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr.

“For victims, it’s irrelevant what age the perpetrators are. It remains terrifying and can leave a lasting impact.”

Cases in Edinburgh have been falling, with the 35 youngsters reported in 2014/15 decreasing by half to 17 last year.

There have been 517 referrals over the past three years, figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives show. Mr Kerr said questions have to be asked over the role of the parents in the case of pre-teens.

The statistics released through Freedom of Information show 186 under-18s were referred in 2016/17, broadly similar to the two previous years.

In the three-year period, East Ayrshire and Highland council areas both recorded at least one eight-year-old being referred for breaking into someone’s home.

Across Scotland, at least three nine-year-olds and seven ten-year-olds were reported for housebreaking in the same period. The most common age for under-18 housebreaking referrals was 15, with 208 instances since 2014/15.

“It’s alarming that hundreds of children have been referred for this crime across Scotland in recent years and the trend isn’t improving,” said Mr Kerr.

“We need to get in and ensure these youngsters are put on the right path because once people start out on this road to a career in crime, it’s extremely hard to get them off it.

“When children who haven’t even reached their teens are being referred for this, questions really do have to be asked about the parents too.”

Mr Kerr said there was “an extremely poor clear-up rate” for housebreaking across Scotland, with recent government statistics showing it stands at just over one in five instances (22.5 per cent).

The Scottish Government last month introduced a proposed new law at Holyrood to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Scotland from eight to 12.

It had previously raised the age of criminal prosecution from eight to 12.

The figures show there were 160 aged 14 who were reported in recent years. There also 126 youngsters between the ages of ten and 13 who were reported.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Where the behaviour of a child gives rise to concern, it is essential that this is addressed sensitively, effectively and promptly, with the child and their family.

“Many of the perpetrators are vulnerable children themselves.”