West Yorkshire’s crime tsar has warned children should only face criminal charges as a last resort, after the YEP revealed youngsters aged 11 were charged with a shocking catalogue of crimes.
Figures show more than 1,630 children aged 16 and under have been charged by police officers in Leeds over the last two years.
Youngsters not even in their teens were charged with serious offences like fraud, theft, arson and criminal damage, possessing weapons and sex offences.
Mark Burns Williamson, the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, said: “We do not want to see youngsters having their futures ruined by being charged for offences committed at such a young age.
“I will be seeking reassurance from the Chief Constable that charging is something that is only done after careful consideration and after other avenues have been explored.
“We need to ensure that children are properly supported and not escalated into the criminal justice system if there are alternative ways of dealing with their crimes and addressing their behaviour and ensuring they face up to the consequences of their behaviour before it gets worse.
“But serious crimes will result in charges.”
Councillor Alan Lamb, Leeds City Council’s shadow executive board member for children’s services, added: “These figures are concerning though not all that surprising.
“It is often the case that when children commit acts that are widely regarded as unacceptable there are often underlying causes for that behaviour.”
He warned: “It is important that these young people do not end up dumped in the criminal justice system for the rest of their lives.”