Shock toll of Leeds children facing criminal charges

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Children as young as 11 have been accused of a shocking catalogue of crimes, the YEP can reveal.

Youngsters not even in their teens were charged with serious offences like fraud, theft, arson and criminal damage, possessing weapons and sex offences.

Figures obtained by the Yorkshire Evening Post show more than 1,630 children aged 16 and under have been charged by police in Leeds over the last two years.

Children as young as 12 have been accused of fraud and over 260 charges have been brought against youngsters accused of theft in the city.

Children aged 16 and under have been charged by police with offences such as theft, arson and criminal damage and violence against other people.

A further 281 charges have been made for violence against other people, 206 charges accuse children of burglary and there have been 124 charges for robbery.

But Frances Cook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, warns it is “damaging” for young people to be dealt with by the police.

She said: “The number of children convicted of offences has fallen really significantly over the past few years.

“Police are doing much better at other ways of dealing with children coming into contact with them.

“All children misbehave and it is a part of testing authority.

“Research from Edinburgh University shows that children who are charged by police actually get caught in the criminal justice system and their life went downhill.

“Being dealt with by the police is completely damaging particularly if you are innocent.

“We think the age of criminal responsibility should be raised so that police don’t deal with young children at all.”

Assistant chief constable Geoff Dodd said decisions are made carefully about charges, often in consultation with the Youth Offending Service, and one in 13 suspects arrested in Leeds were under the age of 17.

He added: “Victims tell us that they want to see perpetrators caught and appropriately dealt with - whatever their age.

“By working with victims and with specialist partners, the decision to charge a young person is not made lightly.

“Crime, whilst at the lowest level for a generation, continues to be committed by a broad range of offenders and for a variety of reasons.

“Young people commit crime which can on occasions be serious in nature.

“Wherever it is appropriate, officers will often deal with young people outside of a formal custody system; there are occasions however when due to the seriousness of the offence, pursuing a criminal prosecution against a person under 17 years of age is the right thing to do.”

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