Kids as young as 10 behind bars in Wigan

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CHILDREN as young as 10 are among hundreds of minors detained in Wigan cells last year for crimes including assault, rape, thefts and even murder.

The shocking figures obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request to Greater Manchester Police (GMP) reveal the shocking extent of crimes being committed by youngsters in the borough between April 2012 and Match 2013.

Offences included the rape of a girl under 13, manslaughter, supplying class A drugs, arson and possessing an offensive weapon. The minimum age of criminal responsibility in the UK is 10 years old.

Most children and young people prosecuted for criminal offences are dealt with at a youth court.

A child is defined as under the age of 14, and anything up to 18 describes a young person.

The most common offences committed by youngsters aged between 10 and 17 in Wigan borough were: assault; theft; burglary; drunk and disorderly; and using threatening words or behaviour to cause harassment alarm or distress.

Greater Manchester Police says it works very closely with local authorities and other agencies to identify and help stop children turning to crime.

A spokesman for GMP said: “We run a number of initiatives with partner agencies to steer young people away from crime and antisocial behaviour.

“One that has had particular success is the Nowt 2 Do scheme in Atherton.

“This is run by one of our school-based officers, and has introduced hundreds of young people to a wide range of activities to help keep them out of trouble.

“We also work very closely with Wigan Council to identify at the earliest opportunity when young people are in danger of getting involved in any form of criminality or antisocial behaviour.

“Police pass on the details of those involved in antisocial behaviour to the council’s neighbourhood teams in the form of contact cards.

“Neighbourhood teams can then put young people in touch with relevant agencies to help them get back on the right track.

“This could involve encouraging them to participate in positive activities or educating them about the consequences of continuing to behave antisocially.

“In addition, police and partners use restorative justice as a way of getting young offenders to pay for their crimes in full view of those communities affected by their actions. This means that not only is justice done - it is also seen to be done.”

The issue of children being held in custody, particularly over night, has recently led to police forces’ being asked tough questions.

GMP’s assistant chief constable, Dawn Copley appeared before MPs in Westminster last month to discuss the subject of children being detained in custody.

ACC Copley said: “The Police and Criminal Evidence Act is clear on this matter and states that if they are being kept in custody they should be transferred to the care of the local authority.

“But in practice we know that local authorities do not always have the accommodation available, and with shrinking resources I think this becomes a growing concern,” she told MPs.

“Too often, children and young people remain in custody overnight. The continued chronic breach of this legislative requirement is not only bad practice per se; subliminally it indicates to all involved in the process that children’s rights are not seen as important, and I’ve raised my concerns on this with the Home Office.”