Boy aged 11 stole 150,000 pounds in raids on public houses

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AN 11-YEAR-OLD boy stole pounds 150,000 in 49 pub burglaries during a six-month period when he should have been in care, a court was told yesterday.

The boy, who spent some of the money on drugs and sex with prostitutes, was caught by police a fortnight ago and kept in a secure unit because he kept running away from children's homes.

Penelope Hewitt, a stipendiary magistrate, ordered him to be supervised by social services for three years, the maximum the law allows.

He is being held at a Leeds secure unit.

Mrs Hewitt told the boy, who admitted the 49 burglaries, that he had committed 'an appalling catalogue of offences'.

Leeds Youth Court heard that the boy, who was brought into court handcuffed to a policeman and who cannot be named for legal reasons, began picking pockets at the age of four and was hooked on drugs before he was 11. In court he was dressed in an England football team track-suit top.

Police discovered that he had once paid pounds 1,000 for heroin and at one time lived in a brothel.

Peter Mann, for the prosecution, said: 'Pubs across the north of the country are out of pocket to the tune of pounds 150,000. I believe he does not care what he has done.'

The boy was placed in council care last February but ran away, Mr Mann said.

He was recruited by a 'Fagin- style' gang who drove him to pubs in Leeds and as far afield as Skegness in Lincolnshire and Greater Manchester.

Mr Mann said: 'Sometimes he would climb up the drain-pipe to get in. Sometimes he would force a window and other times he would just sneak in.

'The burglaries took place when the pubs were open. He would make his way to the living quarters where, in the vast majority of pubs, he would find safes. These were usually open and he would help himself to cash and jewellery.'

One break-in at a pub in Leeds yielded pounds 16,000 in jewellery which he later sold in the city's red-light district, Chapeltown, for just pounds 200.

Mr Mann said the boy, who has been arrested 68 times in two years, was caught by police and returned to council care in September. But minutes after being dropped off he stole a bicycle and pedalled several miles to a pub where he stole pounds 4,000 from a safe.

Mr Steven Culleton, for the defence, said the boy had been exploited by adults, two of whom had since been arrested.

'He is just a boy. Where other children of 11 years of age are playing with train sets and Scalextric, this boy is committing crime.

'But I believe there is hope for him and he is being given immense support by social services and his mother. Thankfully, he has now stopped using drugs. I want to dispel the idea that he is a Moriarty in the making.'

Earlier this month new laws to punish parents of uncontrollable children came into force in the Criminal Justice Act with fines of up to pounds 1,000.

However, Mrs Hewitt said that sanction was not appropriate.

She told the boy's mother, who sat behind him in court: 'I make no further order. You have suffered enough already.'

A 17-year-old and a 19-year-old have been charged at Leeds Magistrates' Court in connection with one of the burglaries.