Cheap drink 'fuels youth crime'

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More than 6,000 children aged 10 to 15 were prosecuted or were given police cautions for alcohol-related crimes between 2003 and 2007. A total of 39,714 children aged 17 or under were fined, cautioned or taken to court for such offences in England and Wales, including 124 aged 10 to 12 and 6,111 aged 13 to 15.

The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures, called them shocking and demanded an an end to sales of alcohol at "pocket-money prices". They found the number of under-18s involved in drink-related offences had risen by 28.4 per cent, from 6,764 in 2003 to 8,686 in 2007. The number of those aged 13 to 15 given cautions increased by 17.4 per cent, and the number taken to court rose by 19.9 per cent.

Chris Huhne, the party's Home Affairs spokesman, said the data "painted a shocking picture" of how many children were "dragged into the criminal justice system through alcohol abuse". He added: "The problem appears to be growing worse by leaps and bounds. Ministers talk a lot about the alcohol crisis in this country but have completely failed to tackle it. Unless we change our drinking culture, we will condemn many of these children and adolescents to serious long-term alcohol-related illnesses or a life of crime.

"We must start educating our children about the dangers of drink or these figures will get worse. The Government should enforce a strict policy that those who sell alcohol to under-age children will lose their licences."