Lawless teenagers frustrate police

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Police and the judiciary voiced their anger and frustration yesterday over teenagers' growing disregard for the law.

In one case, police in County Durham admitted they cannot halt a crimewave by a teenager who is terrorising a town despite being arrested 72 times. Detectives believe the boy is responsible for 10 per cent of all crime in Peterlee.

After each appearance before youth courts the 14-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has walked free to start re-offending almost immediately.

Detective Inspector Tim Wilson said: "He is an angelic-faced cult figure among the more easily-led juveniles in the town. But, make no mistake, he is cunning, evil and beyond control."

The boy showed no concern for his future in an interview broadcast by a local radio station last night. Asked what punishment might eventually await him, the 14-year-old, replied: "Go to jail or something." When the reporter sought his feelings about that prospect, his only response was: "Not bothered."

Judge Robert Ackroyd, at Rochdale County Court, Greater Manchester, adopted a different approach to a gang of teenage tearaways blamed for a wave of burglaries, violence and threats on three council estates. He ordered that the teenagers should be banned from a square mile covering the Waithlands, Channing Moss and Guinness Trust estates.

The most tragic outcome of teenage lawlessness came to its conclusion yesterday when a teenager who robbed and killed an elderly victim of Nazi persecution was sentenced to five years in a young offenders' institution. The 14-year-old boy pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to killing Eva Scheiber. A girl of the same age was given a two-year supervision order for her part in the crime.

Judge Bruce Laughland said: "It really is deeply depressing to confront in the rather awesome surroundings of this court two children, one pleading guilty to the manslaughter of an old lady."