Child, nine, carried out sexual assault

A sexual assault by a nine-year-old was one of 32 recorded offences involving under 10s last year, a police force revealed today.

Figures released after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request showed dozens of proven incidents involving children aged nine or under in Gloucestershire last July.

Those include a five-year-old who caused criminal damage to a vehicle in the quiet riverside town of Tewkesbury and a nine-year-old from the Cotswolds who carried out a sexual assault.

A trio of seven-year-olds were found to have burgled a house in Dursley, and a nine-year-old committed racial abuse on the Hester's Way estate.

Two six-year-olds committed assaults occasioning actual bodily harm, in Gloucester city centre and Hucclecote.

None of the children were prosecuted as the age of criminal age of responsibility is 10. But all the allegations were investigated and the child involved found to be responsible, Gloucestershire police confirmed.

A force spokeswoman said today: "The way in which children who break the law are dealt with depends on the seriousness of their alleged offence.

"For example, if a child was found stealing a chocolate bar or behaving in an anti-social way, then a meeting would be held with the child's parents or guardians to ascertain any welfare issues.

"In the event of a more serious crime, the police would meet with other agencies and again decide the best way forward for all concerned.

"This may result in behaviour orders or, in the event of a crime which warrants a custodial sentence, the child would be tried in a juvenile court."

Dr David Turner, course leader in criminology at the University of Gloucestershire, said the age of criminal responsibility was a continued source of debate.

He told the Gloucestershire Echo, who put in the original FOI request: "There is much criticism of this position as it effectively means a child has the same responsibility as a fully-grown adult.

"The Government is constantly under pressure from the UN to review this as it is seen to contradict the Human Rights Act.

"Age is clearly a factor that pre-determines whether action should be taken against the offenders - this is also why we have a juvenile court system, to separate children from adults in the eyes of the law."

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