Thousands of children under-10 are being used by criminals to carry out crimes because they are too young to be formally charged, it has been revealed.
It comes as a recently arrested nine-year old boy is alleged to be Britain’s youngest ever crack cocaine dealer.
The primary school student was picked up for possession of the Class A drug with intent to supply.
But because he falls under the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales, he cannot be charged, reports the Mirror.
Experts said it is likely the child, who lives in Cambridgeshire, was made to deliver the drugs for an older relative.
He is thought to be among thousands of children being used to help carry out serious crimes.
A Freedom of Information Act obtained by the Mirror showed almost 16,000 crime reports from the past five years contained suspects aged nine or under.
The staggering figure could be even higher as only 29 out of 43 police forces replied to the information request.
Ex-offender Junior Smart, who is helping oversee the Home Office’s new youth crime purge, said: ‘This nine-year-old will almost definitely have been in the company of an adult who didn’t want to take the risk.’
‘When I first started doing this 15 years ago I was shocked by the 10-year-olds on our caseload.
‘Now I don’t even bat an eyelid. They are getting younger and younger.
‘They are used to carry the drugs for a family member or friend. One of the most common things these children say to me is that “we thought these people cared about us”‘.
He added that children are more at risk since the Covid pandemic hit as more families are facing desperate economic circumstances.
The data also revealed how a six-year-old girl was questioned by Greater Manchester Police over a burglary, while the same force quizzed a seven-year-old girl who used a knife to make threats at school.
In Cambridgeshire, a three-year-old boy was suspected of shoplifting.
Jo Shiner, Chief Constable of Sussex and National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for children, said: ‘Breaking the cycle of children becoming involved in criminal activity is a key area for all agencies involved.’
Andrew Fellowes of the NSPCC said: ‘It’s really important the response looks to understand the reason behind the behaviour.’
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