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Child crime figures

PUBLISHED: 12:09 10 September 2009 | UPDATED: 17:08 25 August 2010

MORE than a million children have been dragged though the judicial system since Labour swept to power.

MORE than a million children have been dragged though the judicial system since Labour swept to power.

Since New Labour's first landslide in 1997 1,033,454 children aged between ten and 17 have been convicted of a criminal offence, including nearly 30,000 ten to 12-year-olds.

The figures which go up to 2007 were obtained by the Liberal Democrats and reveal London has had a 26 per cent increase in child convictions, totalling 132,583 for the decade.

Of these 68 per cent were aged 16 or 17, 30 per cent were between 13 and 15 and 2,276 were aged just 10 to 12.

Bromley and Bexley London Assembly member and youth ambassador James Cleverly said he does not believe all the children in the criminal system are 'bad kids'.

The father-of-two said: "The idea of locking people away and just expecting them to turn themselves around is a bit naïve and at worst it is a real dereliction of duty. It is a terrible failure of the system."

Mr Cleverly claims one of the causes of the problem is the government's alleged undermining of headteachers' authority.

This month (September) Boris Johnson's policy comes into force whereby children who have had their free travel passes banned because of bad behaviour, can earn them back through community service.

Mr Cleverly said: "It is about punishing bad behaviour, not criminalising them. It is about teaching them repercussions and instilling that in them."

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats propose tackling potential offenders before they enter the criminal justice system.

They want Community Justice Panels established to draw up Positive Behaviour Orders (PBOs), which require minor offenders to agree on a course of action to pay back the community they have wronged.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: "It is a disgrace the government spends eleven times more locking up our young people than it does on backing projects to stop them getting involved in crime in the first place.

"We need to see innovative approaches that ensure children make amends to their victims and put things right, rather than immediately criminalising them."

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: "Youth crime is unacceptable and can have a devastating effect on communities and young people themselves. We make no apology for tackling this head on."

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marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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