FRUSTRATED police say they are powerless to arrest a nine-year-old boy suspected of committing a string of crimes – because he is too young.
The tiny tearaway and an 11-year-old boy are alleged to have caused ‘mayhem’ in and around Portsmouth city centre, much of it racially motivated.
Officers have arrested and bailed the older boy on suspicion of carrying out 11 offences – six of racially aggravated common assault, two of criminal damage, one bike theft, one offence of harassment and one of tampering with a vehicle.
But they cannot take legal action against the younger boy because by law children cannot be arrested until they are 10 years old. Police suspect the pair have committed up to 15 crimes in the last five weeks.
Sergeant Rob Sutton from Portsmouth’s city centre unit said: ‘They have caused mayhem with offences from anti-social behaviour to being rude to people and general nuisance through to assaults and criminal damage. They have been into shops and restaurants and caused damage to property in there. They have also assaulted people, they’ve spat in people’s faces, they’ve been on the tops of roofs of buildings in Guildhall Walk, throwing rubbish and bottles and metal on people walking below and they’ve racially abused people. I’m not having this on my beat.
‘The nine-year-old we can do nothing with when it comes to criminal offences because he is under the age of criminal responsibility. The 11-year-old has been arrested for many offences.’
Police and representatives including social services, housing and education have now met to work out how to tackle the problem.
Sgt Sutton added: ‘My concern is we have got a high level of crime being committed by some very young people. The seriousness of the offences is escalating.
‘I’ve seen kids this young come up on the radar but not to this extent, not this volume of crime and incidents in such a short space of time.
‘The city centre team works very hard to ensure the city centre is a safe place to work, shop and visit. We don’t want these sort of incidents happening. The second aspect is we’ve got concerns for the welfare of these children. We’re here to prevent and detect crime but we are also here to help people.’