A three-year-old child is believed to have become Britain’s youngest shoplifter after being caught stealing gifts from Boots.
The child was one of three youngsters who entered the store in Wallington, south London, with two adults.
They were spotted loading items into a bag before leaving the shop and getting into a car. No-one was prosecuted for the offence last Christmas, details of which emerged today in a freedom of information response.
It revealed there were 60 crimes in Sutton borough in the last three years where a child under 10 is believed to have been responsible.
Children under 10 are below the age of criminal responsibility and cannot be prosecuted.
David Tucker, associate head of policy at the NSPCC said: “Children who are suspected of behaviour that would be criminal may be showing signs that raise concerns about their welfare and this may need to be investigated so that appropriate support can be put into place.”
Ray Donovan, who works with young offenders, said young children were sometimes forced to commit crimes by their parents in the knowledge they could not be prosecuted.
Mr Donovan, who founded the Chris Donovan Trust with his wife Vi after their son died after a gang attack in 2001, told the Sutton Guardian: “We want to get victim awareness put on the school curriculum. It’s about explaining to children that their actions have consequences – we call it the ripple effect where the consequences of their actions ripple out and affect the whole community.
“There is also a problem with parents. In some cases parents are trying too hard to be their children’s mates and going out drinking with them and things like that. They aren’t our friends, they’re our children – there’s more to being a parent than being their friend.”
A Sutton police spokesman said it was the first borough in London to run Police Academies – after school clubs where primary school pupils can work with police to understand their work.
The spokesman said: ““Officers also give regular talks in schools to pupils of different ages about personal safety. These talks and presentations range from stranger danger and dialling 999 through to drugs advice and about keeping safe on the internet.”
The revelations – which include robbery, burglary and vandalism – have sparked calls for primary school children to be educated about the consequences of crime.
Police records also revealed details of a five-year-old vandalising a car, children aged seven and nine being involved in a burglary, a nine-year-old being accused of racially aggravated harassment and an eight-year-old being accused of assault.
An incident in a park in Carshalton involved a gang including a 10-year-old boy attacking a man to steal his mobile phone. Three of the group, one aged 14 and two 17-year-olds, were charged with actual bodily harm but the 10-year-old was not prosecuted.
Police are unable to charge under-10s with crimes but can impose a curfew or put the child under the supervision of a youth offending team. Those who break the law regularly can be placed into local authority care.
Read more: Standard UK