Children investigated for sexual offences could be victims too, say police
Alarming figures have revealed children as young as two being investigated for sexual offences in Suffolk.
Data showed the youngest person suspected of committing a sexual offence in the last three years was a boy aged two in 2017.
In the last year, police looked into 454 incidents involving children under 18, including 77 involving children under the age of criminal responsibility (10) and exempt from arrest or charge.
Children between 10 and 14 can be convicted of criminal offences if prosecutors prove they were capable of forming intent.
Police said the figures reflected changes to Home Office crime counting rules, which, since 2014, have required forces to record outcomes for all offences resulting in no further action.
A senior detective in Suffolk’s crime, safeguarding and incident management team, acknowledged the figures appeared alarming, but said police took a vastly different approach to dealing with very young suspects, whose own welfare may require safeguarding as a result of enquiries.
Detective Superintendent David Giles said: “It used to be that, if an offender was under 10, we wouldn’t record a crime outcome. That was rectified a few years ago, and while we record outcomes as we would adults, what we do with the offenders is very different.
“If a child of three told a parent they were touched by a child aged two at nursery, and that touching was considered inappropriate, we have an obligation to record it.
“We then take a very different approach when dealing with the two-year-old, who would be looked at in relation to their own welfare, and why they have done it.
“Have they repeated something witnessed in their own home that’s inappropriate, or has the named offender been a victim?
“It could lead to a referral to the safeguarding team to find out what’s going on and give support.”
Investigations involving juveniles also comprise historical crimes and last year included 21 reported incidents of exposure or voyeurism, 124 of rape, 137 of sexual activity, 169 sexual assaults and one case of sexual grooming.
Det Supt Giles said offences involving very young children were likely to be lower on the scale of severity, and that those involving older children included teenagers exchanging indecent images via ‘sexting’, but he insisted police would encourage – and take seriously – reporting of any suspected offence.
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