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4YR-OLD KIDS BEING QUIZZED BY POLICE; 13 children under 10 questioned over alleged offences.

Byline: EXCLUSIVE BY VICTORIA MCMAHON victoria.mcmahon@mgn.co.uk

THIRTEEN children under 10 were quizzed by police over their alleged crimes last year.

Figures obtained by the Daily Mirror show that children as young as four are being questioned by cops.

And we can reveal police were drafted in to quiz two eight-year-olds over two separate sex crimes in 2010.

To protect the identities of the children we cannot say whether the accused sex crime youngsters were boys or girls and the PSNI has refused to give further details of the exact nature of what they were suspected of for fear of identifying them.

However, a sex offence can range from a serious attack on another child to sending an explicit photograph of themselves or someone else over a mobile phone.

Officers from G district, covering Magherafelt, Limavady, Foyle and Strabane, quizzed one of the eight-year-olds in 2010.

The same year police from E district, which covers Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Newry and Mourne, also questioned an eight-year-old after the child was accused of being involved in a sex offence. And in the same district and a four-year-old was accused of criminal damage.

In 2011 police quizzed a nine-year-old in relation to the violent offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Last year two five-year-olds were questioned over cruelty while five children, including a five-year-old, were suspected of theft.

A source said: "Sometimes what you have in relation to these kids are older ones involving them unwittingly in their crime sprees. Younger brothers or sisters are taught from an early age to nick stuff.

"Also what you have are small children who do as they are told when they are squeezed through a window in a house to steal. Some don't have a clue what they are doing is wrong. It's really all they know."

Thirteen children under the age of 10 were quizzed by police over their alleged crimes during last year alone. Worryingly, our probe has revealed youngsters were also suspected of aggravated assault, criminal damage, burglary, motoring offences and common assault.

The children are too young to face any criminal charges as the legal age of responsibility in Northern Ireland is 10.

A total of 39 children have been questioned by police from 2010 to 2012 after being accused of bad behaviour.

Barnardo's NI's Jacqui Montgomery-Devlin added: "We need to be asking what is happening to these children.

"This is disturbing. I'm not condoning this type of behaviour but questions need to be asked what has happened to these children that they are carrying out this type of behaviour."

Eileen Calder of the Rape Crisis Centre blamed sex crimes being carried out by youngsters in part on the availability of online porn in sexualising children.

She said: "Those figures are shocking, but they are probably the tip of the iceberg. I would call on parents to be more vigilant with their children.

"They need to be wellversed in computers and Facebook to ensure their children stay children."

A police spokesman added: "A child under 10 who comes to the attention of police because of criminal behaviour is dealt with according to the seriousness of the offence. "In terms of, for example, antisocial behaviour or criminal damage, police can contact a parent or guardian to arrange a meeting where the child's behaviour can be discussed with a view to preventing the behaviour from being repeated.

"If, however, the allegation is of a serious sexual nature, a dedicated team of specially trained detectives in the PSNI Public Protection Unit can investigate."

have the"We need to be asking what has happened to these children BARNARDO'S
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 1, 2013
Words:606
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