Rape, conspiracy to murder, arson

HUNDREDS of children in Comet country have been given what amounts to a slapped wrist after admitting guilt to crimes as serious as rape, conspiracy to murder and arson. There were 223 serious criminal offences – 120 in Stevenage and 103 in North Hertford

HUNDREDS of children in Comet country have been given what amounts to a slapped wrist after admitting guilt to crimes as serious as rape, conspiracy to murder and arson.

There were 223 serious criminal offences - 120 in Stevenage and 103 in North Hertfordshire - committed by children as young as 10 which resulted in a warning, reprimand or caution, from November 2005 to November 2006.

One case in Stevenage was of a 16-year-old who raped a female under 13 years old. Eleven counts of wounding and 13 offences of common assault were also dismissed with verbal rebukes.

This is according to figures released by Hertfordshire Police, following a request by The Comet under the Freedom of Information Act.

A 13-year-old and a 17-year-old were also given slapped wrists for the possession of weapons, as was a 17-year-old for harassment.

In Stevenage, other offences which resulted in youths receiving a warning, reprimand or caution included arson, criminal damage, handling stolen goods, fraud, theft, attempting to pervert the course of public justice and the possession of controlled drugs.

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In North Hertfordshire, a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old were dealt with similarly for the offence of threat or conspiracy to murder.

An arson attack by a 13-year-old and the offence of possession of weapons by a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old also resulted in verbal arbitration.

Nine offences of common assault and 11 offences of wounding were included in the list, and 10 offences of harassment and four of racially or religiously aggravated harassment also resulted in the offenders receiving a warning, reprimand or caution.

In North Hertfordshire, other offences which resulted in a youth receiving a warning, reprimand or caution included sexual assault, burglary, criminal damage, handling stolen goods, theft and possession of controlled drugs.

All 223 offences across North Hertfordshire and Stevenage concerned youths aged 10 to 17.

Supt Adrian Walter, from the eastern area of Hertfordshire Police, said: "We take a robust stance when dealing with juveniles who have committed serious offences and they are dealt with accordingly.

"From the figures it appears that the peak age for juvenile offenders is 14 which would indicate that the way we deal with offenders early on prevents them from re-offending.

"Youths who commit crime are often dealt with by means of restorative justice initiatives for minor offences and those who commit more serious offences are dealt with accordingly.

"Given the population of Stevenage and North Herts, the number of youths offending remains relatively low compared to other parts of the country.

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