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Robbery and drug crimes committed by UK children rise for first time in years

By Hayden Smith, Press Association Home Affairs Correspondent

The numbers of robbery, public order and drug-related offences committed by children have risen for the first time in years, official figures show.

Increases in the three categories were at odds with reductions seen across much the youth justice system.

Under-18s were convicted or cautioned in relation to a total of 70,349 crimes in England and Wales in 2017/18.

This tally has fallen by three quarters in a decade, and dipped by 4% compared with the previous 12 months.

Year-on-year decreases were recorded across all offence groups except:

- Robbery, which increased by 15% to 2,355 offences, having fallen in each of the previous three years;

- Public order offences, which had previously seen falls in each of the last ten years, but increased by 9% to 5,248;

- Drugs offences, which rose by 2% to nearly 6,000, after having previously seen long-term falls.

The figures are detailed in a report published by the Ministry of Justice, which also showed that "violence against the person" offences now account for more than a quarter of crimes committed by children.

There were 20,111 offences in this category, which was down slightly year-on-year.

But as a proportion of the total number of crimes it has increased to 29%, compared with 19% a decade earlier.

The paper said: "Whilst the number of violence against the person offences has fluctuated in recent years, they have been steadily increasing as a proportion of all offences over the last ten years."

The findings come amid mounting concern over serious violence, and knife crime in particular.

In the year ending March 2018, there were just under 4,500 offences of possessing, or making threats with, a knife or offensive weapon committed by children resulting in a caution or conviction.

The report, published on Thursday, said that while this was an increase of 64% compared with five years ago, and there have been year-on-year increases since the year ending March 2014, the number of these offences remains lower than in the years ending March 2009 and 2010.

Overall, just under 26,700 children and young people received a caution or sentence in the 12 months to March 2018, a fall of 82% compared with ten years earlier, and a 6% year-on-year decrease.

Police in England and Wales made around 65,000 arrests of children in 2017/18.

This number has fallen by more than three quarters (78%) in a decade, and was down by 8% year-on-year.