Young Crooks Escape Justice

Article excerpt

Byline: Richard McComb

A 12-year-old rape suspect walked free from court because of a police bungle -one of thousands of youngsters who escape prosecution in the West Midlands each year.

Young offenders are responsible for nearly a fifth of recorded crime at a cost of millions of pounds in stolen goods and criminal damage, an analysis of police statistics shows.

The official detection rate in the West Midlands is 26.3 per cent but for some offences the clearup rate is as low as seven per cent, The Birmingham Post can reveal. And new figures to be released today will also show only 56 per cent of juveniles are prosecuted -the rest receiving police reprimands or warnings.

Police representatives admitted the system was biased towards juveniles but said parents also had to shoulder responsibility for the behaviour of their children, while youth justice officials said noncustodial sentences could prove effective in reducing crime.

The Post can reveal that the 12-year-old rape suspect walked free from court last week because of police delays in handling evidence.

The child was accused of raping a boy under the age of 16 but the case was discharged at Birmingham Youth Court because of a mix-up over the delivery of medical and forensic evidence.

In a separate prosecution, the case against a 16-year-old girl accused of assault was subjected to a lengthy adjournment to allow her to go on holiday to Antigua. Statistics produced by West Midlands Police show juveniles were responsible for 16,453 (17.9 per cent) of the 92,048 crimes detected in 2002/03.

Juveniles were behind 49.4 per cent of detected arsons (125 offences out of 253).

If that percentage was applied to total recorded arsons, they would have carried out an estimated 1,800 of the 3,712 offences -and the police only managed to detect seven per cent of these crimes. …