THE number of children under 10 linked with crimes in Knutsford and Wilmslow has risen over the past five years, figures show.

Cheshire Police data released under a Freedom of Information Act request shows a notable increase in children linked to such activity while still below the age of criminal responsibility, which in England is 10.

Full data from 2013 through to 2016 shows the number of children linked to crimes – i.e. victims, suspects, witnesses or even connected to a different offender – rising from one to six, while in Wilmslow the figure rose from two to 12.

Between April and December 2012, no children from Knutsford were linked with recorded crimes, compared to one in Wilmslow. In the first three months of 2017, the figures stood at zero and four, respectively.

In releasing the data before the end of last year, a Cheshire Police spokesman said: “We don’t record children under 10 as being offenders (i.e. responsible for crimes) as they are below the age of criminal responsibility.

“For example if a nine-year-old was responsible for a criminal damage, an unsolved crime outcome would be used.

“The nine-year-old would be linked to the crime as ‘subject’ or ‘suspect’ party classifications. Prior to April 2017, they could also have been linked as ‘young offender’ or ‘offender’.”

A Bill is currently being pushed through Parliament to raise the age of criminal responsibility in the UK to 12, a move supported by the NSPCC.

A spokesman for the charity said: “The criminal justice system must support children who have committed offences to change their behaviour and hold young people increasingly accountable for their actions as they mature.

“But at age 10, children are unlikely to understand the consequences of their actions or be able to effectively participate in criminal proceedings.

“The NSPCC believes the current age of criminal responsibility should be raised to at least 12 years of age in England.

“Robust action outside the youth justice system to deal with child offenders aged 10 and 11 would serve justice more effectively and better prevent future crime.”