A TOTAL of 67 children under 10 were linked to crimes in Northwich over the past five years, new figures have revealed.

Between April 2012 and March 2017, 1,609 children under 10 were linked to criminal offences across Cheshire.

The figures have steadily risen, with just nine children aged under 10 linked to criminal activity in Cheshire in April 2012 and 68 in March 2017.

The figures were obtained through a Freedom of Information request by Murray Jacobsen.

As a result of the way police record information relating to children under the age of 10, it is not clear from the figures how the children are involved in the crimes - eg a victim, witness or suspect.

Between April 2012 and March 2017, 31 children under the age of 10 were recorded as being linked with a crime in Northwich north, with 36 recorded in Northwich south.

In Winsford, 115 children were linked to a crime during the same period. This highest month was June 2006, where nine children were linked to crimes.

In Wilmslow, there were 34 recorded in the same period and nine in Knutsford.Crewe had 188 in total.

Cheshire Police said it makes calculation of the suspect’s age based on the difference between their date of birth and the date the crime first occurred from, which it says is not always accurate.

A Cheshire Police spokesman said: “Children aged under 10 who are linked to a crime could be a witness, a victim, a suspect or in some cases linked to the people connected to a crime.”

Currently, the age of criminal responsibility in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 10.

However, a Bill is currently being pushed through Parliament to raise the age of criminal responsibility in the UK to 12, a move that is 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.”