A TOTAL of 115 children under 10 were linked to crimes in Winsford over the past five years, 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 most incidents recorded in a single month in Winsford was nine in June 2016.

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 - ie a victim, witness or suspect.

Winsford mayor and chairman of trustees for the Winsford Youth Forum Mike Kennedy, expressed concern over the rising figures.

He said: “It would be so easy for one to say these figures are extremely alarming and distressing, which viewing the yearly comparisons they actually are.

“However, I would like to see a breakdown of how many children were committing a crime, involved in some way or maybe victims.

“I must say whatever the full analysis, the yearly figures for 2016 to 2017 and indeed the first three months of 2017 do show a very significant increase.”

Mr Kennedy suggested worsening socio-economic issues could be contributing to the rise.

He said: “I could list a plethora of possible influencing factors, some of which may be right, however one thing I am certain of, the trend is on the up and it has to be stopped.

“We have a couple of dedicated youth centres where very young people respect the experienced staff, volunteers and each other.

“Winsford Town Council and Weaver Vale Housing Trust support these nights extremely well, possibly an expansion in this area is needed.

“Sadly, due to less funding, police community work will not increase but will in fact decrease.

“I do not have a crystal ball to say what is the answer, other than who is working to help solve issues.”

There were 16 months over the five year-period where no children under the age of 10 were linked with crimes in Winsford.

In Northwich, 67 children linked to crimes were recorded over the five years. Crewe had 188 in total.

Cheshire Police said it makes a 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.”