Monday 11 December 2017

Five-year-old girl accused of ‘sex attack’ amid surge in school allegations

Children as young as five are being reported to police (Stock)
Children as young as five are being reported to police (Stock)

John Bingham

Children as young as five are being reported to police on suspicion of “sexual assault” according to new research, prompting claims that “common sense” is now being abandoned because of pressure on schools to act on allegations.

New figures from police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland show the number of sexual offence claims brought by or about schoolchildren almost trebling in the four years since the Jimmy Savile scandal first broke.

Among children potentially suspected in the last year was a five year-old girl in England after an allegation of “sexual assault” on a boy.

No other details about her case were provided. In practice she could not have been charged or prosecuted because she is under 10, the age of criminal responsibility 10 in England and Wales.

Meanwhile two five year-old boys were also reported to police accused of “sexual activity” with girls, according to the data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the children’s charity the Plan International.

Overall, the total number of sexual allegations made to the police involving schools jumped from 719 in the financial year 2011-12 to 1,955 in 2014-15.

Almost 800 schoolchildren were regarded as suspects in that time.

The charity, which specialises in campaigning for girls’ equality said the figures showed children urgently need to be educated about “healthy” relationships.

But others argued that they could be partly the result of a culture of over-reaction in an attempt to compensate for past failures to take victims seriously highlighted by the Savile scandal and a string of other cases.  

It follows figures from the Metropolitan Police in May last year showing children as young as seven are being investigated by police for violent “crimes” against their parents

Also last year a report by the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary revealed one police force took a young girl into custody after a fight with her sister over the television remote control.

Lucy Russell, UK girls’ rights campaign manager at Plan International, said: “We are very concerned about these findings, sadly we are not really shocked because we have heard time and time again from girls in the UK that sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is sadly quite commonplace.”

But she added: “Clearly the very young cases are extremely unrepresentative of the wider data and very much the exception rather than the rule.

“Certainly … there are limits to what is being recorded.”

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