Children as young as five have been accused of rape across Yorkshire, new figures can today reveal.
A Freedom of Information Request obtained by the Yorkshire Post shows at least 13 children under the age of 10 were suspected of committing rape in the county in just six months.
The number is expected to be even higher as figures from two Yorkshire Police forces - Humberside Police and North Yorkshire Police - were not provided upon request.
The figures show that 12 children from West Yorkshire were suspected of rape between October 2018 and April this year.
One child in the South Yorkshire force was also suspected of the same offence in the same time period.
The figures also show that there were 416 children under the age of 10 suspected of a catalogue of offences in West Yorkshire during the six month time period.
Of those 416, 70 were suspected of sexual offences.
Nearly 200 young children in West Yorkshire were also suspected of violent offences.
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In South Yorkshire, 78 children under the age of 10 were suspected of offences.
Of those 78, 17 were suspected of sexual offences.
A total of 28 children were suspected of assaults, 12 for criminal damage and a further six for harassment.
An NSPCC spokeswoman described the numbers as "deeply worrying".
She said: "It is deeply worrying that so many children are suspected of criminal offences across Yorkshire.
"It is important to understand what may cause a young child to behave harmfully towards other children.
“The criminal justice system must support young people who have committed offences to change their behaviour while holding them increasingly accountable for their actions as they mature.
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“The NSPCC’s Turn the Page service, in our Leeds/Bradford and York service centres, helps children and young people overcome feelings that have made them display harmful sexual behaviour. We build a support network around a child, which helps keep them and their peers safe in all aspects of their lives.”
Despite the serious nature of the allegations, none of the children were arrested or charged because they fall below the age of criminal responsibility.
In England and Wales, the age of legal responsibility is ten while in Scotland it is eight.
Instead, the most they face is a curfew, a child protection order or being taken into care.
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West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable John Robins said cross-agency early intervention work is vital in educating children and preventing them from becoming embroiled in a life of crime.
He said: "Whether it be through the Troubled Families initiative or preventative measures, it is about the societal change that makes a difference to children
"Here at West Yorkshire Police we are all about that, but it also important we work with our partner agencies so that everyone is involved in that societal change."
"The figures make up a very small percentage of overall crime in West Yorkshire, but we do have many community based groups, schools and health professionals working together to have a positive influence on young children and I think West Yorkshire is ahead of the game in that department. "