YP Comment: The 10-year-old gun criminals. Why do children need firearms?

THE most disturbing '“ indeed terrifying '“ aspect of the latest statistics on gun crime is the young age of the defendants being arrested and charged with firearm offences. Children as young as 10 are among those to have been detained for possessing lethal weapons that have the potential, if misused, to kill or seriously injure.

Policing alone won't curb gun crime.

Some context is required. This is not to say that every juvenile delinquent feels the need to carry a gun or knife on the streets of Britain. Quite the opposite. Firearms offences account for less than 0.2 per cent of total recorded crime according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council and this category, it says, does include air weapons which are said to be less dangerous.

However, it is important to guard against further complacency. There needs to be greater guidance on the recording of such incidents so the police, and other agencies, can gauge the seriousness of the issue and respond appropriately – North Yorkshire Police, for example, cited data protection for not releasing more details about the 11 children arrested on its patch for suspected offences and the three juveniles who were subsequently charged. Such a pedantic approach does not inspire confidence.

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Yet the greater issue is understanding the gang culture on inner city streets – and why young people feel the need to possess such weapons. Is it out of bravado, or for their own protection? What about their parents? Are they incapable of differentiating between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’? And are schools doing enough to warn of the dangers?

Although this is an issue for the police, it is a scourge that officers cannot counter without the support of local communities in helping to identify those misguided individuals in possession of dangerous weapons – and then the judiciary imposing sentences which do act as a deterrent. Without this twin-track approach, more innocent lives will be lost.

Age-old questions: Collective lethargy over pensions

IF EVER there was an issue in which the country needed to be snapped out of its collective lethargy, then it is pensions and the fact that too many people are not saving sufficient money for their retirement.

Though this issue is not as sensitive as those disability cuts that so angered taxpayers after George Osborne’s Budget, changing demographics are fundamental to the future of the economy as today’s generation becomes the first in history to be less well-off than its ancestors.

Today’s research, revealing that one in five individuals will have to work until their 70s before being able to retire, goes to the heart of this issue. The reasons for this are two-fold – healthier lifestyles mean that some people do not want to go on the employment scrap heap when they reach the age of 65 while others are having to work longer out of financial necessity because they thought, misguidedly, that their state pension would be sufficient to pay monthly bills and maintain a comfortable standard of living. It is not.

Yet the prevailing indifference is not helped by widespread confusion over pensions policy – meddling by successive Chancellors of the Exchequer has actually discouraged families from saving for their future because they believe they will be penalised for taking the responsible course of action. That cannot be right and needs to be tackled if more people are to start taking issue of pensions more seriously.

If not, tomorrow’s generation will have to work even longer, and harder, to simply pay for the care needs of all those people, and legislators, who did not face up to this age-old question.

Holiday hiatus. Prime Ministers on their travels

DAVID Cameron is not the first Prime Minister to have his holiday arrangements so closely scrutinised – who can forget Tony Blair and his sulking family enduring a few days in a rain-lashed Britain after the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic before escaping to warmer climes?

Yet, while no one should begrudge Mr Cameron from taking time off from his thankless job, it was the Prime Minister who made this so political when he implored families to support flood-hit regions, and it was the Tory leader’s aides who then revealed the Lanzarote trip.

Perhaps there is something to be said for the country being spared such details. The counter-argument is that social media now offers no privacy – even Harold Wilson would not have escaped such intrusion of his beloved Isles of Scilly. And then there were the controversies over the Blair sojourns to Tuscany and whether their hosts had any ulterior motives. At least Mr Cameron has avoided that proverbial can of worms.