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CHILDREN under the age of 10 were suspected of a catalogue of serious crimes, including rape, arson, and sexual assault last year, it can be revealed.

More than 180 crimes in Lancashire were thought to have been committed by young children under the age of criminal responsiblity, which is 10.

Because of their age, none of the children were arrested or charged, and the crimes remain ‘undetected’.

They included two rapes and five sexual assaults of girls under the age of 13, three arsons, two counts of possessing knives, and one of racially or religiously aggravated assault.

Numerous crimes more commonly associated with children, such as criminal damage, shoplifting, and assault without injury were also recorded, data released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed.

Children under the age of 10 being suspected of crimes has rocketed from 39 in 2008/09 to 183 in 2012/13, leading to calls for a ‘far more robust approach’ towards offenders.

It was not clear whether the rise was reflected nationally because information is not collected by the Home Office.

Hyndburn and Haslingden MP Graham Jones said: “A bigger stick needs to be taken to troubled families who lead disfunctional lives, particularly those who seem to think getting caught is an occupational hazard.

“There’s a persistent underclass that we need to get to grips with, and that people are frightened of talking about, but whose behaviour needs to be challenged.

“We need to take a far more robust approach towards them.

“These are children under the age of 10; it’s their parents who bear the full responsibility.”

Mr Jones added the figures suggest a government programme aimed at reducing youth crime and anti-social behaviour was failing.

He said: “These figures show that the government’s Trouble Families programme has got a long way to go. These figures would suggest it’s a failing policy.”