Children under the age of 10 years old have committed a shocking number of rapes in the Newcastle area since 2014, data acquired by NationalWorld has revealed.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said the “awful” incidents may come about as a result of abuse suffered by the chid perpertrating the rapes.
The group added that safeguarding, not punitive action, must be the priority.
Data shows that since 2014, Northumbria Police has not been able to pursue an outcome in 72 rape cases.
The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 10. Children younger than this cannot be arrested or charged with a crime.
The figures are based on the date a final outcome for a crime was recorded, rather than the crime itself.
In English and Welsh law, rape involves non-consensual penetration of a victim’s vagina, anus or mouth with a penis. It would not cover penetration with any other part of the body, or with an object, which is instead classed as sexual assault by penetration.
Nationally, the numbers show that the majority of cases at this age involve a male victim, which bucks the trend with rape cases overall.
Around 55% of the offences involving an underage suspect were committed against male victims.
In the first six months of 2021/22, Northumbria Police already recorded three instances where an outcome was not able to be pursued due to perpetrator being under 10.
The most prevalent year was 2019/20 where 20 instances were recorded, followed by 19 in 2017/18. There were none in 2015/16.
Clare Kelly, NSPCC associate head of policy and public affairs, said: “Younger children may display harmful sexual behaviour for a number of reasons such as being coerced into an act by an adult or being exposed to trauma and abuse themselves.
“In some of the most serious cases it may be deemed necessary for a child under 10 to be placed under a Child Safety Order, but it is absolutely essential that safeguarding and welfare of children involved in these awful incidents is the priority – rather than a punitive response.”