UK riots: Fifth of riot suspects are children

The statistic is highlighted by the most comprehensive analysis yet of the first defendants facing the courts following last week’s violence.

Of 479 cases which have appeared in magistrates’ courts around the country, 21% are age 17 or under, entitling them to anonymity and more lenient punishments.

This statistic casts doubt on Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to hand out harsh prison sentences to those responsible for the terrible scenes which blighted Britain in recent days.

Of the children and under age teenagers almost half face burglary charges relating to the looting of shops and other businesses and around 20 per cent are facing trial for violent disorder.

But judges and magistrates have extremely limited sentencing powers when dealing with those below the age of consent, with prison an absolute last resort under current rules.

The vast majority of young people appearing before the courts have been released under referral orders, which oblige them only to meet support workers or observe curfews.

In all the figures show that the majority of those involved last week – 53 per cent – were 21 year old or younger, reinforcing the widespread fears about breakdown of respect for law and order among the young.

Among those whose employment status was stated, the single most common occupation was “student”. Other jobs included scaffolders, a chef, a lifeguard, a postman, a trainee hairdresser, a forklift truck driver, an electrician and a freelance journalist.

Across all age groups almost half the 479 suspects – 45 per cent – are facing burglary charges related to the looting of shops, with the charge sheets featuring a virtual who’s who of High Street retailers, many of them electrical and mobile phone shops and sports stores.

This includes the oldest suspect so has far brought before magistrates, 58 year old Igrid Smith, from Manchester, who is accused of trespass and theft after “entered Tesco Express”, on Oxford Road, in the city. She was remanded in custody.

The youngest of the cases was an 11-year-old boy who admitted looting a Debenhams store in his home town of Romford, Essex. Other charges of violent disorder were dropped by the prosecution. He is due to be sentenced at a later date.

Around 15 per cent have been charged with violent disorder and 15 are accused of being behind the horrifying attacks arson attacks on buildings which saw people lose their homes, their possessions and in some cases nearly lose their lives.

A small number, around one per cent, are accused of attacks on police officers, although this number is expected to increase as detectives pore over hours of CCTV footage trying to identify more offenders.

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