RAPE, sexual assault, arson and robbery are just some of the offences carried out by children under the age of 10 in County Durham and Darlington in the last four years.

A total of more than 150 crimes committed by children under the age of criminal responsibility have been recorded by Durham Police since 2013.

According to a Freedom of Information request, no crimes were recorded by the force in 2012/13, but increased to 9 in 2013/14, 55 the following year and to a high of 65 in 2015/16.

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In 2016/2017 there were 33 recorded incidents, including two instances of sexual activity involving a child under the age of 13, a nine-year-old boy who caused racially or religiously aggravated public fear, alarm or distress and a four-year-old boy who was classed as having assaulted another person.

The year before incidents included a five-year-old boy caught with an obscene publication, an eight-year-old boy said to have raped a girl under the age of 13 and a nine-year-old boy accused of robbery.

Instances of criminal damage, shoplifting, stealing a bike and theft were also all recorded.

The youngest child, who was recorded as having committed criminal damage, was a two-year-old girl.

Durham Police says it tries to work with young people accused of crimes to try and tackle the root of problems.

A spokeswoman said: “We deal with each individual incident in what we believe to be the most appropriate way, which isn’t always an arrest.

“We do not aim to criminalise children but instead take a more positive approach in dealing with their issues.

“Our goal is to steer young offenders away from a life of crime by getting to the root of their problems in the first instance.

“We advocate the use of a problem-solving approach, rather than reliance on arrests. By using this approach, we identify the root causes of offending, antisocial behaviour and persistent problems in communities and develop a tailored approach to address them.

“This approach has been successful in addressing a wide range of crime and antisocial behaviour problems that traditional policing methods alone have not been able to.”