The schoolkid could not be charged as he was under 10 (Image: Getty)

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A boy aged just nine is thought to be Britain’s youngest ever crack cocaine dealer.

The primary schoolkid was picked up by police for possession of the Class A drug with intent to supply.

But the boy could not be charged as he was under 10 – the legal age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales.

While details of the boy’s background in Cambridgeshire have not been disclosed, experts say it is likely he was being made to carry the drugs for an older brother, sister or even parent.

The nine-year-old is among thousands of under-10s in England and Wales caught up in serious crime.

Our research found that nearly 16,000 crime reports relating to suspects aged nine or younger were logged by officers in the last five years.

Ex-offender Junior Smart runs the St Giles's SOS Service in London
(Image: Jonathan Taylor)

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The true total is likely to be far higher as only 29 out of 43 police forces handed over information.

Ex-offender Junior Smart, among those overseeing the Home Office’s new youth crime purge, told us: “This nine-year-old will almost definitely have been in the company of an adult who didn’t want to take the risk.”

Junior, hailed for his pioneering anti-gang work with the St Giles Trust in London, said: “When I first started doing this 15 years ago I was shocked by the 10-year-olds on our caseload.

Thousands of under-10s in England and Wales get caught up in serious crime
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“Now I don’t even bat an eyelid. They are getting younger and younger.

“They are used to carry the drugs for a family member or friend. One of the most common things these children say to me is that ‘we thought these people cared about us’.”

Junior added: “Since Covid hit, there have been thousands upon thousands of families out of work who weren’t entitled to furlough.

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“If they see a way of making money they will take that risk. Since the pandemic started, we have seen even more children exploited by drug gangs.”

Other shocking cases exposed by our Freedom of Information request include a girl of six quizzed by Greater Manchester Police over a burglary.

In Hertfordshire a boy of seven attacked a cop while Greater Manchester Police dealt with a seven-year-old girl who used a knife to make threats in school.

Esther Rantzen is the founder of Childline
(Image: JONATHAN BUCKMASTER)

The youngest suspected shoplifter recorded was a boy aged THREE in Cambridgeshire.

TV’s Esther Rantzen, founder of Childline, said: “All these children are at serious risk and in need of protection.”

Our investigation also found a disturbing rise in the number of under-10s suspected of sexually abusing other children. Numbers have soared from 457 in 2016/17 to 644 in 2020/21.

Jo Shiner, Chief Constable of Sussex and National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for children, said: “Breaking the cycle of children becoming involved in criminal activity is a key area for all agencies involved.”

Andrew Fellowes of the NSPCC said: “It’s really important the response looks to understand the reason behind the behaviour.”

Contact ChildLine on 0800 1111 or via childline.org.uk