DOZENS of children aged under 10 in Bolton have been accused of a raft of serious crimes — including rapes, assaults and taking a knife into school.

The figures obtained by The Bolton News document reports of crimes by youngsters over the last three years.

They include four burglaries, two sexual assaults and two suspected rapes.

Tony Lloyd, police and crime commissioner, described the figures as "shocking" and a "wake-up call to parents and teachers".

There were a total of 115 incidents in Bolton where suspects were aged under 10.

Because of their age they will never be charged or taken to court for their crimes.

The statistics, obtained from GMP under Freedom of Information laws, relate to the period between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2014.

Police said that dealing with cases involving such young offenders was "complex" with a "whole host" of reasons for incidents occurring.

Det Supt Jon Chadwick said: "Whenever a crime occurs it is always recorded, irrespective of the age of the suspected offender.

"If we identify that the individual suspected of that crime is under the age of 10, and therefore under the age of criminal responsibility, they are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

"Investigations are handled sensitively by specially-trained officers, as there are often a number of complex factors that need to be considered with regard to both the victim and the offender."

In Bolton, there was a case of a child under 10 being suspected of wounding or causing grievous bodily harm.

There were 17 children thought to be behind assaults occasioning actual bodily harm, and 14 common assaults.

Another assault by a child under 10 was racially aggravated.

There were six cases of racially aggravated harassment involving such young children.

Meanwhile, one child had a knife on school premises, four were suspected of burglary.

There were 51 cases of criminal damage involving children under 10, one case of a child threatening someone with an offensive weapon, and 14 thefts, 13 of them being from shops or stalls.

Det Supt Chadwick said victims can be upset when they learn that the offenders cannot be prosecuted.

He said: "It can be upsetting for the victims of these crimes because the normal situation of a court case, most of the time, cannot happen.

"That is why appropriate referral procedures are in place to minimise a child's involvement in criminal activity, provide crime prevention advice, to help them understand the difference between right and wrong and where appropriate, safeguard them.

"It is always upsetting when very young children are involved in crime and that is why there is a communal responsibility for all agencies to respond, not just to the needs of the victim, but also the offender.

"A child does not just go out and commit a crime — there are a whole host of influences that can lead to an incident occurring."

Crime commissioner Mr Lloyd said: “We are all rightly shocked when young children are involved in any criminal behaviour, all the more so when the crimes are serious.

"But what we cannot do is walk away and abandon those children and the community they live in to more crime and more victims.

"Keeping our children out of trouble in the first place, and pulling those children who end up committing crimes away from that lifestyle, relies on much more than the police and the criminal justice system.

"These shocking figures are a challenge for all of us who have dealings with the young. It's a wake-up call to parents, teachers and the wider community. In the end it's all our business.”

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “Children under 10 years of age who commit crimes are deemed by law not to understand that their actions are wrong.

"If a child is referred to us by the police or the courts we would assess their needs and look at the wider family situation in order to determine what interventions or support were required.

"Our social workers and targeted youth support team work closely with partner organisations to assist the children and their families, using a wide range of initiatives which aim to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.”