Children as young as eight are among hundreds of youngsters who have been caught breaking into homes over the past five years in Scotland, figures show.
There have been more than 1,200 referrals to the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) since 2018.
Data obtained in a freedom of information request revealed the majority were aged between 13 and 16, but two cases in Aberdeen involved eight-year-olds.
The figures, provided to justice affairs magazine 1919, show the trend for referrals is going down from the peak of 419 cases in 2018, although the 189 referrals last year was a rise from 2021.
“Children as young as eight should be offered something a whole lot better than getting involved in crime,” said Niven Rennie, a former police superintendent.
Mr Rennie, who is executive chair of the Hope Collective community organisation, said some young people are being exploited to commit crimes.
“This is similar to what’s happening with drugs and county lines, where criminals exploit young people because they are less likely to be stopped by police,” he said.
“We need to examine the causes of this because it isn’t normal behaviour.
“People are impoverished and willing to take any action they can to get some money.”
Conservative MSP Liam Kerr told 1919: “People right across the country will be staggered to see kids as young as eight getting involved in this very serious crime.
“It’s especially alarming for Aberdeen, which features prominently in these statistics.
“Kids of this age aren’t capable of executing this kind of crime alone and will undoubtedly be getting exploited and controlled by older criminals.
“It is those individuals we should be targeting to ensure this sort of despicable activity reduces.
“Anyone who uses children as part of their criminal operation is beyond contempt.”