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‘Wee Lads and Lasses’ Sought for Scottish Shoplifting Sprees, Warns Anti-Slavery Commissioner

In Scotland, children as young as 10 years old have been arrested for shoplifting in Glasgow stores, according to shocking official figures.

The figures – the result of a Freedom of Information order (FOI) – reveal that almost 500 youngsters have been arrested by the city’s Police for shoplifting offences in the past year. Of those, more than half – 303 – were aged between 11 and 15. The results also show 34% of children that were detained for theft from shops were between 16 and 17-years-old. Perhaps most shocking is that six school children – aged just 10-years-old – were linked to the retail crimes.

Police Scotland said: “The last thing a young person needs is to be involved in the criminal justice system early in their lives.”

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The FOI response reveals 482 under-18s were arrested in connection with shoplifting crimes, over the past twelve months. More than half of the children (275) arrested were aged between 13 and 15-years-old. All crimes are alleged to have taken place at retail stores across the Greater Glasgow area in the past year. Some experts believe children are being forced to beg and steal by criminal gangs.

Recently, Kevin Hyland, the anti-slavery commissioner warned: “Oliver Twist scenarios” are taking place on Britain’s streets as children are tasked with shoplifting and pick-pocketing to support larger criminal undertakings. Hyland said youngsters who should be at school are instead on the city streets and being used as part of organized retail crime operations in cities.

He said: “We hear about young children being sent out to do shoplifting, pick-pocketing and begging. These are young children who should be at school. We are in the 21st century and yet we have Oliver Twist scenarios happening on our streets and in our cities. It’s pure criminality and abuse of children.”

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Police in Glasgow have vowed to get tough on shoplifters and more patrols are taking place in the city’s Style Mile. The city is the second biggest centre for shopping in Britain, after London’s West End. And senior officers have warned that all shops – including major stores and small independent shops – can fall victim to shoplifters. Some stores are investing in what they call “revenue protection”, while others have introduced store detectives and CCTV to protect their products.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Shoplifiting is not a victimless crime – we all pay. Police Scotland works closely with retailers to ensure they are not targeted. It’s unfortunate for young people to be involved in crime at any level. Retailers almost always prosecute and the last thing a young person needs is to be involved in the criminal justice system early in their lives as this can have serious consequences for them later in life.”

This article first appeared in LP Magazine EU in 2015 and was updated in April 2016.

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