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Monday, 9 October, 2000, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Half of young 'committed crime'
Teenagers (anon)
Many people start offending in their early teens
Nearly half of all young people in England and Wales have committed a criminal offence, a government survey suggests.

The Home Office study says that 57% of young males, aged between 12 and 30, who were questioned admitted committing at least one offence.

The figure for young women in the same age group was 37%.

For the survey, a sample of nearly 5,000 young people were questioned.

The findings indicate that girls begin offending, on average, at the age of 14, while boys start about six months earlier.

A similar number of boys and girls commit offences, as well as using drugs and drinking regularly, at the ages of 12 and 13.

Difference between sexes

But by the age of 14, the number of male offenders starts to increase more rapidly.

The survey found that 10% of juvenile offenders were responsible for nearly half of the crimes committed by those in the 12 to 30 age group.

It also found marked differences in the nature of the crimes committed by the different sexes at different ages.

Girls under 16 were most likely to be involved in criminal damage, shoplifting, buying stolen goods and fighting, while over the age of 16 they turned to crimes of fraud and buying stolen goods.

Comparatively high rates of offending by 14 and 15-year-old boys reflected their involvement in fights, criminal damage and buying stolen goods.

'Government was right'

More than a third of offences committed by 16 and 17-year-old boys involved fighting.

The highest levels of offending were among 18 to 21-year-old men, with fraud and workplace theft beginning in this age group.

Home Office minister Charles Clarke said: "We are determined to cut youth crime.

"This survey demonstrates why the government was right to bring forward radical changes to the youth justice system."

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