Page last updated at 07:48 GMT, Monday, 19 May 2008 08:48 UK

Drug offenders 'as young as 10'

Youngsters were found to possess hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine

Children as young as 10 are being drawn into the drugs trade, new figures from Avon and Somerset police have revealed.

The force said it had arrested nearly 800 youngsters up to the age of 17 for drugs offences in the past two years.

The youngest offenders, aged just 10 and 11, were taken to court for possession of cannabis.

Councils and other agencies said they were working with the police to educate young people away from the temptation and dangers of drugs.

'Shocking' figures

A total of 660 youngsters were arrested in 2006 and 2007 for possessing controlled drugs, including cannabis, ecstasy, heroin and crack cocaine.

Another 94 were detained for possessing drugs with intent to supply, 29 were arrested for growing cannabis and 10 were held for selling drugs.

Maria Von Hilderbrand, area manager for support service Parentline Plus, said: "It is shocking that children as young as 10 are being prosecuted for drugs offences, but I think we should keep it in perspective.

"People know about peer pressure, about taking drugs, experimenting is part and parcel of teenage life.

"But fewer than 10% of youngsters who experiment go on to experiment with hard drugs.

"The important thing is that parents need support and children need support."

The figures were released by the force following a Freedom of Information request.

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