Arrests of children for “very serious and dangerous offences” in one Merseyside borough over the past year have caused alarm among police and council workers.

Knowsley Council’s new Strategic Youth Justice Plan has raised concerns about children being arrested for some of the most serious crimes, warning the phenomenon also “links directly” with the growing threat of exploitation and organised crime in the area.

The newly published document also warns that a number of the kids arrested for serious offences were not previously known to police or social services, indicating it may be getting harder to identify children at risk of committing serious offences.

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In a submission to the council’s health and wellbeing board, the strategy said the borough’s youth offending service would continue to try to tackle the issue throughout the coming year but faced a number of hurdles.

The report said: “Over the past year Knowsley YOS has seen a number of children being arrested for very serious and dangerous offences, often undertaken with groups of associates and adults. This directly links to the increasing risk and threat of organised crime groups in the borough, criminal exploitation, community retaliation and sometimes opportunistic attacks on victims.

“Many of the children have not been known to agencies and this provided its own challenge as the children’s risks and vulnerabilities were unknown and unassessed. Having had a number of years with very low remand numbers, these offences have seen a rise in the number for children remanded to custody.”

The report added that the pandemic had made the job of youth offending services more difficult, causing court backlogs and meaning children were sometimes remanded in locations which “experienced difficulties responding to Covid-19”.

The document did not mention any individual cases.

However there have been a number of cases in Knowsley in the past year where children have been arrested for serious offences.

Members of the council’s health and wellbeing board will discuss the Strategic Youth Justice Plan at a meeting later this week.