'They are frightened': Families in turmoil over domestic abuse by under 18s, reveal Lancashire Police

Lancashire Police have dealt with thousands of domestic assaults by minors in the past three years, according to police data.

By Laura Longworth
Friday, 11th March 2022, 1:19 am

Officers recorded 3,531 attacks by under 18s on their parents, carers or siblings, a Lancashire Police FOI reveals. Around one-fifth (692) of those were in Preston - the highest in the county.

Preston reports dropped by around 16 percent in 2020 and remained stable the following year. This contrasts the county-wide trend where assaults fell by around 7 percent in 2020 before returning to their original level the following year.

A Lancashire Police boss says violent children are often mirroring abuse they have witnessed or experienced, whether in the home, in peer groups, online or in the streets. Exposure to issues like mental illness or substance abuse can also leave them with emotional difficulties, many of which were compounded by lockdown.

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Lancashire Police say most children who commit domestic abuse see violence as a legitimate way to express their emotions.

Detective chief superintendent Sue Clarke said: “Largely speaking, this is learnt behaviour, not necessarily from within the home. It is seen as a method of expressing emotions. We’ve done some consultation with young people who are known to us for violence, and they have told us in this research that they have become conditioned to be used to violence. It becomes normal.”

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Det. Sue Clarke, who heads the Lancashire Violence Reduction Network, says many youths are also influenced by abusive behaviour on social media.

She said: “Another thing we know through our research is that social media glamorises violence. People may watch videos or look on people’s Instagram or Snapchat, [and] see violence as a legitimate way to sort out what they might call ‘beef’ with each other, i.e. disputes.”

Officers see a range of violent acts by both boys and girls, with Det. Clarke adding: “Parents often don’t want to ring the police as they are frightened of their own children. I think the last resort is to report it to the police. I can understand why some people are intimidated.

"[But] I’d urge people not to feel embarrassed. They're not alone. This issue is not uncommon. The figures are a microcosm of the things happening in communities, not just in Lancashire but everywhere. Last year, in Lancashire, we had about 25,000 domestic abuse incidents reported to police. It shows in terms of the whole picture, [minor to parent violence] is a smaller issue but nevertheless we don’t want it to become entrenched behaviour because we don’t want those young people to go into personal relationships with partners or other family members and behave like that.”

Officers are working with various other agencies, like schools, to help troubled children manage their emotions and change their behaviour as early as possible. But, failing that, police will turn to tougher measures, with Det. Clarke adding: “Ultimately, if you are being intimidated in your own home, that’s never right. It’s domestic abuse. We don’t tolerate it. We work with our partners to try to reduce or eradicate it wherever we can.

"As an ultimate sanction, the child could be charged with a criminal offence, which is not what we want but we’ll do that if we have to.”

For victim support, ring 0300 323 0085 or 0808 1689 111, or visit https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/