Things are tough for local rags. But it looks like the Gloucestershire Echo are attempting a novel way round their woes - by going all Daily Mail.
Children admit ABH and sex assault
Children as young as six have admitted carrying out a series of crimes in Gloucestershire within the last year.
Among the culprits were a boy aged six, from Hucclecote, who admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm and another six-year-old from Gloucester who was involved in a similar incident.
Figures released by the police, following a Freedom of Information request, reveal children aged nine or under have committed 32 offences since July last year.
This also included a five-year-old who caused criminal damage to a vehicle in Tewkesbury and a nine-year-old from the Cotswolds who admitted sexual assault.
It was quickly picked up by MSN, and the Guardian, and the Independent, all with a hat-tip to the Echo.
A trio of seven-year-olds were found to have burgled a house in Dursley, and a nine-year-old committed racial abuse on the Hester's Way estate.
The Jamie Bulger case was given a nod too, in order to direct the gentle reader in the right direction.
All that was lacking were a few details.
Pinching a woman's backside is classed as sexual assault nowadays, but it makes a damn good headline. I'm no expert but I believe stamping on another kid's fingers would be termed ABH.
A five year old causing criminal damage? I don't think there are many five year olds anywhere who haven't caused damage to property, normally their parents' admittedly (amazing what a car lighter can do to plastic upholstery, I can tell you), at some point. Mostly because kids don't understand the value of such things at that age. I remember when I was a kid thinking it was great fun throwing mud with my friends at a neighbour's window on a half-completed housing estate in the early 70s. There was nothing feral about it, we merely knew no better and it made a squelching noise as it landed. The noise of our Dads' hand on our arses when the neighbour complained wasn't so pleasing.
One of the Puddlecote sisters defaced an advertising hoarding when she was 10 after her group found some broken glass beneath it and learned that it cut through paper quite well. They wrote their names and were caught doing so by the police. Criminal damage they called it. Puddlecote Sr was called and wasn't amused - she received a caution and shat bricks for a week about it. She never did it again, learned a lesson and is now a successful Office Manager. That was over 20 years ago, but things have moved on since then. She would no doubt be included in a FOI request such as this now.
There are no predatory nine year olds, bedecked in dirty macs, waiting to rape old ladies in the park. Nor are there hordes of knife-wielding, tanked up six year olds lurking behind darkened lamp posts waiting to beat up the next passer by.
Makes for a great shock story though. The only surprise is that, of all papers, the Daily Mail didn't appear to carry it today.