Two boys, aged 10 and 11, yesterday became two of the youngest sex offenders in Britain after being found guilty of the attempted rape of an eight-year-old girl.
The boys, who cannot be named, were convicted after a two-week trial at the Old Bailey during which the court heard how they had lured their victim to secluded spots near their homes in Hayes, west London.
They forced her to remove her underwear and tried to have sex with her. The defence claimed that the whole thing was simply childish sexual experimentation — “that age-old game, doctors and nurses”.
But yesterday the jury disagreed. After little more than a day of deliberation they convicted the boys of attempted rape by a majority of 10 to two. They acquitted on the more serious charge of rape.
The boys, who had sat next to their mothers in the well of the court — rather than in the dock — throughout the trial, showed no emotion as the verdicts were delivered. They will now have to sign the sex offenders register.
Mr Justice Saunders, the High Court judge who presided over the trial, said he would sentence the pair in eight weeks once reports have been prepared. He described the case as “difficult” and “traumatic”. “These cases are not easy,” he added. “Fortunately, they are infrequent.” The court had heard how the incident took place in October last year. The girl had been playing with her younger sister when she was taken to a block of flats and then a field by the boys.
The girl later told her mother that she had been sexually assaulted by the boys.
But, under cross-examination, the girl appeared to admit that she had invented the allegations because she knew she had been naughty and would not get any sweets if her mother found out.
The defence applied to have the case thrown out. The prosecution resisted, saying that the girl had merely agreed to the scenarios put to her by the defence because she did not feel able to disagree. After a day of legal argument, the judge rejected the application saying that it was up to the jury to decide upon the evidence.
Michele Elliott, director of children's charity Kidscape, said the way the case had been dealt with was “absolutely wrong”.
She said: “Their young age and the young age of their victim makes it absurd that this took place in an adversarial court situation.”
The Crown Prosecution Service defended its decision.
Alison Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS London, said: “In this case the allegations made by the young girl were very serious. She has the same right to the protection of the law as an adult and that is why, after very careful consideration of all the evidence, the case was put before a jury.”