By politics.co.uk staff
Almost one in three children admit to having carried a knife or a gun, new research claims.
A survey by the Youth Justice Board found almost half of the boys and one girl in six questioned said they had carried a weapon.
One in 20 said they had carried an airgun and three per cent admitted to carrying a "real" gun.
The figures also show youngsters between ten and 17 committed 277,986 criminal offences during the past 12 months, the equivalent of one every two minutes.
Over the past three years there was a 20 per cent rise in the number of children convicted for violent offences, the Youth Justice Board claims.
Today's study also shows a rise in crimes committed by young women, with the figure increasing some ten per cent to 57,962. During the same three year period, the number of crimes committed by young men fell six per cent.
Commenting on the figures, Dominic Grieve, the Conservative shadow justice secretary, said: "The surge in female violence - fuelled by binge-drinking - is a damning indictment of this government's track record in addressing both crime and social breakdown."
Referring to the number of children carrying weapons, Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said it represented a "serious failing of our society".