Two children, aged seven and eight, were suspected of raping two underage girls last, police data has revealed.

The seven-year-old was suspected of raping a girl under 13, while the eight-year-old was suspected of raping a girl under 16.

Neither of the boys can be charged or taken to court because they are under the age of criminal responsibility set at 10.

The data was released by Greater Manchester Police with both alleged incidents occurring in the Greater Manchester area.

Detective Superintendent Jon Chadwick told the Manchester Evening News: "It can be upsetting for the victims of these crimes because the normal situation of a court case, most of the time, cannot happen."

"It is always upsetting when very young children are involved in crime and that is why there is a communal responsibility for all agencies to respond, not just to the needs of the victim, but also the offender," he explained.

"A child does not just go out and commit a crime; there are a whole host of influences that can lead to an incident occurring."

Between 2011 and 2014, Greater Manchester Police recorded 956 suspects under 10 years old in 764 cases.

Police data released under the Freedom of Information Act, has revealed that there were nearly 1,000 incidents in which children were suspected of committing serious crimes during the last three years.

Other cases included a nine-year-old girl who was found to be in possession of a blade at school and a six-year-old caught with cannabis. Eighty-eight of the cases were race or religious hate crimes.

Police and crime commissioner for Greater Manchester Tony Lloyd said: "We are all rightly shocked when young children are involved in any criminal behaviour, all the more so when the crimes are serious.

"But what we cannot do is walk away and abandon those children and the community they live in to more crime and more victims."