The number of youths taken to court for gun crimes in London rose sharply last year amid a surge in offences involving murder and robbery, Met figures show.
A total of 375 suspects aged 19 or under were charged with firearms offences — 70 per cent up on the 220 recorded in 2008.
The biggest increase was in gun robberies against businesses, such as late-night convenience stores, which tripled during the 12-month period to a total of 121. There was also a 37 per cent rise in gunpoint muggings taking last year's total to 95.
The number of youths charged over a firearms murder was also up with 13 prosecutions last year, compared with five a year earlier, although armed rapes fell from four to two.
The Met said the rise in prosecutions was partly due to an increase in anti-gun crime operations and more effective detection of offenders. But it admitted the figures also reflected a growing problem with gun crime among the young.
However, separate Met statistics showed a 16 per cent fall in the number of youths prosecuted for knife crime last year. The total of 1,322 prosecutions was more than 200 down on the 2008 figure, although there were still 38 murder and 17 rape charges brought against offenders using a blade.
The most common crime committed using a knife was robbery, with 734 offenders proceeded against by the Met last year. A total of 327 youths were charged with grievous bodily harm while using or carrying a knife.
There were also 95 offences involving assault with injury and 52 defined as “other violence”. In addition to the 17 rapes at knifepoint, there were five “other sexual” offences committed by suspects using blades.
The figures show that of the overall total of knife offenders, 52 per cent were black, 25 per cent were white and 10 per cent were Asian. The remainder were either mixed race, Chinese or “not stated”.
Of the alleged gun crime offenders, 64 per cent were black, 22 per cent white, six per cent Asian and five per cent Chinese with the ethnicity of the others not known.
Chief Superintendent David Chinchen, head of the Met's violent crime directorate, insisted progress was being made to cut offending. He said: “We have seen a growth in gun crime and there is a problem, but our operations against it have expanded and that has led to more prosecutions.
“With knife crime, we think that the deterrent effect of the work we have been doing is having an impact.”
Innocent student shot dead buying a pint of milk
The tragic consequences of youth gun crime were highlighted at Woolwich crown court when a teenage gangster was jailed for life for killing a student.
Ashley Bucknor, who was 19 at the time, hit Ryan Bravo, 18, in a drive-by shooting outside a crowded Costcutter supermarket in Walworth.
Bucknor's five-strong gang had been aiming for two rivals who had fled inside the shop, but instead hit the student, who was out shopping for a pint of milk. The court heard Mr Bravo was a “nice, intelligent young man” who had “nothing to do” with gangs and crime.
Judge Charles Byers told Bucknor, who was part of the Organised Criminals gang from Myatt's Fields in Brixton, that he would spend at least 32 years behind bars.
The judge said the August 2008 killing had shown him to be a “dangerous young man” who would stop at nothing. He added: “You have shown no remorse. The grief left in your wake is inestimable.”