London’s youngest looter escaped jail today because he is just 11 years old.

The boy stole a £50 rubbish bin through the smashed windows of a shop during the riots on August 8. He was sentenced to an 18-month youth rehabilitation order.

He had a brush with the law five days before the riots, when he was caught ripping up and setting fire to bus seats and smashing a glass exit door in an attempt to escape. For that conviction he had been placed under a similar order.

The boy from Romford, is the son of a convicted criminal whom he sees as his role model, Havering youth court heard. Despite the best efforts of the boy's mother, who is estranged from the father, he has a history of bad behaviour.

The age of the boy, who pleaded guilty to burglary, is reflective of more than one in five of the riot suspects who have appeared in court so far, who are aged 17 or under.

Sentencing the child, District Judge John Woollard told him: "Five days after your previous court appearance you were out late at night taking part in major disorder and stealing an item from a shop.

"I'm very concerned about what I have read about you in the (pre-sentence) report. You seem to think nobody can stop the way you behave. You think you can behave the way you want to behave and everybody else has to put up with it.

"If you were a little older you would be locked up in prison but the law says I can't take that course of action with you because of your age. But that is not a situation that will last for long. You must come to understand you can't get away with committing offences of this nature."

On August 3 the boy had been placed on a 10-month referral order at Highbury Corner youth court after admitting arson, criminal damage and carrying a knife after he had boarded a 147 bus on the way home from a visit to his father in July and caused £600 damage.

Five days later he was again on the way home from a visit to his father when he saw the riot developing in Romford town centre.

Johann Rainbird, prosecuting, said: "The boy was seen to bend down in front of the Debenhams window, which was already smashed, stick his arms out and remove a bin then run off with an officer giving chase. He said: 'I was just taking it out to hand to somebody else, sir'."

Vicky Thompson, defending, said: "He accepts he acts up when he visits his father and gets himself into these situations on the way back from visiting him. The boy accepts what he has done is wrong but the father has not given him the boundaries nor taught him what is right and wrong.

"The mother is desperately trying to keep him on the straight and narrow and doesn't want him to go down the same path as his father."