Age of criminal responsibility should rise

The age of criminal responsibility should be raised from 10 to 14 to stop children being labelled at a young age, a report by one of the government’s senior advisers on youth justice said today.

The report by Rob Allen, director of the international centre for crime and justice studies at King’s College, London, calls for child care proceedings to be used for children below 14 who commit serious offences.

The UK has a lower age of criminal responsibility than many other countries, including France, Germany, Canada and Russia.

Allen, an outgoing adviser to the Youth Justice Board, also proposes moving responsibility for youth justice from the Home Office to the Department of Education and Skills and calls for diversion of children who commit crimes away from prison.

Allen said today: ‘We have seen an increasing preoccupation with protecting the public from young people and a growing intolerance of teenage misbehaviour of all kinds.

“A genuine shift from punishment to problem solving as the guiding principle for tackling youth crime would help to produce a society that is both safer and fairer.”

Commenting on the report, Joyce Moseley, chief executive of young people’s charity Rainer, said:  “Simply treating 10 – 14 year olds as criminals, unfortunately makes it more likely that they will grow up to be adult criminals. 

“We have to shift the focus away from the courts and onto the reasons why the young person is in trouble in the first place – mental health, education, housing, problems within the family.  If we can address these early enough we’re far more likely to help them move away from crime and prevent future offences.”

The Home Office said there were no plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

Full report 

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