Keep children under 14 out of courts

Children aged under 14 in England and Wales who commit serious offences should be dealt with through child care proceedings rather than the criminal justice system, according to a government adviser on youth justice.

Rob Allen, director of the International Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College in London, called for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to 14 to stop children being labelled at a young age.

England and Wales have a lower age of criminal responsibility than many other European countries, including France (13)
and Germany (14). In Scotland, however, the age of criminal responsibility is eight.

Allen, who will soon leave his post as adviser to the Youth Justice Board, also said responsibility for youth justice should move from the Home Office to the Department for Education and Skills.

Joyce Moseley, head of young people’s charity Rainer, said treating 10- to 14-year-olds as criminals “makes it more likely that they will grow up to be adult criminals”.

The Home Office said it had no plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

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