02 September 2007

Tackling Child Offenders

Boys spraying graffiti in an alley [Credit: Barnardo's]Last year, the suspect in 2,840 crimes was under ten years old, including around 1,300 cases of arson or criminal damage and 66 sexual offences. However, as the law currently stands, a child aged nine or under cannot be charged with an offence.

Lawrence Lee, the solicitor for one of the ten-year-old killers of two-year-old James Bulger says that lowering the age of criminal responsibility would send an important message to child offenders: "If you go along to any estate and see the age of kids marauding around like a pack of wolves, you'd see that reducing the age of criminal responsibility to eight or nine would be vital."

Earlier this year, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies suggested moving responsibility for youth justice from the Home Office to the Department for Education and Skills and proposed raising the age of criminal responsibility to as high as eighteen, while a representative of the Children's Society suggests fourteen years should be the minimum, noting "If you look at how children are treated by government and legislation you have to be 18 to be able to vote, 16 to have sex and yet 10 to be held accountable for committing a crime."

So, what do you think? Take the poll in the sidebar.

For comparison, the age of criminal responsibility varies significantly in other countries, ranging from as low as six in some US states and eight in Scotland, to twelve in Canada and the Netherlands, thirteen in France, fourteen in Germany, Austria, Italy, Japan, and Russia, fifteen in Scandinavia, and as high as sixteen in Spain and Portugal, and eighteen in Brazil and Peru.


Anonymous said...

I heard the Children's Society man's remark, and thought that he was being monumentally silly. The examples cited are totally different. Unless a child is mentally abnormal, or has had an absolutely appalling upbringing, he or she should be capable by seven of knowing that he or she should not hurt other people, or damage something that does not belong to him or her, and face the consequences. It does not follow that those consequences are the same as for an older child or adult,