Thursday, 17 May 2007

UK/ CCJS says age of criminal responsibility should be raised

The age of criminal responsibility should be raised from 10 to as high as 18, a report says.

The document from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) also suggested children should no longer be sent to prison.

Claiming there was an urgent need to review the approach to "children in trouble", a collection of essays from academics and campaigners said the British age of criminal responsibility is much lower than in countries such as France, Germany, Canada and Russia.

The age at which children can be prosecuted should be raised to 14, 16 or even 18, the authors said.

Rebecca Palmer of the Children and Young People's Unit at the Greater London Authority said in her essay: "The negative perception of young people as 'hoodie-wearing yobs' should be concertedly challenged.

"The age of criminal responsibility should be raised to 18 and Asbos should be abolished. No child should be in prison and alternatives should be sought."

Bob Reitemeier of the Children's Society suggested 14 years should be the minimum.

Criminologist professors Barry Goldson, of Liverpool University, and John Muncie, of the Open University, wrote: "We submit that serious consideration should be given to raising the age of criminal responsibility to 16 or even 18."

The CCJS, which is based at King's College, London, said England and Wales has one of the highest child imprisonment rates in Europe. The report suggested moving responsibility for youth justice from the Home Office to the Department for Education and Skills. Grave crimes by children should be punished by a "residential training order" of up to five years, it added.

CCJS deputy director Enver Solomon said: "We are publishing this because we believe the current age of criminal responsibility is too low and there needs to be an urgent rethink. All options need to be under consideration, and we want to start a debate about what the new age should be. We think the new Ministry of Justice should make it a priority to look again at the age of criminal responsibility."

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