Call To Raise Criminal Age

The age at which children who commit crimes can be held accountable for their actions should be raised from 10 to 14, a youth justice expert is proposing. In a report published by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College, London, Rob Allen calls for major changes in the way youth offending is tackled. He says that Government policies are demonising young people rather than addressing the reasons for their behaviour.

In From Punishment To Problem Solving: A New Approach To Children In Trouble, Mr Allen sets out a package of measures aimed at moving from the world of ‘cops, courts and corrections’ towards an emphasis on addressing health, educational and family difficulties which he says lie behind offending.

As well as raising the age of criminal responsibility by four years, the proposals include introducing specialist prosecutors, introducing a new sentencing framework, moving responsibility for youth justice from the Home Office to the Department for Education and Skills and greater investment in services to support children in trouble.

Mr Allen, who is director of the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College and has just completed a maximum of two four-year terms as a member of the Youth Justice Board, said: “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.”

In the report, Mr Allen points to the fact that the age of criminal responsibility is higher in many other countries, such as France, where it is 13; Japan, where it is 14; and Italy, where it is 15.

He suggests that if the age was raised to 14 in England and Wales, child care proceedings should be used for younger children who commit serious offences.