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Experts calling for Government to increase age of criminal responsibility

The Government are facing calls from a number of sources to increase the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales.

Representatives from youth services, the justice system and politicians are urging the Government to increase the age of responsibility in a bid to protect hundreds of primary school-aged children who are being needlessly criminalised.

The current age of responsibility is 10 years of age and any child who reaches this age can be convicted of a crime and subjected to a police investigation, potentially resulting in them having a criminal record for life.

Olivia Pinkney, the National policing Lead for Children and Young People, said 10 years old was a “remarkably low” age of criminal responsibility.

She added that from her experience as chief constable of Hampshire constabulary, it was very difficult for such young children to understand “what is happening to them if they’re going through the full consequences of the law”.

“There are other ways now of protecting the public” than there were when the age of criminal responsibility was decided, she said.

Campaigners want the age to be raised to a minimum of 12 years of age to bring it in line with the internationally recognised minimum, with no other country in the European Union (EU) criminalising such young children.

In some (EU) countries the minimum age is even greater, such as Germany where it is 14 years of age, Sweden where it is 15 years, 16 years of age in Portugal and in Luxembourg you are not considered a criminal unless you are 18 years old.

The Government, however, said it had no plans to increase the age of criminal responsibility.

A Government spokesman said: “Setting the age of criminal responsibility at 10 provides flexibility in addressing offending behaviour by children and allows for early intervention to help prevent further offending.”


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Andrew Sharp

Andrew Sharp

Associate Director - Head of Criminal Department
I was born and brought up in Coventry before graduating in law from Bristol University in 1976. I qualified as a solicitor in 1979 and became a partner in 1982.

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