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Raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years.

Comment 1st July 2010

The age of "criminal responsibility" is the age at which a child is considered sufficiently mature to take full legal responsibility for any illegal acts which they commit.

The age varies enormously from one country to the next, with variations within the EU from 8 years to 15 years. These variations reflect historical assumptions within each country's legal system, and do not generally reflect any relavent research into either child development or impact on other legislation.

Currently in England and Wales the age of criminal responsibility is set at 10 years. I would like this to be raised to 12 years.

Why does this matter?

Currently in England and Wales the age of criminal responsibilty is set at 10 years. In Scotland it is currently 8 years (although the Scottish Parliament is planning to increase it to 12 years soon).

A child of 10 is generally able to differentiate between truth and lies, and is generally able to identify what behaviour is 'good' or 'bad'. Few 10 year olds, however, are able to understand the potential harm to others which may result from a criminal act – especially if that harm is not immediate and straightforward.

I therefore believe that 10 years is too young an age to be accountable in law.

Norway is generally identified by the UN as the world's best country in which to raise children, with the Norwegian government having a wide range of laws promoting children's welfare. Norway's age of criminal responsibility is 15 years. Although I would like the UK to follow Norway's example, I would ask instead for the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales to be raised to 12 years (in line with Scotland's plans).

This would result in parity across the UK, more fairly reflect children's developing understanding of the results of breaking a law and may be as great a cghange as some more conservative elements in society would be willing to accept.

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