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NAYJ attempts to raise age of criminal responsibility

Posted by: Laurence Simons 20/12/12

Think back to when you were a small child, an innocent scamp with little knowledge of property law or Italian opera. Perhaps you got into some scrapes - stealing your aunt's newly-baked cakes as they cooled on a convenient window-ledge, shooting a friend with your home-made catapult. Halcyon days!

Not so, however, for the 2,000 primary school children who felt the long arm of the law last year and were arrested for heinous crimes such as throwing sticks at a chestnut tree.

The National Association for Youth Justice (NAYJ) has responded to these figures by writing a letter to the Guardian suggesting that the age of criminal responsibility should be increased, describing the current limit of ten as "a clear breach of international children's rights standards".

Experts in law, psychiatry, justice, and other disciplines all signed their names to the missive, which was also sent to justice secretary Chris Grayling.

The letter argues that children in the UK cannot buy a pet until they are 12, do a paper round until they are 13, consent to sex until they are 16 or drive until they are 17, and as such should not be able to pick up a criminal record at the tender age of ten.

While there is some concern that allowing naughty and boisterous children to roam the streets rather than putting them in front of a judge will lead to a serious breakdown in law and order across the UK, the NAYJ also seems to make a salient point.

Given the fact that many studies have suggested full culpability cannot be established in ten- year olds, allowing them to face criminal proceedings is unreasonable, the group concluded.