Barnardo’s: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised

The criminal justice system is not effective at dealing with children and young people. Evidence shows that about half of the 10 and 11 year olds sentenced in court in 2008 will have re-offended within a year – and their experience within the criminal justice system actually increases the likelihood that they will go on to commit further crimes.

Puja Darbari is UK director, policy, research and media, Barnardo’s

The criminal justice system is not effective at dealing with children and young people. Evidence shows that about half of the 10 and 11 year olds sentenced in court in 2008 will have re-offended within a year – and their experience within the criminal justice system actually increases the likelihood that they will go on to commit further crimes.

Barnardo’s is urging the government to use their review of sentencing and rehabilitation to look into reforming the way the criminal justice system deals with young offenders.

In particular, the age of criminal responsibility should be raised from 10 to 12 for all but the most serious crimes – for example murder and rape. We do believe that on the rare occasions children commit the most serious crimes prosecution remains an appropriate option.

Instead of dealing with minor crimes using the criminal justice system, however, a system of challenging interventions that involve the whole family should be adopted.

Approaches such as family intervention projects (FIPs) challenge and support parents and their children to face up to their behaviour and accept responsibility for their actions. And for those families who do not co-operate there are robust civil orders available – either parenting or child safety orders – to compel them to engage.

Barnardo’s runs more than 40 services supporting children and families on the edge of the criminal justice system, including 11 family intervention projects. We know from experience that families who engage fully with these services are able to turn their lives around – and the recent evaluation of FIPs shows that during the last year 79 per cent of interventions were classed as ‘successful’.

In a time when all parties are looking to rein in public spending, it is worth considering the financial implications of the current, failing system. Take James, a 16-year-old boy serving his second custodial sentence. The Audit Commission has quantified the cost of offending, finding that expenditure by the state caused by James’s offending totalled £154,000. This includes the cost of repeat court appearances and custody.

But the costs of interventions to tackle his behaviour, similar to those we are recommending, would have been just £42,000 over the same period – and could have avoided some or all of his offending. That is just one individual: but analysis carried out by the last government and accepted by the present one shows that around £45 million could be saved if the measures we propose reduce youth crime by just 1 per cent.

Our proposals are a strong alternative. We are not arguing that children at 10 do not know the difference between right and wrong, but we are insisting that family based approaches are much more likely to be effective at preventing further crime than the conviction of the child on his or her own.

If we have a more effective way of tackling youth crime why wouldn’t we use it?

• If you’d like to join us in calling for a criminal justice system that works, visit our website and email Ken Clarke.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today. 

29 Responses to “Barnardo’s: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised”

  1. ianbirrell

    RT @leftfootfwd: Barnardo's: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised: http://bit.ly/a46U1O @Barnardos #KidsInside

  2. Joe Luscombe

    RT @leftfootfwd: Barnardo's: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised: http://bit.ly/a46U1O @Barnardos #KidsInside

  3. Roosevelt Wright, Jr

    Barnardo's: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised: If we have a more effective way of tackling you… http://bit.ly/aUPDyr

  4. Simon

    I’m surprised you seem to think that 12 year-olds are criminally responsible. It doesn’t impress me as a progressive attitude. Kids who commit offences need help, not trial and criminal stigma for the rest of their lives. There are usually wider social and familial problems lying behind their behaviours that need resources and commitment to prevent re-offending.

  5. jennifer roberts

    RT @leftfootfwd: Barnardo's: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised: http://bit.ly/a46U1O @Barnardos #KidsInside

  6. janie_s

    there should be no lower limit on the age of criminal responsibility but the age should be a mitigating factor. the idea that someone born one day before someone else is punished whilst the other gets off scot free is bizarre.

  7. Simon

    No, the idea that a child should have to go through a criminal justice system as a criminal is bizarre and immoral. Your argument is specious in it’s false claim of fairness.

  8. William J. C. Brown

    RT @leftfootfwd: Barnardo's: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised http://bit.ly/9l32PO

  9. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    RT @leftfootfwd: Barnardo's: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised http://bit.ly/9l32PO

  10. janie_s

    so, a 12 year old kills someone and what do you think should happen? subsidised teddy bears? naughty step?

  11. Simon

    My point is that a 12 year-old does not really understand what they are doing, it’s not like an adult committing the same crime. I am not arguing that society may not need protection from such a damaged child, but that we should not damage them further. I am sure you understand that children and adults are different. It’s why, for example, we condemn adults who like to have sex with children.

  12. janie_s

    a 12 year old doesn’t understand what they are doing? can you remember being 12? were you that stupid?

    the move from child to adult is not exact. it is a grey area which is why I say age should be used in mitigation.

    i don’t know why you brought child sex into the discussion. maybe you are damaged yourself?

  13. Louise Sheridan

    RT @leftfootfwd: Barnardo's: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised: http://bit.ly/a46U1O @Barnardos #KidsInside

  14. Simon

    No it’s intended to show that adults and children are different and we recognise the fact. Your anger and love of punishment blinds you to this. Would you argue that the age at which a child can have sex with an adult is a grey area? I don’t think you can have it both ways.

  15. Raymond E. Foster

    The age of criminal responsibility should be raised http://bit.ly/aKJPBw

  16. Political Spectrum

    The age of criminal responsibility should be raised http://bit.ly/aKJPBw

  17. Road2justice

    RT @policeofficer: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised http://bit.ly/aKJPBw

  18. Bob

    This will make it easier for gangs to use children as couriers for drugs and weapons, and also carry out out other offences safe in the knowledge that they can’t be prosecuted. Nice move.

  19. Mr. Sensible

    This is a complicated one, however I think there’s something to be said for this approach.

  20. Anon E Mouse

    Puja Darbari – When you contacted the parents of Jamie Bulger – you remember the little lad who was abducted, sexually assaulted, tortured and then left to die by a railway track by two ten year olds – what did they say?

    Personally your idea to save money at the expense of justice is a disgrace and I’ll never give a donation to Barnardo’s again and will encourage no one else to…

  21. Anon E Mouse

    …do so either…

  22. scandalousbill

    Anon, Bob and Janie_s,

    Punja stated,

    In particular, the age of criminal responsibility should be raised from 10 to 12 for all but the most serious crimes…”

    I just cannot see how the Bulger case, murder and gang violence would not fall under that definition. The “prison works” notion of justice has been largely disproven by virtually all the statistics available in criminology. This lock up the kids approach is more likely to create more crime than it eliminates. The family interventionist programs have much to offer, and it seems the point Punja was also making is that they could be good value for money. The fact is that these programs have been underfunded.

  23. Anon E Mouse

    scandalousbill – Perhaps it would be better if the concepts of discipline and decency were taught in school or to the parents.

    What is certain is that a liberal approach to crime certainly doesn’t work and as for Tony Blair and his “tough on crime” thing when was that? ASBO’s?

    If someone is old enough to behave badly they should be punished and perhaps they wouldn’t do it again.

    Who know’s it might just work because what we’ve tried so far certainly doesn’t and neither will this…

  24. Barnardo’s

    RT @leftfootfwd: Barnardo's: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised: http://bit.ly/a46U1O @Barnardos #KidsInside

  25. i-Can Do It

    RT @leftfootfwd: Barnardo's: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised: http://bit.ly/a46U1O @Barnardos #KidsInside

  26. Julie Wilkinson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Barnardo's: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised: http://bit.ly/a46U1O @Barnardos #KidsInside

  27. Jacob Richardson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Barnardo's: The age of criminal responsibility should be raised: http://bit.ly/a46U1O @Barnardos #KidsInside

  28. janie_s

    in the interests of fairness, mouse, I have to say the apostrophe in ASBO’s is misplaced 😉

  29. Anon E Mouse

    janie_s – Fair enough!!

Leave a Reply