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The age of criminal responsibility

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Can a 10 year old get a criminal record?

Yes, in England and Wales the current age of criminal responsibility is 10 years old. This means that a 10 year old can be investigated by the police, be subjected to court proceedings and be convicted of a criminal offence.

What is the minimum age for criminal responsibility in other countries?

The UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child has set the internationally recognised minimum age for criminal responsibility as 12 years old. However they noted that this age was still low and encouraged a minimum age of 14 years old.

Experts dealing with children in the criminal justice system and those from national children’s charities have previously sought for the government to raise the minimum age in England and Wales to 12 years old, and potentially raise this further in the future to 14 years old.

Internationally the law in England and Wales is behind many other European countries where children are not criminalised until they are much older such as in Germany where the age of criminal responsibility is 14, Sweden where it is 15, Portugal where it is 16 and Luxembourg where it is 18.

Should children as young as 10 be criminalised?

Many query whether children have the capacity to understand the seriousness of what is happening to them and state that there are better ways for dealing with children than criminalising their behaviour at such an immature age.

Of course the sentences imposed on children are vastly different to those for an adult, but whilst ignorance of the law is not a defence to a criminal offence doubts have been raised over whether a child of 10 should really be held fully accountable for their actions.

Will the age of criminal responsibility be increased?

Following the recent election calls are again being made in respect of raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility. The government’s current stance is that the age of criminal responsibility provides flexibility in addressing a child’s offending behaviour and allows for early intervention to prevent further offending. As such there are no plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility but it is anticipated that with mounting pressure from various charities and children’s support groups this will be a live issue before Parliament again in the coming months.

Dealing with children in the criminal justice system – how we can help

Representation of someone so young comes with its own difficulties. At Johnson Astills our specialist criminal defence team have a wealth of experience in dealing with representation of defendants of all ages and at all stages of the criminal justice system.

If you or your child are facing an allegation or charge it is vital to contact a Solicitor as soon as possible to obtain specialist advice regarding what may potentially be a very serious charge.

You are always entitled to free legal advice at the police station. One of our solicitors or police station accredited representatives will always be available to attend the police station with you, even at short notice. We understand that facing a criminal allegation is a stressful time and will do all that we can to guide and support you through the process. To discuss any matters further please do not hesitate to contact our criminal defence team in Leicester on 0116 255 4855 or in Loughborough on 01509 610312.