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Investigating AGE Criminal Responsibility

The following research attempts to explore and discuss the legal age of responsibility in England and Wales. A questionnaire was presented with out to an example population to be able to gauge general population opinion on and around this topic. Secondary data was gathered, such as catalogs, journals and online resources, in order to discuss and explore various ways of dealing with juvenile offenders. Overall, the evidence indicates a solid argument for the age of unlawful responsibility to be raised but insufficient research was gathered to determine clearly which juvenile justice procedure is most effective.

The time of legal responsibility is this at which a kid can be viewed as a grown-up for purposes of criminal prosecution. In Britain and Wales, the unlawful era of responsibility is defined at age group ten and is also one of the cheapest in Europe, with only Switzerland being lower at get older seven. Countries such as Uganda, Algeria, China and the Russian Federation, all have political regimes that could arguably be considered as severe and abnormal, yet, all these countries have arranged the criminal age of responsibility at over a decade, YJB [online].

In Britain and Wales the age of criminal responsibility has not transformed since 1963, when it was raised from years eight to ten. Until 1988 a policy was in location to safe shield children between the age range of ten and fourteen; under this policy children were presumed not capable of forming necessary legal purpose unless proven often by the prosecution, House of Commons Catalogue [online]. In March of this year, Scotland elevated age criminal responsibility from time eight to twelve years; England and Wales have no plans to improve the age at present. YJB [online].

Therefore, evidence implies that there is no clear arrangement on what is an acceptable age to be cared for as an adult under the jurisdiction of regulations.

Literature review

Morrison, Blake. (1997). AS THOUGH. London: Granta Magazines.

Blake Morrison went to the trial of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson and in his book gives a delicate accounts of the families involved in the Bulger case. Morrison explains a legal justice system that is concerned with only facts and probably lacks the understanding needed when interacting with such very sensitive cases affecting children of such a young age.

Williams, John. (2010) 'ASBO Land'. Sociology Review. 19, (4), p2-6.

Sociology Review can be an academic magazine targeted at A-level sociology students. It includes a broad range of sociological topics including politics, education, and religion and undoubtedly crime and deviance. In this issue of the mag it covered a topic on anti sociable behaviour purchases, which demonstrated useful when speaking about juvenile criminal offense.

Children & TEENAGERS Now [online] Available from

http://www. cypnow. co. uk/Archive/1009000/Criminal-Bar-Association-chair-calls-rise-age-criminal-responsibility/ [accessed 19th June 2010]

'Children and Young People Now' is a Journal available on the net and online. It seeks to gather children and young ones specialists across health, sociable care and attention, education, childcare, children work and junior justice, to provide advice and direction to professionals and senior experts working with children and young people. It features many relevant news articles and current issues concerning children and young people and is a trusted way to obtain information used by professionals working through this area.

The Howard league for Penal Reform. [online] Frances Crook's Blog (updated 1st April 2010) Available from http://www. howardleague. org/francescrookblog/the-age-of-criminal-responsibility [reached Sunday 19th June 2010]

Frances Crook is the director of the Howard Group for Penal Reform, the oldest penal reform charity in the U. K. She has been accountable for research programs and campaigns to improve public concern, about among other activities, young people in big trouble. Throughout her career she has worked well as a teacher in secondary colleges as well as taking the position of Governor of Greenwich College or university. In 2005 she was honored the Perrie Honor which is awarded to people who have made a considerable contribution to the development of unlawful justice or penal coverage and practice. Therefore, Crook's long job dealing with children and within the unlawful justice system offers her valuable information into the best ways of working with child criminal offense.

Youth Justice Plank. [online] Cross-national evaluation of junior justice Available from: http://www. yjb. gov. uk/en-gb/ [accessed Sunday 19th June 2010]

The youngsters justice panel (YJB), oversees the children justice system in England and Wales. It works to avoid offending by children and teenagers under age 18 and ensures that custody on their behalf is safe, secure, and addresses the sources of their offending behaviour. It enables access to reports and legislations and is a valuable and reliable resource concerning youth criminal offense.

Home office [online] Available from: http://www. homeoffice. gov. uk/about-us/ [seen 1st July 2010]

The home office is a Federal department that handles, among other things, drugs, policy, authorities and crime. During this research it demonstrated useful as helpful information to the workings of the legal justice system in Great britain and Wales. Additionally it is linked to many surveys and statistics that were used in this research. Being an official Government department, the info is highly reliable.


The marketing is awash with reports of juvenile offense - with reviews of anti-social behaviour to more violent crimes such as the murder completed by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, Blake Morrison, (As If). In 1998 the Anti Cultural Behaviour Order was introduced, and since then the word 'asbo child' is becoming area of the English terms, Sociology review, vol 19, (p2-6). Gun and knife offences are high and recent reviews claim that the ambulance and crisis services in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, dealt with 1000 and seventy nine gunshot wounds in people under the age of twenty five in the twelve months leading to October 2009, BBC Newsbeat online. Therefore, the criminal get older of responsibility is usually the emphasis of much conversation. In light of the recent reports of Jon Venables being taken back into custody Guardian. Co. uk [online], the Children's Commissioner Maggie Atkinson apparently called for the federal government to raise the age of criminal responsibility, from get older twelve to fourteen, Children and TEENAGERS Now [online]. This discussion is backed by the Chairman from the Criminal Bar relationship, Paul Mendelle QC, who's reported as expressing that he also is convinced that the age of legal responsibility should be increased to era fourteen; he is also reported as dialling for a return to the previous plan of Doli Incapax. Nevertheless the Ministry of Justice keeps that children older than ten know the difference between bad patterns and serious wrongdoing, Children and young people now [online]. Therefore, data shows too little agreement regarding the set years of criminal responsibility. Consequently, it could be argued that the existing system would reap the benefits of research to help determine a far more universally acceptable age to be kept criminally responsibility.


The aims of the research are:

To explore various ways of coping with young offenders in England and Wales, to help determine techniques could enhance the current system.

To discuss whether time ten is a reasonable age group for children to be performed criminally in charge of their actions, within the jurisdiction of the law.

To measure general public opinion on whether the criminal get older of responsibility should be modified in England and Wales.

The experimental Hypothesis and null Hypothesis

A most the public in Great britain and Wales believe that the criminal age group of responsibility should be set higher than time ten.

This research predicts that almost all will feel that age legal responsibility should be lifted and therefore this can be a one-tailed hypothesis.

Under the null hypothesis we'd expect no clear bulk to be disclosed on either side of the debate.


An open questionnaire was used to gather qualitative, main data (appendix A); eighteen individuals were chosen from assorted demographic backgrounds to help give a valid representation of the bigger population, of England and Wales. Their ages ranged from eighteen to seventy four and consisted of both men and women and both parents and non-parent. The participants were verbally briefed on the nature of the topic and the questionnaire had a short written introduction explaining the basic background and facts of the subject. They were informed that all answers would be regarded as anonymous and they had the right to withdraw their answers if indeed they so wished. Using an wide open questionnaire allowed the respondents to be guided through the topical ointment questions whilst still getting the flexibility to fully express their feelings on the topic. Also, space was provided for any further reviews the participants wanted to make. After the interview members were asked to sign a consent form giving their authorization for the info to be utilized in sociological research (appendix B).


Out of eighteen respondents, just under half felt that age legal responsibility should be established higher than time ten. Just over one half of the respondents thought that children of age ten do not fully understand the consequences with their actions. When asked 'should more responsibility be positioned upon the parents of young offenders', all but one respondent noticed that it should, thus supporting the idea that the current system in England and Wales does not work sufficiently. Contradictory to this facts, when asked, 'do you are feeling that the existing system works sufficiently', only two thirds of the respondents sensed that it didn't; many respondents sensed that they didn't know enough about the existing system to provide a valid reply. When asked because of their ideas on bettering the current system, respondent's answers were assorted and included: more self-control at home, more powerful consequence for parents plus more participation from relevant physiques i. e. welfare staff etc.

Therefore the questionnaire supports the original seeks of the investigation. It was useful in gauging general population opinion on whether the criminal get older of responsibility should be transformed and it allowed the respondents to express their ideas on whether age group ten is a reasonable years for children to be kept criminally in charge of their actions. Lastly it provided space for respondents to give any ideas they had concerning the improvement of the current system


Overall the study indicates that there is a strong argument for increasing the criminal get older of responsibility; this is backed by both primary and supplementary data. Many people believe that children old ten do not fully understand the consequences of the actions. Also, data indicates that there is a strong sense amongst the public that more responsibility should be put upon parents; when asked, all but one respondent decided that parents should take more responsibility for his or her children's behaviour. Last but not least, the primary data from this research indicates that many people believe that the current juvenile justice system can not work sufficiently in England and Wales.

The results from the questionnaire support existing evidence; for example there is much evidence to aid a change in the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales. One such argument was put forward by the children's commissioner Maggie Atkinson; who when discussing the murder of Adam Bulger (Wayne was murdered by two ten 12 months old young boys in 1993, Morrison, AS THOUGH) is reported as declaring 'Venables and Thompson shouldn't have been attempted for murder, at time ten they were too young to understand the full consequences of their actions' Guardian [online]. Frances Crook, the Director with the Howard League for Penal Reform also facilitates Atkinson debate and compares the legal system of England and Wales with that of other countries in Europe. In her blog, Crook points out that the criminal get older of responsibility in Britain and Wales is one of the youngest in European countries and she goes on to argue that children in these countries aren't ignored if they do wrong but instead their immaturity is regarded and the response is suitable, Frances Crook's Blog [online]. This argument is also reinforced by the chairman of the legal bar relationship, Paul Mendelle, who called for the age to be increased from get older ten to

fourteen. Within an interview in the Telegraph Mendelle is reported as saying, 'a child of ten can know he or she is doing something amiss rather than always be thankful is criminally wrong' children and young people now [online]. In his book As If, Blake Morrison again helps this attitude and shows that children of ten are not able to act on their knowledge of right and wrong with the same conviction as adults; he continues on to claim that, if children of ten know the difference between right and wrong then you will want to let them be jurors? (AS THOUGH, section 5).

Although there is much support for the criminal age of responsibility to be elevated, it's been refused by the Ministry of Justice, which maintains that children of age ten and over can identify between bad action and serious wrong doing, Children and TEENAGERS Now [online]. Many people have similar views as the primary data of the research illustrates, slightly below 1 / 2 of the respondents believed that age ten is an acceptable age to be kept criminally accountable for your actions. Other than public opinion, there is little proof a similar attitude; many visible and academics people agree that get older ten is no appropriate era but other than the Ministry of Justice, no educational judgment was found to support the other area of this discussion.

Research illustrates two main attitudes towards dealing with young offenders: the welfare approach and the justice methodology. The welfare strategy emphasises paternalism and safeguard and therefore targets treating the root causes of juvenile criminal offense; whereas the justice way emphasises judicial privileges, accountability for offences and formal punishment, Cross-national evaluation of young ones justice [online]. It could be argued that most unlawful justice systems can be traced back again to either the welfare or justice approach but the majority are more various and complex and include components of both. Based on the Home Office Youth Lifestyle Study (1998/99) [online], key factors linked with serious and/or consistent offenders between your age range of twelve and seventeen was found to be:

Drugs - children that experienced used drugs in just a twelve month period were almost fives times much more likely to offend than the ones that had not.

School - children which were unhappy in university or were continual truants were found to become more more likely to offend.

Family and peers - children that experienced family and friends who acquired offended were found to become more likely to offend themselves.

Also children that did not have sufficient supervision and information, and /or hung around in public areas, were found to be more likely to offend than those that did not.

Additional research into the explanations why children offend is beneficial to crime prevention agencies in handling and preventing juvenile criminal offense. Much research supports the theory that avoidance is the least expensive & most successful way of working with criminal offenses; studies in the us have shown that 'one money spent on early on prevention will save seven us dollars fourteen years later', teenagers and offense [online]. Therefore, the main causes of children offense are of great interest to Sociologists and Government authorities alike.

The following paragraphs try to explore and compare two similar criminal cases, to be able to determine ways that could enhance the current system in Great britain and Wales. The first crime occurred in 1993 in Merseyside, Great britain. Two season old James Bulger was extracted from a shopping centre by two ten time old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. Venables and Thompson wandered around with Wayne for several time before conquering him and giving him tied to a railway trail; when the child was finally found his body had been cut in half by a passing train. The two children, Venables and Thompson were tried and convicted of murder in an adult court docket - which in contrast to junior courts allows general public and media gain access to - and therefore put in eight years in guardianship before being released in 2001 with shielded identity's, Morrison, As if. This year 2010 Venables was used back into guardianship but the reason is not clarified to the general public. There's been no news on Thompson therefore it can be assumed that he has settled back into mainstream society without major problems.

A similar offense was committed in 1994, in the Norwegian city of Tronheim. Five year old Silje Raedergard was stoned and remaining to freeze to death in snow, by two six year old guys, BBC Information, How Norway handled it's Bulger case [online]. As opposed to the Bulger killing, the two males responsible for eradicating Silje were not prosecuted or known as in the press but instead were cared for as victims, not killers. The guys were kept with their own families and went back to kindergarten soon after the occurrence and welfare and subconscious help was presented with to them. All that is well known of both boys today is the fact that one has resolved back into mainstream society and the other still has ongoing psychiatric problems.

Therefore it could be argued that while these two cases were dealt with very differently, the outcomes are similar. One of the boys in charge of Silje's death has adjusted to normal life however the other still obtains psychiatric help. Moreover, Venables has been returned to guardianship but Thompson so far has not. Bit more is released about the boys or families concerned in these cases, which leaves many questions un-answered concerning the long term effects of both ways of reform. Information show (appendix C) that the twelve-monthly total crime rate in 2002, in the U. K. is over 6. 5 million compared to Norway which is just over 330, 000; this could arguably be a sign that the juvenile justice system in Norway is more efficient than of that in England and Wales, The Eighth United Nations Review [online].

Limitations of the methodology

Keeping the target of the research simple proved difficult because the main topic of criminal responsibility is incredibly vast. Finding Federal government reports and statistics that were specifically related to this issue was also difficult and time consuming. Also, gathering an example that is rep of the wider population is challenging when time and resources are limited. Therefore the primary data accumulated in this research was arguably limited and a larger population sample may have given more valid results. Not all of the questionnaires were went back and many people thought that they did not know enough about the topic to make valid reviews. Therefore a more in-depth advantages or briefing may have been beneficial. Possibly a concentration group is a more useful approach to gathering primary data as it could of enabled the participants to totally discuss their ideas and thoughts on the subject before deciding on any conclusions.

In conclusion, the data gathered in this research helps the hypothesis; there is much data - both principal and extra - that shows that the criminal age of responsibility should be place higher than age group ten. Various ways of interacting with juvenile criminal offense was explored and statistics were gathered to help determine which system proves to be most sufficient. Arguably, lower crime rates in Norway reveals that the welfare methodology - which is the most prominent element in the Norwegian system - is more effective than the justice methodology, that is more dominating in England and Wales but as the comparability of criminal cases show, any difference is minimal and not sufficient to make any bold conclusions.


If further research were to be carried out, I would recommend that;

More time is taken to check out other juvenile justice systems, such as that of Norway.

A larger population test would be useful to gauge a far more valid public view.

A focus group would be useful to enable participants to discuss and answer any inquiries they have.

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