Raising the age of criminal responsibility for children and knife crime at 9 year high

June 13, 2019 1:46 PM

Anita Lower 2017A Liberal Democrats bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility has passed in the House of Lords.

The Bill, introduced by the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords Navnit Dholakia, will amend the age of criminal responsibility in the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 from ten to twelve.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Law Society, the Children's Commissioners, the Royal Society, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children have all called for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised.

Commenting on the passing of the Bill, Cllr Anita Lower, who speaks for Newcastle Liberal Democrats on crime and justice matters, said :

"I am delighted to see Lord Dholakia's bill, which will raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12, pass in the House of Lords today. This draconian provision was last amended over 50 years ago and is completely out of touch with modern society.

"The UK's age of criminal responsibility is the lowest in Europe and the United Nations has repeatedly stated our current age of criminal responsibility is not compatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"Taking 10 or 11 years-olds out of the adult justice system does not mean failing to act when they offend, it simply means treating them as children when they do. This may be a simple reform, but it will change the shape of our criminal justice system going forward.

"Our criminal justice system must have a child-centred approach when dealing with young offenders - we need reform urgently.

"It is vital children are not given life-altering sentences at such a young age as well as being exposed to the detrimental impact of detention. The Liberal Democrats strongly believe in raising the age of criminal responsibility to bring the UK's justice system in line with modern society and our MPs will be supporting this Bill's passage in the House of Commons."

According to the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology, "research shows that 10-year-old children are immature in terms of moral and brain development", and "criminalising children adversely affects their future prospects and makes them more likely to reoffend as adults".


There's a nine year high in knife crime figues. Cllr Lower commented further

Police dog van"The UK is facing an epidemic of knife crime, but the Conservative's cack-handed response is to repeat policies that have completely failed in the past.

"Branding young people as criminals - whether by locking them up on destructive short prison sentences or giving them one of Sajid Javid's gimmicky new knife ASBOs - traps them in a cycle of crime, creating more victims and making our streets less safe.

"To make matters worse, we now have Boris Johnson running for Prime Minister boasting about the supposed success of his Stop & Search policies in London - even though his own Government's analysis shows they didn't cut knife crime and were a total waste of police time.

"The Liberal Democrats demand better. We demand a public health approach that understands why young people carry knives in the first place and addresses those causes. That means more community policing to make people feel safer and more youth services to provide a positive alternative to gangs."

The Knife and offensive weapon sentencing statistics: January to March 2019 show that there were 22,041 knife and offensive weapons offences in 2018-19, the highest total since 2009-10. In the first three months of 2019 alone, there were 5,759 offences, making it the worst quarter since July-September 2009.

Shot-term sentences: 7,599 people were sentenced to prison for knife offences in 2018-19, with an average sentence length of 8 months. This is despite the Ministry of Justice's own analysis showing that sentences of less than 12 months are ineffective for preventing reoffending.

Mandatory prison sentences: 9,374 people have been given a mandatory prison sentence for a second offence of possession of a knife or offensive weapon under Section 28 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 since January 2016, with an average sentence length of 7.6 months. The cost per prisoner in 2017-18 was £37,543 per year, meaning the total cost of these mandatory sentences is approximately £221 million. In 2015, the Conservatives introduced mandatory prison sentences for a second knife possession offence - against Liberal Democrats opposition

Stop and search: A 2016 Home Office analysis of the Met's 'Operation BLUNT 2' (which ran from May 2008 to April 2011) found "no statistically significant crime-reducing effect from the large increase in weapons searches" and that "ambulance call-outs actually fell faster in those boroughs that had smaller increases in weapons searches". It concluded that "Overall, analysis shows that there was no discernible crime-reducing effects from a large surge in stop and search activity at the borough level during the operation."