Youth Advocates say 'Ten is too young'
LEADING advocates for children and young people gathered at Queens University Belfast this week to call on the Northern Ireland Executive to implement the 2011 recommendation to raise the age of criminal responsibility.
Northern Ireland has one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in the world and youth justice charity Include Youth wants to see it raised to 12 in line with the Youth Justice Review team's recommendation.
Speaking at the conference Koulla Yiasouma, in her last engagement as Director of Include Youth before taking up post as Commissioner for Children and Young People, said:
"It's baffling that as a society we choose to criminalise 10 year olds rather than get to the root cause of their offending behaviour. We'd rather see a handful of troubled primary school-aged children with a criminal record than support them to achieve in education or overcome the disadvantages they face.
"At Include Youth we've launched 'Raise the Age NI' because we along with many others believe it is time for an open, honest and evidence-based conversation about how we treat our children.
"If a child is considered to be a risk to themselves or others it would be negligent to suggest that they are not held securely regardless of their age, in a way that ensures they recognise the impact of their behaviour and decreases the likelihood of reoccurrence. You do not need a low age of criminal responsibility to do this.
"Very few children of this age commit crime, despite public perception, and most are convicted of minor offences such as petty theft or criminal damage.
"A child is always a child regardless of their behaviour and must be treated as such. Evidence from around the world supports us when we say there are more meaningful and effective ways of dealing with 10 and 11 year olds that is good for families, good for communities, good for public safety and just good common sense."
Media Enquiries: For more further comments or more information contact Koulla Yiasouma, Director of Include Youth, on +44 028 9031 1007 / 07922 543802 or email Koulla@includeyouth.org or Stewart Finn, Include Youth, on 028 9031 1007 or firstname.lastname@example.org .