5 The age of criminal responsibility in Northern Ireland
In Session 3 you learned about Scotland’s decision to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12. In Northern Ireland a review of the youth justice system also recommended raising the age to 12 (Youth Justice Review, 2011). This would bring it more into line with changes in the Republic of Ireland which raised the age of criminal responsibility to 12 in all but the most serious cases, and where pressure is mounting for the adoption of 14 as the most appropriate age. In the next activity you’ll consider arguments for this change in Northern Ireland.
Activity 7 Raising the age
Read the short policy briefing produced by NIACRO:
NIACRO policy briefings: the age of criminal responsibility [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]
Five ‘key messages’ are included in the briefing. The fourth considers the impact of a criminal record on a young person. Thinking back to some of the comments made in Session 2 by children in Wales about being seen as criminals, write down one reason this may be important to young people.
Children are sensitive to the power of being labelled a criminal. The children who made the video you watched in Session 2 resented how the mistakes they might make could be brought up years in the future in ‘criminal record’ checks. This is a powerful argument for raising the age and is the focus of another campaign you consider in the next activity.
Activity 8 Off the record
The Off the Record campaign urges the government of Northern Ireland to allow adults to apply for any minor convictions they received while under the age of 18 to be removed from the records kept by the government. Take a look at the ‘key messages’ from NIACRO’s Off The Record campaign:
NIACRO Policy Briefings: Off The Record
Imagine you want to persuade a friend, neighbour or colleague to support the campaign. Choose one of the five key messages and, in the box below, explain briefly why it might persuade this person to support the campaign.
Any of the five messages could be persuasive. The fact that a comprehensive review of criminal justice in Northern Ireland (cited in Message 1) proposed that adults should be able to apply for old and minor convictions to be expunged is a powerful argument. It also appeals to the kind of common sense that the mistakes a person makes as a child or as a youth, before they are fully adult, should not be able to define their future.