8 Summary of Session 1
In this first session you have considered one issue – the age at which children should be considered criminally responsible – from a variety of perspectives. This first session offers an outline of the arguments you will encounter as you continue through the course. For example, you will later return to the issue of negative labelling raised in the video. You will consider how this might operate in relation to the wider structures of disadvantage and discrimination that children and young people experience – around crime, victimisation and a youth justice system that delivers different outcomes according to whether they are white, male, female or from a black and minority ethnic group.
You’ve also seen how different countries take different approaches to young people’s misbehaviour. The next session offers you a quick guide to the system in England and Wales, currently operating as a single jurisdiction in matters of crime and justice. The third session examines the issues in Scotland, and the fourth, Northern Ireland.
The main learning points of this first session are:
- Establishing the best response to the crimes children may commit is a complicated issue.
- The age of criminal responsibility in all the jurisdictions of the UK are among the lowest in Europe. The trend is upward because it is recognised that criminalising children at a young age can have lasting damaging consequences.
- Contemporary scientific evidence about brain development reinforces the idea that children’s mental capacities are very different from adults.
- Involving children in the operation of the criminal law is rarely straightforward.
- Labelling children as criminal often has counter-productive effects.
- Listening to children’s perspectives is important.
In the next session, you will explore the current youth justice system in England and Wales and learn about the way it is changing.
You can now go to Session 2.