In My Essay I Am Going to Discuss the Issues, ‘at What Age Should Children Be Held Criminally Responsible’, and ‘What Are Children's Influences Growing Up’

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In my essay I am going to discuss the issues, ‘at what age should children be held criminally responsible’, and ‘what are children’s influences growing up’.

The minimum age that children are held criminally responsible is 10 years old in England, Wales and Ireland and only 8years old in Scotland. There have been many issues regarding this age limit and as it points out in Madge’s ‘Children In These Days’ (2006), it is interesting that children and adults tended to agree on the ages at which children should be held criminally responsible: both children and adults (86% in total) thought that the age of criminal responsibility should be above the current age of 10 years old. According to Morris (2009), statistics show about 2,900 under-18s were in custody in England and Wales in November. The figure has been stable for a few years but is twice the number locked up in the early 1990s and higher than in Europe.The argument here is, is this age limit of 10 years old too young for them to be ‘locked up’? Some people may argue that children have to wait until they are sixteen to leave school or marry, and have to wait until they are 18 to gamble or see films, so why should they at the age of 10 have to take responsibility for their actions? Many people think that this age is too young for example the former head of the Youth Justice Board, Professor Rod Morgan, has called for the age at which children can be locked up –the so-called age of criminal responsibility – to be raised, he explained that too many youngsters were dragged into courts and detained at too early an age. (Morris 2009). This all comes down to the decision whether or not a child at the age of 10 knows the difference between right and wrong. Doli incapax applies to children in criminal proceedings of ten to thirteen years of age: children in this age range are presumed not to know the difference between right and wrong and, therefore, to be incapable of committing a crime because they lack the necessary criminal intent (Walsh 1998), this was abolished by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 deeming that children at these ages do know the difference between right and wrong. Many people will agree with this act being abolished as in the case of James Bulger 1993, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson both aged 10 at the time, abducted James, aged 2, from a shopping centre where they went on to abuse and murder him. They were found guilty of the murder and were the youngest people to be convicted of murder in English Criminal history. They both received sentences of eight years (Peel 1999). There would have been a public outrage if they boys never got a prison sentence, as they obviously knew what they were doing and all at the age of 10. Michael Howard, who was Home Secretary when the Bulger killers were sentenced, said, "It has been 10 for a while and I think that's quite reasonable." He also stressed that children were put in custody only "when almost everything else has been tried and has failed... before a case gets to court he's likely to be reprimanded first by the police" (Lord Geoff 1998). The debate continues, people seeing that it would be much better to treat the mental illness of the child rather than just throwing them in a cell. However people may believe that children who have been in school since the age of 5 should know the difference between right and wrong also that there could have been no other justified way to deal with Bulger’s killers. Finally raising the age limit could mean troubled youths not getting any help.

The behaviour of children also stems from their influences, whether it be their parents, peers or the media. The can all contribute in good and bad ways. Parents play a vital role in child upbringing as they spend the most time with their children. As Stephens (2004) says, children, in general, do tend to grow up to be a lot like their parents, children who live in homes were parents smoke are more likely to become smokers, these are...
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