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Should the Minimum Age of Responsibility Be Raised

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Should the minimum age of criminal responsibility be raised?

‘Boys will be boys’, but at what age does this no longer apply? At what age is a boy expected to take on the responsibilities of a man?
The Children and Young Persons Act 1963 (s.16) provides that ‘It shall be conclusively presumed that no child under the age of ten years can be guilty of an offence’. This means that once a child in the UK reaches the age of ten they are as exposed and liable to the full weight of the law the same as any adult. The UK currently has the lowest minimum age of criminal responsibility (except Scotland at 8 but cannot be prosecuted until 12) within the European Union. This places the UK significantly below the average of 14 years old. There seems to be little justification for this deviance from the norm in regards to the minimum age of responsibility in the UK and there have been considerable publications pushing for the UK to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the last decade, providing substantial evidence in favour of doing so. The evidence supporting the need to raise this minimum age can be found not only in psychology and scientific research regarding the brain development of youth and autonomy of children at this age, but also the severe social implications of criminalizing our youth. In order to argue that the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) should be raised it will be necessary to identify and evaluate this evidence, as well as identifying the issues that having a low MACR brings. This essay will first review the history of the MACR and discuss the effect of abolishing the doctrine of Doli Incapax on youth offenders, before presenting the neurological evidence regarding the lack of development that has taken place in a child’s brain by the age of ten. The severely detrimental social, psychological and physiological effects of…...

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