Letter to Independent on Sunday published 27.02.11

Posted by NAYJ on Mar 10, 2011

Letter to the editor – Independent on Sunday.

Dear Sir,
The National Association for Youth Justice is delighted that the Lib Dems appear to be keeping at least one of their pre-election promises (Lib Dems clash with Tory right over child justice- Page 12, 20th February).
For too long in successive administrations youth justice policy has been characterised by political expediency and ‘knee jerk’ reaction to media reporting, rather than on a thoughtful appraisal of what is most effective in protecting society and reducing offending by children.
There is a well established and still growing body of research to show that formal contact with the youth justice system is criminalising, stigmatising and counter-productive; and that the younger a child is, when they are drawn into the system, the more likely they are to continue to offend.
The argument that this would allow younger children who commit serious crimes to ‘get away with it ‘is spurious. Children who do commit serious crimes, which are thankfully few and far between, could still be detained and held accountable for their actions even with a higher age of criminal responsibility. However, thousands of others who currently face a system based on an adult model could and should be diverted from formal systems.
Raising the age of criminal responsibility will be good for society and good for children.