HC Deb 15 December 1977 vol 941 c905
23. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will seek to lower the age of criminal responsibility.

Mr. John

No, Sir. It would, in my view, be a retrograde step to lower the present age of 10 years, fixed by the Children and Young Persons Act 1963, below which it is conclusively presumed in law that a child cannot be guilty of any offence.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Has the Minister no further proposals for coping with the gangs of children under 10 years old, which are involved in so much of the present wave of vandalism?

Mr. John

First, there is the question of what evidence there is about this, other than a subjective impression. But such children can be brought before the juvenile court as being in need of care and control, on the ground that they may be outside parental control, and if that is so an order can be made, for example, binding over the parents. I am satisfied that the present powers are sufficient for those purposes.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

When does my hon. Friend intend to raise the age of criminal responsibility?

Mr. John

When I am satisfied that it is the right step to take.

Mr. Fairbairn

Will the Minister travel over the border, where he will find that we have a much lower age of consent and no harm arises?

Mr. John

I am not sure whether I should assent to the proposition that we were discussing the age of consent.