HC Deb 30 November 1978 vol 959 cc688-9
16. Mr. Temple-Morris

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any plans 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. Temple-Morris

Is the Minister aware that in the Metropolitan Police area alone during 1977, 675 under 10-yearolds were arrested for offences of violence and taking and driving away, apart from all other offences? What possible justification is there for treating a 9-year-old differently from a 10-year-old?

Mr. John

The younger the child the less he is presumed to know the consequences of his act. If a child under 10 years of age is in that position, care and control proceedings may be taken. I have not yet heard from those who advocate the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility to what age they would take their own limit. Would they imprison children of 5 and 6?

Mr. Molloy

Will my hon. Friend be prepared to examine instances where it appears that children under the age of criminal responsibility are being manipulated by those who are above that age? A serious problem is being created for the police.

Mr. John

The police are dealing with that problem. If the children concerned are beyond parental control, they may be brought before the courts as in need of care and control.

Forward to