Letter: Ten-year-olds, however tough, are not adults

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The Independent Online
Ros Wynne-Jones' 10-year-olds from south London may think they're tough but I don't ("Straw's not tough enough for the playground jury", 18 May). While broadly agreeing with the new Government's proposal to recognise in law that 10- to 14-year-olds know wrong from right, I think the courts will need to proceed very carefully when the new legislation is in place. What children don't always foresee is the consequence of their actions. For instance youngsters playing with matches and old newspapers may not realise they are putting buildings and lives at risk.

Furthermore, teenagers experience wild swings of emotion; one minute it's in-your-face toughness, the next it's tears and the need for a hug from a parent. I am quite certain a 10-year-old is not as culpable for his or her actions as a 16-year-old.

The Government needs to undertake a broad-ranging review of the whole youth justice system before making piecemeal changes. The principle of doli incapax may need to go but should instead be replaced by the lost principle of the 1991 Criminal Justice Act - maturity.

Roger King

North Yorkshire Probation Service, Northallerton

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