Children under 14 should not be held criminally responsible and should never be locked up for their crimes, according to a scathing report.
The Prison Reform Trust said it was unacceptable that more than 3,000 under 18s were in custody while nearly 100,000 young people entered the youth justice system for the first time last year. In a report to mark the 10th anniversary of the Youth Justice Board, the trust said that the number of children sent into custody had trebled between 1991 and 2006.
Young people given custodial sentences are sent to secure children's homes, purpose-built secure training centres or young offender institutions.
But the trust said that locking young people up did not deter them from reoffending, with three quarters of those aged under 18 released from custody reconvicted within a year.
The trust expressed alarm that 37 children under 14 were currently locked up, according to figures for this year, and called for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to 14.
The report said custody is "inappropriate" for children and young teenagers and "will do enduring harm".Reuse content