No plans to raise criminality age

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The Independent Online

Calls for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 12 were rejected yesterday as the Government insisted the two 10-year-olds who killed James Bulger in 1993 were old enough to face trial.

The Children's Commissioner, Maggie Atkinson, had said Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were "too young" to comprehend the consequences of killing two-year-old James and that they should have been held in a contained environment with "intense programmes, appropriate to their age" to help them "make positive and lasting changes".

The Ministry of Justice yesterday said children aged 10 can differentiate between "bad behaviour and serious wrongdoing".

It added: "We do not intend to raise the age of criminal responsibility. It is not in the interests of justice, of victims or the young people themselves to prevent serious offending being challenged."

Felicity Gerry, a criminal barrister, said the law now requires Crown Prosecution Service lawyers to decide if child offenders understand what they did was wrong. "There is no need to change the age of criminal responsibility as long as prosecutors are applying the proper tests in deciding whether or not to prosecute."

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