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Should the age of criminality be raised?

08:58 UK time, Saturday, 13 March 2010

England's children's commissioner says the age of criminal responsibility should be raised from 10 to 12. Do you agree?

Maggie Atkinson said the killers of James Bulger should have undergone "programmes" to help turn their lives around, rather than being prosecuted.

Most criminals under 12 did not fully understand their actions, she said.

She told the Times civilised society should recognise that children who commit offences needed to be treated differently from adult criminals.

Do you agree with the children's commissioner? Should young criminals be treated differently to adult offenders? Is the age of 10 too young to be aware of your actions? What age do you think children become responsible for their own actions?


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  • Comment number 1.

    Has the world gone mad? At the age of 10 years old I was more than old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. My parents taught me by example and discipline.

  • Comment number 2.

    I knew the difference between right and wrong when I was five. I don't agree that kids under 12 don't understand what they are doing or that their acts have consequences.

  • Comment number 3.

    I thoroughly agree with increasing the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years.

    HOWEVER ... this would have to go hand--in-hand with tackling underage criminal behaviour. This will happen only when the ordinary person in the street is not afraid to intervene, not afraid he or she will become the one in the dock. Parents will have to take responsibility for their offspring and ... here's an old chestnut ... reintroduction of National Service (not necessarily military) or 'Service to the Nation' which could teach youngsters to 'rub-along' with others and instil a sense of 'one nation' in the land.

    Fat chance!

  • Comment number 4.

    Lower it!! Children should know right from wrong by the age of 5. It's liberal fools like this in positions of social power that have eroded our societal values by removing the consequences of crime. Teachers can'nt disciplin pupuls while the parente abdicate responsibility and expect the schools to teach it. I can see the headlines now 'Bulger style killer gets community order then goes on to kill again?'
    We try to place ourselves above animals but fail to learn the lessons of history. For crime there needs to be an unpleasent consequence. If a child runs out in to the road should you be scarily angry with them or just soothing naughty naughty? Which one will they learn from fast and which one gets them run over next time?
    Prevention is the better cure. teach kids from an early age about right and wrong and back it up with real deterrants.

  • Comment number 5.

    i think there has been a typo, someone in the above story said the age should be raised!! obviously a genuine mistake so i wont berate you

  • Comment number 6.

    Part of the problem we have is that young offenders know they cannot be touched by the law. Since we have a serious problem with crime committed by young people, is this proposal really going to help.

    This is another liberal proposal, taken from the point of view of the offender not the victim.

    When will the tide change.

  • Comment number 7.

    As the father of three now-adult children, I see no reason to change the age of criminal responsibility. Well-meaning people who have had no children of their own may think otherwise but they have no real experience of bringing up children. Too many people are exploiting the Bulger story for their own ends. Every case needs to be judged on its own merits.

  • Comment number 8.


  • Comment number 9.

    I think the age of criminal responsibility is too variable per individual child to pen down to a specific age.

    Some children are aware of their actions at 10 and others, quite simply, are not. When I was a child I would have said 14 was a more realistic age because the world, for children, was a more innocent place back then.

    There are also other factors, some children are not aware they are doing wrong because of the environment they have been brought up in whereas others know they are doing wrong and continue to do so anyway.

    It is difficult but surely there is some means of validating the age of criminal responsibility on an individual case by case basis.

  • Comment number 10.

    No, it should be reduced to 8 and the parents should be automatically charged with and receive the same sentence as their criminal offspring.

    You can't have it both ways, if the loony liberal left do-gooders treat little kids as 'small adults' then those little kids should be assumed to have the responsibility of small adults.

    Perhaps then we'll see parents taking responsibility for their kids and raising them properly.

  • Comment number 11.

    Should young criminals be treated differently to adult offenders?

    What a blindingly obvious answer to this question - when it is not until a person reaches the age of 17 that they are classified as 'adult' (and I use the term reservedly)for the purposes of criminal offending.

    Of COURSE they should be treated differently.

    As to whether the age of criminal responsibilty be raised or not,... why bother trying to define it. Children often know the difference between what is right and what is wrong, by age 7/8. I would argue they could be just as 'responsible' as some 12 - 14 year olds! (Given that some 17yr olds can often act as if they were twelve!!)

  • Comment number 12.

    What is this woman thinking ????? Coming from an area where child crime is high I say NO !!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    The woman has a point. Punish children to protect children, therefore remove the protection that every child deserves?

    Remember, children are our future.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think if children know how to torture and even kill at a young age such as 10 (such as Venables and Thompson) they should be treated as criminals and stop pussy-footing around them. What about the victims of their crimes, how do they feel?

    I fully sympathise with Denise Bulger, those two took her son, tortured and killed him, a baby at 2 years old. They knew very well what they did and they were protected by changing their identities so no-one would know who they were when released and now this has happened (with Venables breaching his conditions).

    I hope they keep him locked up forever now.

  • Comment number 15.

    No. I find the liberal "intellectual" elite to by so far out of touch with reality it's untrue. The Bulger killers DID undergo a programme whereby they ostensibly turned their lives around. They were detained for eight years for taking a two year old's life. How much more liberal do you want to be?

    I refuse to accept that under-12s "don't understand what they're doing". The Edlington boys were raised in a poisonous background, they are being detained and they should be helped to turn their lives around. Again, how much more liberal do you want to be?

    To say they didn't know what they were doing because a ruling liberal intellectual whose life is seemingly untouched by crime says so is unacceptable. The facts should be presented as they are and appropriate action should be taken. If you commit a crime, there should be punishment.

    I had a discussion with a friend where we were talking about the sentencing for children like the Bulger killers or the Edlington boys. He said it wouldn't do them much good to be locked up. I asked him what he felt about the victims of such crimes. His answer? "Well bad things happen all the time." I couldn't believe it.

    I'm not saying string 'em up, I'm saying help them in the best possible humane manner but remember the victims of such crimes and don't pretend that crime is committed because the perpetrator/s don't know any better.

    I think "Remember there's a victim" should be a new Labour slogan.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    Is this woman right in the head, can we please put her in a programme which gives her some reality checks? Kids who commit crimes know exactly what they are doing. In fact probably more of them do it when they are young because they know in this country they can't be touched.

    Recently two kids burnt down a doctors surgery and all they got was a telling off because they were under 10.

    If anything, the age under which people can be liable from their crimes should be at least 7 years old.

  • Comment number 18.

    This woman is insane if she thinks that criminal kids don't know what they are doing when commit crimes. I can't believe she thinks those who killed Jamie Bulger should not have been tried as they were only kids and not aware of what they had done.

    I'm not even happy with the Scottish age of criminal responsibility of 8 years. There are plenty of kids younger than that who go round creating mayhem in the full knowledge that nobody can touch them. At the very least, if kids are to be held not responsible for their actions due to age, then the parents should held responsible for their actions.

  • Comment number 19.

    She's joking right? 10 years old is MORE than old enough to know that, for example, taking a child from a shopping centre, torturing him and killing him are all very wrong! Come on! My 3 year old cousin has started to know whats right and whats wrong! I work with kids aged 7-10; they ALL know the difference between right and wrong, not least because if they do something wrong they try to hide it!

  • Comment number 20.

    A very difficult one to answer and perhaps the the best solution is that the age of criminal responsibility should be variable within an age range, rather than an arbitrary age, as young people do develop at different rates depending on the individuals and the circumstances concerned. The James Bulger case was and still is a highly politicised affair with politicians vying for popular public approval, with the media seeing it as an opportunity to raise either their viewing or circulation figures. Very few people actually know the full facts in any such criminal case so unless we do, comment is often biased and tends to favour the draconian and easy option.

  • Comment number 21.

    I wonder if it were her children who had been killed by these two junior thugs Maggie Anderson would feel the same about whether they knew what they were doing. I have never heard such rubbish.

    10 years old and not knowing right from wrong.....?

    Are we saying they thought it was right to stone Jamie to death? If so, why didn't the happy couple of innocents do this sort of thing every Friday afternoon?

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Absolutely not. Our communities are already plagued by expert young criminals who know their "rights". Lowering the age of responsibility would be more appropriate.

  • Comment number 24.

    Never heard a more ridiculous suggestion, how on earth did this woman get the job. We have so many problems now because the kids know they are un-touchable, their parents and older friends have made sure of that. Any child between 5 and 16 committing an offence, the parents should also be punished in some way.

  • Comment number 25.

    'Should the age of criminality be raised?'
    I think that in all honesty, if a child does not understand the meaning of hurting, killing, stealing etc by the age of 10 - then something is dreadfully wrong in our Society.
    Since parents who raise such 'problem' children are not held responsible nowadays, is the 'children's commissioner' therefore saying that nobody is responsible and that 'feral' children should be seen as 'normal'?
    Parents must be made to be responsible - there is no other logical answer.

  • Comment number 26.

    This woman and others like her do not live on a council estate, have never done so and are protected from the consequences of their misguided philanthropy by bodyguards and socioeconomic segregation.

    Venables knew what he was doing when he beat to death and tortured james Bulger. My 6 year old knows that if you bash something with a brick it breaks.

    I wish Ms Atkinson would try spending a month on a sink estate without her minions. Then tell us that kids don't know any better.

  • Comment number 27.

    It's all very well for the righteous (and there are many of them in these columns) to project their personal standards on to delinquent children and parrot on about justice.

    Children are a product of the environment they grow up in and any blame for their deviations should be heaped directly onto the parents. It is not the fault of the child if their parents see thieving, violence and immorality as a way of life.

    'There but for the grace of God has never been more true.

  • Comment number 28.

    People seem to forget that Robert Thompson and Jon Venables apparently both came from disturbing backgrounds. There are many articles describing the way they had been brought up and how this could have contrubuted to what they did to James Bulger. 10 year old children do not get such ideas without being exposed to some kind of horrible stimulus. I do not think raising the age to 12 would make any difference, instead I believe with such violent and disgusting crimes the parents would be in court to be assessed over whether their behaviour was the cause of the crime. YES, most children at 10 know the difference between right and wrong but if you've been brought up to believe beatings and violent sexual behaviour are the norm then you most certainly have a disadvantage in life. Only IF the parents have been in court and have been assessed by mental health experts and it is decided they played no part on making their child behave the way it has should then anyone under the age of 18 been tried in court for such a crime. People may be better parents and may think a bit before exposing their children to nasties if they have to take responsibility for what their children do with these experiences.

  • Comment number 29.

    This is the most sensible post I've read this week:

    7. At 10:05am on 13 Mar 2010, Pincher Martin wrote:
    As the father of three now-adult children, I see no reason to change the age of criminal responsibility. Well-meaning people who have had no children of their own may think otherwise but they have no real experience of bringing up children. Too many people are exploiting the Bulger story for their own ends. Every case needs to be judged on its own merits.

    Nail. Head. Hit.

  • Comment number 30.

    Although these two boys were prosecuted, I thought, after prosecution, that they did have "programmes" to help turn their lives around - including annonimity upon release - yet one of them went on to re-offend. Some use that programme.
    I would like to know what proof Maggie Atkinson has to support what she is saying. I am sure children know the difference between right and wrong, and fully understand their actions, way before they are 12. If they do not know this by the age of 10, then I think we, as a society, have "lost the plot"! A result of generations of laws and policies implemented by academic "do gooders" with no practical experience to speak of, and we are now paying the price.

  • Comment number 31.

    The "person" who made this suggestion, idiotic in my view, should be forced to live in an area populated by the violent thieving young thugs who cynically exploit the situation by saying "you can't touch me, I'm under 10" and they're absolutely correct, it's their get-out-of-jail-free-card, and even the Police who catch them red-handed are powerless.

    And remember that older kids and adults use under-10s as their runners for that exact reason - everyone gets off free.

    Nobody should be exempt from facing the consequences of their own actions, even if the punishment has to reflect their age or, for example, mental condition.

  • Comment number 32.

    Whoever suggested this must be living on another planet! The news is full of serious crimes committed by younger and younger children - crimes as serious as rape and torture, not to mention drug-dealing and burglary.

    To raise the age of criminal responsiblity would create a black hole in which no-one was responsible for some very serious crimes. Unless, of course, the Chidrens' Commissioner is suggesting someone else takes responsibility e.g. parents. But I'm sure that's not what she means at all. She wants these crimes to go unpunished and to disappear into some PC vacuum of waffle, 'interventions' and 'outcomes'.

    Any ten year old, even the most disturbed and backward, knows that abducting a toddler and beating them to death is wrong.

    If the Childrens' Commissioner doesn't understand that she is unfit to hold her post (whatever it is!) and she should be dismissed.

  • Comment number 33.

    If you bring in measures to punish parents of children who break the law while at a young age (with fines, benefits cuts, and community service) as well as protecting the rights of people who step in to help deal with young law breakers, then sure, for non-serious crime I don't see the problem with the age being increased.

    But that wont happen, families who bring up law breakers will continue to do so, with no ill effect to them, the children will go undisciplined and well meaning members of the public will continue to victimised by both the criminals and the liberal idiots who run this country who feel the need to punish people who try to do something to defend their communities from the young who make it worse for everyone.

  • Comment number 34.

    What nonsense. Of course it should not be raised. If anything it should be lowered. This another example of the state removing responsibility for one's own actions, and allowing every one to become a victim. Clearly these boys were irrepairably damaged by their awful parents, but don't tell me that they didn't know what they were doing was terribly wrong.

  • Comment number 35.


    If a child doesn't know the difference between right and wrong by the age of 10, they're hardly likely to magically know that difference by the age of 12.

    With the age of offending (including antisocial behaviour) dropping all the time, we need to catch children even younger.

    Questions are: 1) do we want violent youngsters (likely frinstance to commit murder) wandering the streets having been "let off" and put on a therapy programme with absolutely no guarantee that it would work?
    2) Who's going to suddenly provide the vast number of therapists/keepers/whatever necessary to deal with the volume of young offenders these days?
    3) Who's going to pay for them?

    Nope, it's another barmy idea until such times as we have a solution that works 100%. Best thing is at the slightest sign of trouble, pull the parents in for intensive training. At the very least make parents responsible for the behavour of their offspring in such a way that they will take a very close interest in what those offspring are doing. HOW MANY TIMES TO WE HAVE TO TELL THESE DO-GOODING CHILDREN'S COMMISSIONERS WHAT'S WHAT?

    This is one of those issues that needs a referendum so that what happens reflects what most in society actuall want.

  • Comment number 36.

    Sack this mad woman immediately!! is she deliberately being provocative at a time when a child killer has been taken back into jail (after a woefully inadequate sentence) or is she totally out of touch with public opinion? People are always saying how modern kids are far smarter than us old duffers, and on the other hand they say that they don't know right from wrong at 10 years old - I certainly knew that murder was wrong well before that age !!

  • Comment number 37.

    Even 12 is too young, 14 or 16 would be more appropriate.

    Punishment should be designed to deter crime. Revenge is barbarous and conterproductive.

    Most children of 10, have no understanding of the process and consequences of a criminal trial, so its deterrent effect is negligible.

    It is a shocking indictment of the popular press in the UK, that their response to a shocking criminal act, such as the killing of a child, is to whip a murderous desire in their readers for revenge, rather than to investigate and try to find the reason for such abnormal behaviour, so that it can be eliminated.

  • Comment number 38.

    no it should not be raised they are accountable before they are born many are born to kill its there parents who mould there children to becoming what they are, born out of lust many are these kids new what they was doing and they are not kids anymore. they should not ever be let out. they should take there punishment. childeren go there own way at certain age
    dont care if the parents say what ever. many are frighytened of there own kids governments shouldnt have banned the cane and the rod. now the kids are turned into hell.

  • Comment number 39.

    This "raising the age limit" for crime idea makes perfect sense.
    People are living much longer these days, and it's likely that in a few year's time we'll all have to get a telegram off H.M The Queen congratulating us on reaching 100 years of age (or off King Charles III probably by then - if he continues the practice once enthroned?... Though personally I'd prefer a delicious box of £70 "Duchy" organic cream-crackers!), before we qualify for our state pension - so what goes on one end, should be taken off the other, out of fairness.

    With people (on average) now living around 20 years longer than they did before WWII, the age of criminal responsibility should be raised from 10yrs to 30yrs of age. This would do away with "youth crime" altogether, in one master-stroke, empty our overcrowded prisons, and allow people to enjoy the pleasures of drink, drugs and mindless violence (except when England is playing overseas), right up until the age they're deemed too old to be usefully employed by UK businesses (currently around the 30 yrs mark), and get tossed on the scrapheap - too poor and depressed to commit crime even.

    You see... Even Gordon Brown's youthful (average 11 yr old) squad of £80,000pa unelected "advisors" come up with some great ideas sometimes!

  • Comment number 40.

    #23 by angryauntie

    Nail - BANG - head.

    Couldn't have put it better.

  • Comment number 41.

    Do-gooders... we could well do without them. Agree with others "lower it"

  • Comment number 42.

    Shouldn't we be calling for the immediate sacking of Maggie Atkinson who is surely woefully out of touch and is sending dangerous, foolish and irresponsible messages to young people inferring they cannot be held responsible for their own actions.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    Once again we have "experts" sticking their noses in. They have wrecked education, reorganised & destroyed public service efficiencies, allowed crime to go unpunished with minimal or no punishments and now this woman thinks that 10 yr olds do not realise what they are doing. She's probably childless, as every parent will know that 10 yr olds know exactly what they are doing & why.

    Public Service & thing tank experts have a lot to answer for.

  • Comment number 45.

    Leave the age how it is.

    Make the 'childrens commissioner' redundant.

    Spend the money saved on building more secure accomodation for child thugs.

  • Comment number 46.

    "Maggie Atkinson said the killers of James Bulger should have undergone "programmes" to help turn their lives around, rather than being prosecuted. "

    Silly person. Isn't that what's supposed to have happened?

    And it didn't work.

    Sheesh! If we change the law so that young murderers get off scot free aside from some therapy on the whimsy of people like Maggie Atkinson, can you imagine what society will be like in 10 years?

    It would probably be better to lower the criminal age to 8 to reflect the reality in society.

    If nothing else Ms Atkinson should come down from her ivory tower to find out what life is like on some of the estates in this country. Make her like in a sink estate for a year so that she has some experiene in what she's talking about.

  • Comment number 47.

    If a child doesn't know by the age of 10 that murder is wrong, they are likely to be too dangerous to leave out in society and should be locked up.

    An argument could possibly be made for raising the age of responsibility for relatively minor crimes but not for more serious crimes.

    Wouldn't a better option be to abolish the age of responsibility and give judges discretion on a case-by-case basis? That way no nasty little thugs could hide behind the age of responsibility, while genuine "mischief" could be treated as such.

  • Comment number 48.

    Some children are unfortunately born to thuggish, brutish parents who haven't got a clue about bringing up children. Most of us have been fortunate enough to escape this fate. We are effectively punishing children for the sins of their foul parents. Everyone deserves a chance in life, especially children. If we deny them this, then it speaks volumes about our inadequacies as adults. Quite a few rather ignorant posters need to do some serious thinking, something that clearly doesn't come easily to them.

  • Comment number 49.

    This is more of the current PC madness. Of course it shouldn't be raised. Any child of 5 knows it's not right to beat a tiny child to death. Why are we going out of our way to protect these animals when we seem to do nothing to protect their victims and families?

  • Comment number 50.

    The 'doctor' advocating the rise in age is so out of touch with reality! Does she have any children of her own? Are they morons? Ever heard of 'natural instincts'? Those things that stop you burning yourself twice in the same fire, even if 2-3yrs old! Maybe crying is part of the learning curve, do you think? Isn't ignorance bliss? Know all do-gooders, go away, your immature thoughts are not welcome in this so called 'civilised society', you wish! Who told you that chestnut? dream on!

  • Comment number 51.

    "37. At 10:38am on 13 Mar 2010, stanblogger wrote:

    Even 12 is too young, 14 or 16 would be more appropriate.

    Punishment should be designed to deter crime. Revenge is barbarous and conterproductive.

    Most children of 10, have no understanding of the process and consequences of a criminal trial, so its deterrent effect is negligible.

    It is a shocking indictment of the popular press in the UK, that their response to a shocking criminal act, such as the killing of a child, is to whip a murderous desire in their readers for revenge, rather than to investigate and try to find the reason for such abnormal behaviour, so that it can be eliminated."

    Finally someone on here with some common sense! People are so quick to jump up and judge without knowing the background on these kind of children.

  • Comment number 52.

    Step 1 : reform the law so that it becomes relevant to society - we, the sixty million citizens of this nation should choose the laws by which we live.

    Step 2 : educate all citizens so that they know what acts are unacceptable in our society, and which will be punished if committed.

    Step 3 : create "pre-crime" centres, where people who feel they may be drawn into criminal behaviour (whether they feel peer pressure from friends to commit thefts or vandalism, or are at the mercy of urges which will lead them to kill or rape) can go for help BEFORE any crime is committed. They will therefore be citizens receiving assistance, rather than criminals.

    Step 4 : with the knowledge that almost all crime is avoidable (criminals make an active choice to rob, rape, assault or kill), anybody caught committing crime will be deemed to have acted against society itself, and punished according to the wishes of society.

    With the right foundations in crime prevention (community/society-led), we can achieve a Zero Tolerance approach to crime which is fair, transparent and just.

  • Comment number 53.

    No I do not believe that the age should be raised, a better understanding of what is right and wrong, a more understanding of what is polite and what is impolite and a better understanding of how to behaviour towards someone else with respect.

    Respect is earned and not god given…

    Kids today seem to have more freedom than ever before and seem to be able to get away with things that wouldn’t of been heard of before.
    Children have test after test after test, am sure some psychologist , criminologist, social worker, education chiefs, could come up with some very simple form that between the ages of 9 years and 10 years, can decide what state of mind a child development is, on a everyday scenarios. And assess the answers as any crime they commit or behaviour pattern emerging .
    A child is only as good as the children they mix with.Peer presser is greater today ( i want i want and if I can't have i'll take ) than it ever were, I had some fourty years ago, but been outcasted is a far better feeling today looking back then going with the croud, because looking at them now, they have all had some time in Prison .

  • Comment number 54.

    A ten year old is a child. Yes, children have the capacity to know difference between right and wrong but to hold them responsible for their actions is in itself criminal. I would argue that the age of "criminal" responsibility is closer to 15 than it is to 10. Raising the age to 12 is a good start but perhaps a window should be created, say from 12 to 14, to cater for the varying circumstances (mental and physical) children can find themselves. Children are complicated little beasts and we must take care to assess them correctly and fairly in order to steer them towards adulthood. It is a pity that many parents do not understand their responsibilities in this respect: Parents both rich and poor.

  • Comment number 55.

    If proper values and the concept of right and wrong have not been instilled by the age of 10, then nothing magical will happen in the next 2 years to correct this.

  • Comment number 56.

    Not only should this age not be raised, any sentence passed on convicted youngsters should also be duplicated for the parents. That way more parents would be forced to take responsibility for the behaviour of their offspring.

  • Comment number 57.

    Yet another bleeding heart unwilling to accept the reality of life. Dear old Maggie should have the courage of her convictions and live alone on one of the estates that have been allowed to turn feral. That way her thoughts may be formed in other than comfortable meeting and conference rooms. No doubt this lady is full to brim with statistics and information but short on real life actuality.

  • Comment number 58.

    Raise the age of criminal responsibility? Did I fall asleep and wake up on April 1st?

    Hahaha. Good one.

  • Comment number 59.

    In my opninion NO. At the age of 10 a child should know right from wrong and should know that if they do wrong they will face the consequences, not just get a slap on the wrist.

  • Comment number 60.

    As a teacher I can assure people who believe otherwise that children under 12 (let alone 14 or 16) know exactly what they are doing. To say otherwise is simply wrong. Some people won't like being told that, but they clearnly don't know what they are talking about so tough.

    So much about why we have this problem has been said already. I've known of kids on are on their 10th final warning from the police. What's the point in that! What a wonderful way to tell children that we're not serious about what we say!

    Any classroom teacher will be able to tell you that children react best to fixed boundaries. If you keep moving them, their behaviour gets worse and worse (and I have seen this in schools where the head has given ground to the kids and within a couple of years it's gone from a good school to one where the police patrol everyday at the end of school). And moving boundaries about what is considered acceptable behaviour is what has been happening more and more, and the more it happens, the worse behaviour becomes.

  • Comment number 61.

    If anything things like the Bulger case and any number of violent children shows that it needs to be reduced not increased!
    Have these people been into the real world?

  • Comment number 62.

    I am appalled by what this commissioner has said. I do not accept that those killers did not know what they were doing. I knew exactly what I was doing at aged 10! The justice system has let the Bulger family down.

  • Comment number 63.

    This bleeding heart nonsense is exactly why "Children" are running around stabbing, raping and committing other terrible crimes against each other. These "kids" watch adult videos, play adult computer games, and have a far greater understanding of the "adult world" and it's realities than previous generations.
    If anything the age of responsibility needs lowering to protect society from the actions of these child monsters. Not all kids are bad but those that are don't need "programmes" they need stern punishment, and the certain knowledge it will be applied if they break the law.

  • Comment number 64.

    This woman needs a reality check perhaps she would like to live in an area that has a high delinguent population and some are as young as five, then she will have a differing perspective. Children learn at a very young age the difference between what is right and wrong. The Bulger killers knew what they were doing, they actually took a small child out of a busy shopping centre then walked him quite a distance to a secluded railway track and murdered him. So, they have since undergone specialised programmes to turn their lives around what about the lives of James's family their lives are still in torment. I'm a firm believer that Justice is never postponed and that we we sow so shall we reap. Venebles has crept back into the limelight granted with a new identity but the murder of a fragile child will always be there after specialised programmes or not. Lower the age for criminality because we need to send a strong message out to our children that all antisocial behaviour will not be tolerated.

  • Comment number 65.

    Absolute nonsense!! If anything, the age should be lowered. These kids knew what they were doing to James Bulger, and should DEFINATELY have been prosecuted. Most kids are more wordly wise now at a young age, than they ever were before. We do not need any more PC, left wing "do-gooder"
    suggestions in this country. We have enough from these "loonies" already. Get a grip, and, for once, penalise wrongdoers, whatever their age. Hopefully, after May 2010, the law can be rigourously enforced, for the first time in almost 13 years!!

  • Comment number 66.

    One set of idiots want to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and another set want to lower the voting age to 16! Mind boggling!

  • Comment number 67.

    That looks just like the sort of stupid comment one comes to expect in today's PC society. Hey, why not raise the age of responsibility to 15 or 16, say? After all, it's the rights of the criminals that we are concerned with here, not the rights of their victims, isn't it?

  • Comment number 68.

    No of course it shouldn't be raised, if anything it should be lowered. This liberal minded attitude has got society where it is today with elderly people too afraid to leave their houses for fear of being abused by young thugs (some as young as 7 or 8). And if anybody takes action to stop their car being scratched, windows broken or life being made sheer hell, they end up being prosecuted by our excuse for a Police Force! This woman clearly shows that she lacks common sense and is not fit to hold the position of Children's Commissioner.

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

    All these comments from the barbaric adult population, who singularly fail to understand what it is to be a child!

    If you fill the heads of children with poison you must expect to suffer the consequences of that ultimate act of barbarism, that ultimate act of not taking responsibility for yourself and the rational nature of true being! To be human in the knowledge of the consequence of ones own actions! If you as an adult fail to understand or acknowledge your own responsibility for the society you create - then how the hell do you expect a child to understand the difference between the reality they face and the illusions of an unreality you 'educate' them to believe is real? A child might know the difference between right and wrong at a young age - but may not understand the consequence of any action when their minds are corrupted by the adults surrounding them in a society you ALL are responsible for creating! Do not look for 'blame' in another place - look in the mirror! And understand this one rational truth, you are all responsible for the actions of children!

  • Comment number 71.

    Can you not see the evil in this child's eyes? This child was evil long before he killed Jamie Bulger and long before he was 10!

  • Comment number 72.

    Quite frankly the age should be lowered to something like 8 and not raised at all.

    Also make the parents more responsible and liable for prosecution for the criminal actions of their children. Children, if the correct parenting is applied, should know the difference between right and wrong at an early age. So if they do wrong they should have to face up to the consequences.

    In my day if you got a clip round the ear by a policemen the last thing you'd do is go back to your parents and tell them as you'd get worse. Now they prosecute the poor policeman. It taught me respect and I didn't dare shout obcenities to the police like a lot of the children do these days. However I wasn't afraid of the police if I was behaving as knew I could always go up to them and they'd help me if needed.

    We're sadly reaching a point where criminals have more rights than that their innocent victims due to "mamby pamby" "do gooders". Return the rights of the victims and take away the rights of the criminals young and old.

  • Comment number 73.

    By an interesting coincidence - an article today on the BBC website provides some insight into a possible answer to this question.

    It would seem that one in ten UK nine and ten year olds think that the Queen invented the telephone - and that Mark Hamill was the first man on the moon.

    I would be very uncomfortable to imagine a child who thinks that Star Wars was a documentary should be treated in the same way as an adult criminal. Every right minded individual believes that children should have different rights and responsibilities. Presumably this is why we do not ask 10 year olds to vote, drive cars, or dismantle roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

    I feel for the people who are terrorized by 10 year olds, and am thankful that in our Mid wales town the worst 10 year olds seem to do is throw snow balls at cars, and try to nick bits of copper pipe from outside our house. having said all this - I probably feel more for a 10 year old who commits some dreadful crime they may not fully understand and spends the rest of their childhood locked away.

    For me - a fairly liberal aid worker - it would be an intensive programme of support and counseling for the criminal 10 year old our society has so demonstrably failed.

  • Comment number 74.


    I was brought up to know what was right and wrong at a far younger age.

    Yes, a court system needs to be there to try children until they are old enough to go through the adult court system.

    Children are growing up far quicker than even in my time, so rather than increasing it to 12, surely they should be looking at reducing it.

    WHATEVER is decided, the parents of children who commit such crimes should be in the dock as well as they are responsible for their children, so they should be charged as it they had committed the crime.

    Then, parents may take more interest in what their children get up to and supervise them more carefully and bring them up better than they are at the moment.

  • Comment number 75.

    Some children aged ten might not understand that pouring paint into a toddler's eyes, torturing and beating him to death and then leaving him to be cut in half by a train is a very naughty thing to do indeed.

    What they did to the little boy was 'exceptionally unpleasant' says the Dr.

    Now will someone please show this bottomlessly stupid doctor the door ?

  • Comment number 76.

    56. geoffd wrote:

    Not only should this age not be raised, any sentence passed on convicted youngsters should also be duplicated for the parents. That way more parents would be forced to take responsibility for the behaviour of their offspring.

    Spot on!

    If I have a dog(of any age) that mutilates someone, I, or my insurance company, can be taken to the cleaners.
    If a feral moron under 10 does the same, nobody is responsible or liable for damages.

  • Comment number 77.

    The point is not the age when one is able to tell the difference between right and wrong - the point is the age when most of us are able to understand fully the consequences of our actions and how they affect others. (What the jargonistas call 'emotional intelligence'.) Knowing the 'rules' is not enough. In Scandinavian countries, children are not penalised for actions that would be considered abhorrent in adults. They are absorbed back into their communities and loved deeply so their need to hurt others is obviated. Criminally, our society is so broken by the blame culture that we cannot see that child offending is the fault of adults - but not - not ever - the child's.

  • Comment number 78.

    The age of criminality should not be raised, otherwise far too many little tearaways would be allowed to terrorise their peers. What is needed is better education in social responsibility. Parents and teachers should put more effort in teaching good standards of behaviour, although these days, one wonders if anyone understands that concept.

  • Comment number 79.

    Do we still have lunatic asylums in this country?. Just wondering if theres room for one more.
    Children should know right from wrong by the age of 10 and if they dont, then there is something seriously wrong with A) their parents or B) their school.
    It bugs me when 18 year ol commit a hennious crime and be sentenced to x yrs in a young offenders institute. I thought at 18 you were an adult. Send them to an adult prison

  • Comment number 80.

    So who would be held responsible? One of the main issues we have in society today is that no one is responsible for anything. Criminals aren't responsible, its the pressure of society, or their upbringing.

  • Comment number 81.

    No this woman probably lives in a nice neighbourhood and all it entails , another blame the victims and look after the culprit.

  • Comment number 82.

    I do not agree the problem with our current society is do good idiots like the person suggesting this. need to understand any ordered society needs rules and children need to understand right and wrong,any child of five or more with sensible parents know right from wrong.

  • Comment number 83.

    Im sorry but if you dont know the difference between right and wrong by the age of 10 then 2 years isnt going to make any difference. Its up to parents to make their children understand the rights and wrongs of life. this opinon that the age should be raised is another example of todays softness agianst criminals. What about the rights of the victims and their families.

  • Comment number 84.

    Amazing, apparently a twelve-year-old can be responsible enough to commit a crime murder, rape etc. but i still bet a lot of people who think that don't think there responsible enough to have sex before the current the legal age of consent 16. Whilst I believe MOST children at a young age know right from wrong, most children still don't think through their actions and thus told think think of the negative consequences. I cannot believe that Douglas wrote 'Kids today seem to have more freedom than ever before and seem to be able to get away with things that wouldn’t of been heard of before.' When in reality, kids have their behaviour restricted more than ever. On the one hand many parents do not let their children out on the streets or at most don't let them out of sight due to the fear that there children will become the victim of attack, rape or abduction. On the other hand, with the introduction of ASBOs we now criminalise the behaviour of children which would have previously been considered deviant not criminal. There is a big difference - It all stems down to people today being a lot less tolerant than 20/30 years ago. Kids behaviour especially when in groups has always been considered problematic when the most of the time it is just kids being kids. And for those kids who perhaps actually commit an act such as theft, like most things children grow out of crime. When it is a child committing such an act, the parent should be the one telling the child off, not locking them up. We live in a paranoid society where the majority of the public believe that crime rates are increasing when in fact they have been decreasing for the past 15 years. In short, increasing the age of criminal responsibility is a good thing.

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 86.

    Hrumph! Bwharrrrrr!!!!!! This'll get 'em going! Nearly choked on me fish supper. Look I'll sort it out immediately, ok?!

  • Comment number 87.

    No children should know the difference between right and wrong at 10 a lot depends on the parents.

    I can't wait for the right wing gutter press Sun, mirror,star, mail comments on this if they had their way we would be hanging children for dropping litter.

  • Comment number 88.

    the children's commissioner will live in a posh area with little crime, she doesn't live in the real world. I wonder if she would say the same if it was her child who was murdered? do gooders like her are to blame for the massive rise in crime and all the children who are now a law unto themselves. she needs to spend a week on a council estate to see what the children of today are like. Instead of putting the age up a better idea would be to hold parents responsible for their children and procecute them if their children are getting into trouble under 12 as if your child is getting into trouble under 12 you have failed in your parenting.

  • Comment number 89.

    It is the child's upbringing that needs criminal investigation at any age below 18. The authorities should always be on hand to help guardians discipline their children if they are unable to do it themselves - and charge for it too. Corporal punishment, or the threat of it, is the only kind that works.

  • Comment number 90.

    The age should not be raised! If you're old enough to kill someone at 10 then you're old enough to pay the price.

  • Comment number 91.

    Some of the posters on here have got it wrong. Just because they knew the difference between right & wrong at 10 years of age doesn't mean that everyone else does. We all develop at different rates, and the age at which criminal responsibility starts has to be set at a point where there can be no doubt. The current age of 10 clearly is too low, so I think raising it to 12 is going in the right direction.
    Also, for justice to work the accused needs to fully understand the process which they are being subject to, and clearly not all 10 year olds are capable of this, and reading some of the above posts I get the impression it's revenge, not justice, that is the primary motive.

  • Comment number 92.

    Having read many of these ill-informed, narrow minded comments by many, I have now decided I no longer want to live in this country surrounded by people who wish to return us to barbaric times. I bet these are the same people who every time it is proposed to lower the voting age to 16 scream how they are not mature or responsible, yet when it comes to criminal responsibility they are suddenly considered adults? Make up your mind would you. You obviously know nothing about criminals and offending. How is it that almost every other European country has a higher age of responsibility, and you yourselves are constantly reminding us how their crime rate is so much lower than ours.

    I would like to mention a case very similar to the Bulger case which happened in Finland, where two young kids murdered a toddler. However, unlike in England, there were no calls for their execution or for them to be locked up and the key thrown away. Instead, society intervened to try and reform these kids and rather than throwing them out welcomed them with open arms and reformed them.

    Some people just need to accept that for very young children, prison and the justice system can be counter-productive, and only turn them into hardened criminals.

  • Comment number 93.

    Exactly what planet are some of these people on ?.

    Once again the band of "do-gooders" and left wing "doormats" are jumping around and having their little tantrums.
    No way in the world should the age of criminality be raised. We are living in a country where children are committing atrocities and serious offences at a younger and younger age. They know what the consequences of their actions are, but they do not want to take reponsibility for them. If we raise the criminality age we are just making more unruly young yobs immune to prosecution and perpetuating a situation where kids think they can do whatever they like and not face any penalty for it.
    As regards the Bulger case, 10 years old at the time or not, those two boys knew EXACTLY what they were doing. They pre-meditated their actions and were deliberate in the things they perpetrated. The things they did are unspeakable and they were practically rewarded for it with a few years in a secure unit, social workers and counsellers, rehabilitation programmes and a new identity, all at the taxpayers' expense.
    Raise the criminality age ?. I don't think so. If you're evil enough, then you're old enough.
    It's high time we started to take more draconian measures. Thompson and Venables should have been executed by firing squad in the first place, even if were primarily to save money, but we cannot continue like it currently is in this country. Many honest, law-abiding people in Britain are living in fear. I say it should be the criminals' turn to be frightened.

  • Comment number 94.

    The liberals seem bent on creating a society where no-one is held accountable.

    Kids, these days, are more worldly-wise than ever before and should know right from wrong at a much earlier age, therefore the age of criminal responsibility should be lowered.

  • Comment number 95.

    Whether you know the difference between right and wrong is beside the point. Every one of the people on here who blithely states "I knew the difference when I was 3 months old" - or some other such arbitrary, unproveable age - regularly does things they know are wrong.

    What matters is the extent to which we understand HOW wrong, which requires an adult understanding of the world. And an understanding of the CONSEQUENCES of what we do.

    And this comes at different ages for different people. For some people it never comes.

    So we shoud do away with a fixed age of criminal responsibility, and judge each case on its merits. And to the extent that a child is considered not to be responsible, the parents or guardians should bear the remaining responsibility.

    That might make a few careless parents think a bit?

  • Comment number 96.

    This is a contrived debate if ever there was one. The facts are that at the time of the Bulger murder, the age of criminal resposibility in England was 14. In order to prosecute Thomson and Venables, the prosecution had to demonstrate that they knew what they were doing was wrong, otherwise they could not have been successfully charged with his murder.

    After 1997, Labour reduced the age of responsibility to 10 in order to satisfy the atavistic urges of the electorate. Having had the age at 12 would not have made any difference to the prosecution decision back in 1993; raising it again to 12 would make no difference to a decision to prosecute in similar circumstances now.

  • Comment number 97.

    From the age of nine to ten the human brain destroys a lot of brain connections it thinks it no longer needs and no further development of morals or conscience is possible.
    Scientists have described this cull as 'savage'.
    Does this idiot think she knows better than scientists in this field? Or, as I suspect, this is the first move towards moving the age of criminal liability to age 25.

  • Comment number 98.

    Children today are for more knowledgeable and 'streetwise' than children of 30,40 or even 50 years ago. children today know their rights and will tell you them if you catch them doing something wrong using threats of calling the social services or claiming assault etc by their vicitim or the police when they have attacked/harrassed or commited another crime against innocents of all ages.
    If anything the age of criminal resposnibilty needs to be lowered to 7. Kids at that age know right from wrong and unless we stop them breaking the law at a young agae and making them aware of the consequences they will continue to commit more and more crimes getting worse in nature.
    If a 10 year old commits an adult crime such as murder then they have to accept the consequences.
    Today we have 10 year olds commiting murder and pre teens raping other children and 13 yr olds raping adult women.
    You cannot tell me that they don't know that is a crime and telling them you naughty person here's lots of money,computer games and vacations don't do it again because all you have done is rewarded them for commiting the crime.
    The children who don't break the law get no reward so where is the incentive to behave.
    The kids of today are running feral simply because no one tells them no, no one punishes them when they do wrong and the feral kids of today become the feral parents of tommorow. We have kids of 10 and 11 having children and yet we do nothing.
    We are making a rod for our own backs and unless we clamp down hard on wrongdoers now in 10 or 20 years time you will have anarchy.
    If you commit crimes of murder, rape etc and you are aged 9 and over then you will face an adult court and serve an adult sentence you will be in a borstal until 18 and then your full sentence will be served in an adult prison the minute you hit 18 no ifs no buts. If that means you spend the next 40 years in jail well tough. That's 40 years of the public being kept safe. Life sentences must mean life and we need to bring back the death penalty. If nothing else crime will drop because they will either be in prison doing long sentences or dead, either way the public is safe

  • Comment number 99.

    The age is set at 10 just now and I'm not aware of any reduction in loutish behaviour. So really, the question is how to PREVENT the loutish behaviour BEFORE it has to come to court. It is too late by then.

  • Comment number 100.

    This woman cannot be living in the real world, so what they are saying now is a 12 year old that throws a brick through a window does not know they are doing wrong? AS always with these protected away from it all people, come and live on a council estate for a month and watch the behaviour of ferral gangs of 12 year olds (and 10 year olds) and then tell me your right, the Polive must dispair after reading her comments.


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