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Age and Accountability in the UK Justice System

teenager in grey hoodie, blue jeans and white trainers huddled on floor with head down with hands in handcuffs
Arrested Teenager in Handcuffs

In today’s world the ever growing strain on the UK’s policing and justice system is becoming more and more apparent. New emergency legislation has been introduced. The way we live and work has dramatically changed but the one constant in the chaos of 2020 is the rise in calls made for police assistance as a minor is breaking the law, in some way shape or form.

To which you may think it’s a child what can the police do with them??

As a result of the James Bulger murder in 1993 that saw John Venables and Robert Thompson convicted for murder, the age of accountability in the UK justice system was lowered to 10 years of age.

This essentially means that today, if required the police can arrest and seek to charge a minor with a crime. Between April 2018 and March 2019 there were 21,700 minors between the age of 10 and 17 cautioned or sentenced, over half were first time offences.

Now on the face of it that doesn’t seem like a significantly large figure, but what if I was to tell you that 38.4% of that initial 21,700 minors went on to reoffend.

More worryingly 4,500 serious crimes were committed including knife crimes. The age range for the people involved in these crimes were 10 yrs to 17 yrs of age.

There are however a lot of crimes that children commit that don’t even go on to be dealt with or presented to the crown prosecution service.

I spoke to two families who would like to remain anonymous for the purposes of this article and have their own experience with the youth justice system.

The first families experience involved a call for assistance to the police after hours of sustained physical assault and numerous potential credible threats from their child. Initially the call handler said they would dispatch officers to deal with the matter, but minutes later they were then phoned back to be told the on-duty sergeant refused to send anyone as it was a parenting problem.

The second families experience was involving an older minor who had committed a sex offence on their not even 10 year old child. The police again initially investigated the incident but decided even though there was a crime that had been committed they were going to give the older youth the benefit of the doubt.

What do you think??

Should the police have responded to family one??

Should family two have been able to of seen some kind of punishment that would have undoubtedly seen an adult severely reprimanded??

The idea of accountability is great in a perfect world but if under staffed, reluctant and uninterested services won’t investigate crimes that should see people reprimanded for their actions, how can the youth justice system work effectively and efficiently.

Written By: Ben Landy

News Reporter

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