Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Monday, 11 June 2012 17:56 UK

Minister backs criminal age of 10

Justice Minister Lord McNally has defended the age at which children face criminal responsibility in England, arguing that it enables "early intervention".

During questions with government ministers on 11 June 2012, Labour peer Lord Sheldon asked the government what action they were taking to avoid the unnecessary sentencing of young offenders.

Lord McNally said reforms would enable "greater flexibility to resolve offences without the need for prosecution if this is in the public interest" but that "robust community sentences and, where necessary, custodial sentences will continue to be used for the most serious and prolific young offenders".

Lord Sheldon described the age of criminal responsibility as a "problem" when it came to avoiding unnecessary sentencing of young offenders.

He said that while the age in England was "10 years... in Nordic countries it's 15 years".

Lord McNally responded that keeping the age at 10 "does allow the support services to intervene early and positively with young offenders who have committed serious offences".

While noting that the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is 12, the justice minister said there were "no plans to review" the age of 10 in England.

The age of criminal responsibility is also 10 in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Crossbencher the Earl of Listowel claimed that "half of children in the juvenile estate" had experience of local authority care, and called for a review of "services for looked-after children" including those in children's homes.

Lord McNally conceded that people should be "slightly shamed by the fact that a large number of young people who find their way into the criminal justice system as adults have been in our care as children".

Other questions were on the timetable for the draft bill to modernise adult care, establishing local HealthWatch organisations, and the impact of the 16-19 Bursary Fund on young people's participation in education.

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