The age of criminal responsibility should be raised from 10 to 12 years in Northern Ireland in order to bring it into line with international norms, the justice committee was told, on 29 September 2011.
John Graham of the youth justice review team said they knew the recommendation would be controversial and had thought long and hard about what they would say in their report.
He said that in the Republic of Ireland the age was 12, in Scotland it was 12 and in most of Europe the age was 14.
Jim Wells of the DUP raised the case of Jamie Bulger, who was murdered by two ten-year-old boys on Merseyside in 1993.
Mr Wells wanted to know what would have happened in the Bulger case if the age of criminal responsibility had been higher.
John Graham appealed to the committee not to base the policy on a single case.
Ulster Unionist MLA Basil McCrea disagreed with Mr Graham that the issue of the age of criminal responsibility was just a small part of the report.
"It is a fundamental essence of the report," he said.
Mr McCrea said there was a perception that "we are forgetting about the rights of the community".
Mr Graham said the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child said the system should operate in the best interests of the child.
He said that in Northern Ireland the justice system was not in the best interest of the child. Its aim was protecting the public. The review team was suggesting that it should be operate in the interests of both.
Earlier in the session, Mr Graham had put it to committee members that the youth justice system should adopt statutory time limits to address the problem of delays.
He said that delay was "by far the most important issue" facing the system.
Mr Graham drew attention to the number of 16 to 17 year-olds being held in the adult prison at Hydebank Wood, near Belfast.
He said they should be held at the facility that had been built to house them at Woodlands but this was being used to hold young people on remand.
Mr Graham said there were more young people on remand in Northern Ireland than adults and suggested that "some serious work" needed to be done around the legislation on bail.
"If you were a parent and your child had done something wrong you wouldn't wait 250 days to do something about it," he added.
Mr Graham said that this was why the review team had suggested the introduction of statutory time limits. It was only through adopting time limits that the various agencies could be made to work together to address the issue of delays.
Committee chair Paul Givan of the DUP asked whether the introduction of statutory time limits would mean a case would be dropped if it took longer than 120 days.
Mr Graham confirmed that this was the case.
"Unless cases are stayed they can't work," he said.
The committee also heard briefings on the delivery of Prison Service Strategic Efficiency and Effectiveness Programme and on the sentencing guidelines mechanism.