Age of Criminal Responsibility

The minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) in Northern Ireland is currently 10 years old. This is despite the Youth Justice Review team’s assertion that it should be raised to 12, with a view to considering raising it to 14 at a later stage.

The MACR is also 10 in England and Wales and in New Zealand, but elsewhere it is generally higher. The official age of prosecution in Scotland has been increased from eight to 12 in recent years, and in the Republic of Ireland it is 12 in all but the most serious cases.

The Youth Justice Review (2011) found that this MACR is not internationally acceptable. By criminalising children at the age of 10, young people may develop a “criminal identity”. The impact of gaining a criminal record from the age of 10 can mean that a young person’s chances of accessing education or training opportunities are compromised and may in fact lead to re-offending.

Click on the link below to read our key policy messages on the age of criminal responsibility.

Download Policy Briefing - The Age of Criminal Responsibility