Criminal responsibility age review
The age of criminal responsibility in Northern Ireland is to be reconsidered as part of a major review of the youth justice system.
At present children can be held accountable in court for their actions from the age of 10.
Among proposals that will be examined by the review team is whether the age should go up to 12.
The exercise is part of the Hillsborough Agreement which led to the devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont.
"The Youth Justice System in Northern Ireland has seen much change for the better over the last decade following the Criminal Justice Review," Justice Minister David Ford told the Assembly.
"As part of my agenda to reshape the justice system, it is important to take a critical look at where we are and what we need to do to further refine and improve our approaches to addressing youth offending."
The review team will be chaired by John Graham, the director of the Police Foundation for England and Wales, who will work with Dr Stella Perrott, the former head of the Care and Justice Division in the Scottish Government, and Paula Jack, the newly appointed chief executive of the Youth Justice Agency. They will examine more effective measures aimed at preventing or addressing offending amongst young people.
The team will be supported by an independent reference group comprising academics, senior policy makers and experienced practitioners from areas such as children's rights, social policy, criminology, youth justice, prison studies and criminal justice inspection. The review team intends to produce a report for public consultation by March 2011.
Koulla Yiasouma, director of Include Youth voluntary group, gave a guarded welcome to the announcement. But she raised some concerns about the full independence of the review team and the time frame for the completion of its work.
"Despite these concerns, we recognise that the Youth Justice Review presents opportunities to identify areas of best practice, as well as address failings within the current system," she added.