Drawn up by a working party set up by the College, this report
presents a balanced appraisal of the current situation involving
child defendants from 10 years old upwards, who appear before
criminal courts on a range of charges. It draws together relevant
factors, including the present legal situation, both civil and
criminal; human rights issues; the age of criminal responsibility;
and psychological and mental health issues, as well as discussing
alternative legal provisions for child defendants. The report does
not set out to campaign to change the law. Rather, it focuses on
issues that are relevant to psychiatrists, and about which it
believes it would be helpful to provide the public and
professionals with up-to-date information. Overall, the intention
is to promote further discussion about the developmental, mental
health and welfare needs of children who offend.
The report identifies several key issues relating to child
defendants that merit further attention. These include: age of
criminal responsibility; human rights; assessment; coordination of
the criminal and civil justice system; care planning; child
protection investigation; training and accreditation for legal and
court-based professionals; training and accreditation for child
care workers, child psychiatrists and clinical psychologists;
multidisciplinary training; and the child defendant user
The report makes 17 recommendations. These include:
- A government-led process of consultation on the needs and
human rights of child defendants to include the age of criminal
- Creating a Specialist Youth Court.
- Treating children facing serious charges as 'children in need',
and assessing these needs.
- Ensuring implementation of appropriate treatment during the
- Assessment by a clinical psychologist and a child psychiatrist
of all child defendants facing serious criminal charges, based on
an assessment procedure jointly agreed by the Royal College of
Psychiatrists and the British Psychological Society.
- Pre-trial therapy for all child defendants with treatable
- A child defendant's pack clarifying their human rights and the
legal process in terms they can understand.
- Training for all legal professionals working with children,
providing accreditation for them to work with children facing
- Training for all child care professionals, child psychiatrists
and clinical psychologists working with child defendants, to
include instruction in the relevant legal and forensic issues.