Department of Justice publishes consultation report on minimum age of criminal responsibility

Date published: 01 June 2023


The Department of Justice has today published a summary of responses received to a recent public consultation on increasing the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) in Northern Ireland.

The 12-week consultation was launched by Naomi Long, former Justice Minister, in October 2022 and sought views on whether respondents agreed that the age at which a child can be held criminally liable should be increased from 10 years to 14 years, to meet international children’s standards. 

Northern Ireland has one of the lowest MACRs in Europe, and currently a child as young as 10 years of age can face the full criminal justice process, including arrest, prosecution, trial and sentencing.  

Publishing the report, Richard Pengelly, DoJ Permanent Secretary, stated: “In launching the consultation, former Minister Long invited the public to express their views on the age at which a child can be held criminally liable - honouring the commitment made within our Strategic Framework for Youth Justice.

“The Department received over 450 responses to the consultation – over one quarter of which were from persons under the age of eighteen. We are grateful to all those who took the time to respond, particularly the young people of Northern Ireland - their views are vital to the work of youth justice.

“Going forward, the views expressed will be important in developing future policy proposals in relation to this issue in line with the priorities of the incoming Justice Minister and the Northern Ireland Executive.”

Notes to editors: 

1. A copy of the Consultation Summary of Responses can be downloaded at Minimum age of criminal responsibility summary of responses | Department of Justice (

2. The public consultation ran from 3 October to 23 December 2023. 

3. Northern Ireland, England and Wales all have the same MACR of 10 years of age. In Scotland, it is 12 years and in ROI 12 years also with exceptions for very serious offences.  The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child considers 14 years to be the very youngest age that a child should be held criminally liable. 

4. A commitment to seek views from the public in terms of increasing MACR was given in the Department of Justice’s Strategic Framework for Youth Justice and the consultation responses will be used to inform future discussions on the age at which Northern Ireland holds a child criminally responsible. 

5. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office via email to The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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