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A young offender is a young person who has been convicted or cautioned for a criminal offense. Criminal justice systems often deal with young offenders differently from adult offenders, but different countries apply the term 'young offender' to different age groups depending on the age of criminal responsibility in that country.


United KingdomEdit

The United Kingdom has three separate and distinct criminal justice systems: England & Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Young offenders are often dealt with by the Youth Offending Team. There is concern young adult offenders are not getting the support they need to help them avoid reoffending.[1]

In England & Wales the age of criminal responsibility is set at 10. Young offenders aged 10 to 17 (i.e. up to their eighteenth birthday) are classed as a juvenile offender. Between the ages of 18 and 21 (i.e. up to their twenty-first birthday) they are classed as young offenders. Offenders aged 21 and over are known as adult offenders.

In Scotland the age of criminal responsibility was formerly set at 8, one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in Europe. It has since been raised to 12 by the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, which received Royal Assent on 6 August 2010.[2][3]

In Northern Ireland it is 10.

Northern EuropeEdit

In Sweden, the age of criminal responsibility is set at 15 since 1902.[4]

United StatesEdit

In the United States, the age of criminal responsibility for federal crimes is set at 11. While this has been set at the federal level, each state is responsible for setting their own age of criminal responsibility. Thirty-three states have no minimum age for criminal responsibility, while the remaining 17 do. North Carolina has the lowest responsibility age of 7 years old and Wisconsin has the highest of 10 years old.[5]

There are 1.5 million cases per year in the US that handle status offenses or criminal offenses by young offenders. However, only 52 juveniles were fully sentenced to prison-time between 2010-2015. Recidivism is common among young offenders, with 67% becoming repeat offenders.[6]


In Brazil, the age of criminal responsibility was originally set at the age of 18. Anyone that was found guilty of committing crimes prior to the age of 18 were solely given an infraction and given other options rather than jail. These included, for children under 12, foster care options in order get them a safer family, and, for young offenders over 12, a class that they had to attend in order to help rehabilitate them. But, with violent crime rates raising almost 40% among the young offenders, there was a successful push to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 16.[7][8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Offenders aged 18-25 need more attention to deter crime, say MPs BBC
  2. ^ "Criminal age to be raised to 12". Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010". Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  4. ^ Madeleine Nählstedt (2015). "Gammal nog att begå brott, för ung för att straffas- En undersökning om huruvida straffbarhetsåldern är lämplig och ändamålsenligt satt" (in English and Swedish). Lund University. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Minimum Ages of Criminal Responsibility in the Americas | CRIN". Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  6. ^ Cohen, Kenneth (2017). Youthful Offenders in the Federal System. United States Sentencing Commission. p. 8.
  7. ^ "Brazil's Congress reduces age of criminal responsibility to 16". The Guardian. July 2, 2015. Archived from the original on |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help). Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  8. ^ Bowater, Donna (May 21, 2015). "The man standing up for young offenders in Brazil". BBC News. Archived from the original on |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help). Retrieved December 5, 2018.

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