There should be a government led process of consultation to review the current age of criminal responsibility in the light of clinical and research evidence about the developmental immaturity and psychiatric disturbance of many young child defendants. All child defendants facing serious criminal charges (murder, manslaughter, abduction, rape or grievous bodily harm) should be assessed by a clinical psychologist and by a child psychiatrist. There should be agreement between clinical psychologists and child psychiatrists as to the principles of such psychological and psychiatric assessments. If appropriate, pre-trial therapy should be provided for all child defendants suffering from identifiable and treatable psychiatric disorders. A child defendant's pack should be made available to inform children facing criminal charges about their rights and the legal process. Relevant training covering the areas of child development, psychiatric and psychological issues, the relevant forensic and welfare issues, child protection and The Children Act 1989, within a multidisciplinary context, should be developed and made available to all legal professionals, child care professionals and child psychiatrists and clinical psychologists working with child defendants. Where children face very serious charges, such as murder, manslaughter, rape, abduction, etc., consideration should be given to the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem to protect the welfare needs of the child and to coordinate any necessary assessments.
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