Children aged 10 given legal powers in Britain

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London, Oct 23 (UNI) Children as young as ten have been given legal powers in Britain to punish their guilty peers.

The first children's court opened in Preston, aiming to punish 300 young criminals in its first year, rising to 500 a year by 2009.

It will deal with offenders under 17, guilty of spraying graffiti, vandalism, anti-social behaviour and under-age drinking. They will face panels of four children under minimal adult supervision.

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the courts and is holding and paying out the 487,000 pounds Treasury grant, the Daily Mail reported.

The 'peer panel' experiment could be rolled out nationwide.

NACRO, the offenders' charity which is playing a major part in running the panels, said the administrators would be ''highly trained''.

Simon Evans, of NACRO, said ''The panel will be able to ask the offender to sign an acceptable behaviour contract. This can require the offender to pay back for their offence, for example by cleaning up litter or graffiti.'' Critics say it is astonishing that such decisions could be made by children of ten and that the young jurors could be intimidated by the offenders.

UNI

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