Celebrating Britain's 101 Most Influential Asians 2022

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Lord Navnit Dholakia


NAVNIT DHOLAKIA, who has been the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat Peers since 2004, is an untiring campaigner for racial equality, as well as criminal justice and penal reform.

The age of criminal responsibility, now fixed at 10, is one area of concern he takes particular interest in. This means children as young as 10 can be convicted of a crime in England and Wales, the lowest minimum age in the West, and Lord Dholakia says we don’t need this tag.

He has sponsored a private member’s bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12, the internationally recognised minimum, in the House of Lords in June 2017, which was passed by the chamber two years later and proceeded to the House of Commons in June 2019. But, the bill failed to complete its passage due to the dissolution of the parliament later that year, and Dholakia in February 2020 reintroduced the bill at the Lords.

“At 10 years, children do not have sufficient maturity to understand the seriousness of their offences. It is not to absolve them of their action, but we should understand they will come out of prison one day and a long-term pro[1]cess of rehabilitation may be more productive,” he says.

And, when Dholakia asserts that our “prison model is wrong,” it comes from the experience of working closely with the country’s prison system in various capacities since the 1970s. He has been a member of the board of visitors at HM Prison Lewes, the Howard League for Penal Reform, Lord Carlisle’s Committee on Parole Systems Review, Sussex Police Authority and Police Complaints Authority, and the president of National Association of Care and Resettlement of Offenders.

“We lock them up for 23 hours a day with no purposeful activity. Over 60 per cent reoffend

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