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Archive for the ‘Old enough to be a criminal?’ Category

Steve Liss, Little Kid Alone,2009

Several states in the USA sentence children age 13 and 14 to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. According to The Equal Justice Initiative, USA is the only country in the world that has such cruel and unusual punishment for children and that it violates the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

I chose to post the following article because it is very important to know the minimum age that a young person is held responsible for committing a crime. The minimum age differs in most of the countries but what I found shocking was that in some countries the minimum age is 6 years old. Prisons today are not a proper environment to help a child rehabilitate and get him back to society. This age is critical in their development as adults. I agree with what professor Nick Tilley, Director of the UCL Security Science Research Training Centre said in one of his lectures punishment is not the solution.

The following article states the age of criminal responsibility in different countries.

The following article is taken from Unicef website

Children below a certain age are too young to be held responsible for breaking the law. That concept is spelled out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which calls for nations to establish a minimum age “below which children shall be presumed not to have the capacity to infringe the penal law.” But the Convention does not set a specific age, and it varies greatly.

International standards, such as the Beijing Rules for juvenile justice, recommend that the age of criminal responsibility be based on emotional, mental and intellectual maturity and that it not be fixed too low.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors countries’ implementation of the Convention, has recommended that the age be guided by the best interests of the child.

In the US, the age of criminal responsibility is established by state law. Only 13 states have set minimum ages, which range from 6 to 12 years old. Most states rely on common law, which holds that from age 7 to age 14, children cannot be presumed to bear responsibility but can be held responsible.

In Japan, offenders below age 20 are tried in a family court, rather than in the criminal court system. In all Scandinavian countries, the age of criminal responsibility is 15, and adolescents under 18 are subject to a system of justice that is geared mostly towards social services, with incarceration as the last resort. As of April 1997, only 15 juveniles were serving a prison sentence in Sweden.

In China, children from age 14 to 18 are dealt with by the juvenile justice system and may be sentenced to life imprisonment for particularly serious crimes.

In most countries of Latin America, the reform of juvenile justice legislation is under way. As a result, the age of adult criminal responsibility has been raised to 18 in Brazil, Colombia and Peru. Children from age 12 to 18 are held responsible under a system of juvenile justice.

The wide variation in age of criminal responsibility reflects a lack of international consensus, and the number of countries with low ages indicates that many juvenile justice systems do not adequately consider the child’s best interests.

Age of criminal responsibility is just one variable influencing how juveniles are treated by justice systems. Other variables include whether there is a separate  juvenile law based on child rights; whether a young person is subject to punitive sanctions or only to socio-educational measures; and whether the country has separate court systems and jails for young people. A juvenile justice system  provides legal protections and an objective standard for treatment. In its absence, young people may be handled by the adult criminal justice system or be held in ‘protective’ custody, where they have no legal protections and may  face arbitrary or harsh treatment.

Age of criminal responsibility
Minimum age at which children are subject to penal law in countries with 10 million or more children under 18 years old

Mexico

*6-12

Bangladesh

7

India

7

Myanmar

7

Nigeria

7

Pakistan

7

South Africa

7

Sudan

7

Tanzania

7

Thailand

7

United States

**7

Indonesia

8

Kenya

8

UK (Scotland)

8

Ethiopia

9

Iran

***9

Philippines

9

Nepal

10

UK (England)

10

UK (Wales)

10

Ukraine

10

Turkey

11

Korea, Rep.

12

Morocco

12

Uganda

12

Algeria

13

France

13

Poland

13

Uzbekistan

13

China

14

Germany

14

Italy

14

Japan

14

Russian Federation

14

Viet Nam

14

Egypt

15

Argentina

16

Brazil

****18

Colombia

****18

Peru

****18

Congo, Dem. Rep.

 *Most states 11 or 12 years; age 11 for federal crimes.
**Age determined by state, minimum age is 7 in most states under common law.
***Age 9 for girls, 15 for boys.
****Official age of criminal responsibility, from age 12 children’s actions are subject to juvenile legal proceedings.
Sources: CRC Country Reports (1992-1996); Juvenile Justice and Juvenile Delinquency in Central and Eastern Europe, 1995; United Nations, Implementation of UN Mandates on Juvenile Justice in ESCAP, 1994; Geert Cappelaere, Children’s Rights Centre, University of Gent, Belgium.

 

 Conclusion   

To be noticed that in Iran the minimum age to be held responsible for breaking the law differs from girls to boys. The girls are punished from 9 years old and the boys only from 15 years old. It would be interesting to question why they punish them differently. The article does not give any information regarding this fact. Another interesting fact is that in Columbia and Brazil which are among the most dangerous countries in the world the criminal responsibility starts from 18 years old. This difference of minimum age for imprisonment in different countries and the sex related difference need further investigation.

Bibliography

EJI (2009) EJI Continues Challenges to Death-in-Prison Sentences for 13- and 14-Year-Old Children [Internet]. Available from <http://eji.org/eji/node/291>%5BAccessed 20 February 2012]

Unicef Old enough to be a criminal?. [Internet]. Available from

<http://www.unicef.org/pon97/p56a.htm>%5BAccessed 20 February 2012]

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