Minimum Ages of Criminal Responsibility in Europe

As part of CRIN's policy work on the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR), we monitor these ages around the world. This page provides detailed information on MACRs in Europe.

If you are aware of any inaccuracies in this information or reforms underway to amend the relevant laws, please contact us at info@crin.org

Albania.

No person who is younger than 14 at the time he or she commits a criminal offence can be held “criminally responsible” for that offence. This age limit applies to more serious offences under the Criminal Code, those designated “crimes”. Children can be held responsible for “criminal contraventions” from the age of 16. Criminal contraventions are less serious offences designated as such under the Criminal Code. [Criminal Code, Article 12]

Andorra.

No person can be held liable for a criminal offence committed while they were under the age of 12. [Qualified Law on Juvenile Justice 1999, Article 3]

Armenia.

Persons aged 16 years or older may be held criminally liable for all crimes and children aged 14 years or older may be held criminally liable for certain named offences. [Criminal Code, Article 24(1) and (2)]

Austria.

No person who was under the age of 14 at the time he or she committed an offence can be subject to punishment. A person aged 14 or 15 cannot be subject to criminal penalties where his or her misconduct is not “serious” and where the application of juvenile justice is not necessary to prevent young people from criminal acts. [Jugendgerichtsgesetz (Youth Court Act), Sections 1(1)-(2) and 4(2)]

Azerbaijan.

Children aged 16 years or older may be held criminally liable for all crimes and children aged 14 years or older may be held criminally responsible for certain named offences. Administrative Commissions may consider the cases of all children younger than 14 years of age and impose disciplinary measures including detention within “special correctional schools”. [Criminal Code, Article 20(1) and (2) and Cipriani, Criminal Liability and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: A Global Perspective, 2009, p. 98]

Belarus.

Children can be held criminally responsible for all offences from the age of 16 and for a large number of specifically named offences from the age of 14. Though offences for which a lower minimum age of criminal responsibility applies are generally violent in nature, offences such as hooliganism and theft are also included. [Penal Code, Article 27]

Belgium.

Children can be held criminally liable from the age of 12. [Loi relative à la protection de la jeunesse, à la prise en charge des mineurs ayant commis un fait qualifé infraction et à la réparation du dommage causé par ce fait, as per Cipriani, p. 191]

Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Persons under 14 years of age at the time an offence was committed cannot be held criminally liable. [Criminal Code, Article 8]

Bulgaria.

Persons under the age of 14 cannot be held criminally responsible, though they may be subject to educational measures where they have committed socially dangerous acts. A person aged 14 to 18 can only be held criminally liable if he or she was able to understand the nature and meaning of the act and manage their actions. [Criminal Code, Articles 31(2) and 32(1)-(2)]

Croatia.

No person can be tried for an offence committed while under the age of 14, and any case involving a person under that age must be dealt with by the Centre for Social Welfare. [Juvenile Courts Act, Article 44; Criminal Code, Article 10]

Cyprus.

Children under the age of 14 cannot be held criminally responsible. [Criminal Code (Amendment) Law No. 1 8(I)/2006. As per UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations on Cyprus' combined third and fourth reports]

Czech Republic.

No person who was under the age of 15 at the time he or she is alleged to have committed an offence can be held criminally liable. [Criminal Code, Provision 11]

Denmark.

No one can be held criminally responsible for an action committed while under the age of 15. This age was lowered to to 14 in July 2010, but subsequently raised to 15 in March 2012. [Criminal Code, Section 15. Please note, the Code has been amended since this translation was produced. UPR Submission of the National Council for Children.]

Estonia.

A child under the age of 14 at the time he or she allegedly committed a criminal act cannot be held criminally responsible. However, children aged seven or older who commit unlawful acts may be subject to sanctions under the Juvenile Sanctions Act, including committal to a “young offenders' institution”. [Criminal Code, Section 33; Juvenile Sanctions Act 1998, Sections 2 and 3(9)]

Finland.

Children under 15 years cannot be held criminally liable for any offence. Measures that can be applied to children under 15 are contained within the Child Welfare Act. The courts have the power to waive punishment of an offence committed by a person under 18 years of age, where “the act is deemed to be the result of his/her thoughtlessness or imprudence rather than his/her being heedless of the prohibitions and commands of the law” [Penal Code, Ch. 3, Section 4(1); Ch. 6, Section 12]

France.

Persons under the age of 18 “able to understand what they are doing” are criminally responsible for the felonies, misdemeanours or petty offences of which they have been found guilty, and may be subject to measures of protection, assistance, supervision and education according to the conditions laid down by specific legislation. There is no absolute minimum age set at which children become able to be held criminally responsible, but a child will usually be considered to have “discernment” between the ages of 8 and 10.

Children aged 13 to 18 years can be criminally sentenced, including to prison terms and children aged 16 to 18 can in certain circumstances be subjected to adult sentences. [Criminal Code, Article 122-8; Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, “Juvenile Justice in France” May 2008]

Georgia.

No person under the age of 14 at the time an alleged offence was committed can be held criminally responsible. The State lowered the minimum age to 12 in 2008, but has since reinstated it at 14.[Criminal Code, Article 80(1)]

Germany.

No one who was younger than 14 at the time an alleged offence was committed can be held criminally responsible. [Criminal Code, Section 19] Children aged 14 to 18 can be criminally liable where at the time of the offence, he or she was mature enough to see the injustice of the act and to act upon this knowledge. [Jugendgerichtsgesetz (Juvenile Courts Act), Sections 1 and 3]

Greece.

Children between the ages of 8 and 13 cannot be held criminally liable for an offence, and can only be subject to educational or therapeutic measures for committing acts that would be criminal offences for an older person. Children aged 13 to 15 at the time of committing a criminal act may only be subject to reformatory or therapeutic measures, and a child aged 15 to 18 may be sentenced to penalties including deprivation of liberty. [Criminal Code, Articles 126 and 127]

Hungary.

People can be held criminally responsible for any offence committed from the age of 14, and from the age of 12 for homicide, voluntary manslaughter, battery, robbery and plundering, provided that the child had the capacity to understand the nature and consequences of his or her act. [Criminal Code, Section 16]

Iceland.

No person can be punished for an offence committed whilst under the age of 15. [Penal Code, Article 14]

Ireland.

Persons under the age of 12 cannot generally be held liable for any criminal offence, but children aged 10 or 11 can be held criminally liable for murder, manslaughter, rape, rape under section 4 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990 or aggravated sexual assault.

Where a child under the age of 14 years is charged with a criminal offence, no further proceedings can be taken without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. [Children Act 2001, Section 52(1) and (2); Citizens Information Ireland]

Italy.

Children under the age of 14 cannot be held criminally liable for any offence and persons aged 14 to 17 (inclusive) can only be held criminally liable where they have been judged capable of forming the necessary criminal intent in relation to the specific offence. [Criminal Code, Articles 97 and 98]

Latvia.

A person cannot be held criminally liable for an offence allegedly committed while under the age of 14. [Criminal Code, Section 11]

Liechtenstein.

Persons under the age of 14 at the time an offence was committed cannot be held criminally liable. [Jugendgerichtsgesetz (Juvenile Court Act) 1998, Section 2(1) and (2)]

Lithuania.

Generally, a person can only be held responsible for a crime or misdemeanour if he or she has attained the age of 16. Persons aged 14 or older can be found guilty of a number of specific offences named under Article 13(2) of the Criminal Code. These offences include murder; serious impairment to health; rape; sexual harassment; theft; robbery; extortion of property; destruction of or damage to property; seizure of a firearm, ammunition, explosives or explosive materials; theft, racketeering or other illicit seizure of narcotic or psychotropic substances; damage to vehicles or roads and facilities thereof. [Criminal Code, Article 13(1) and (2)]

Luxembourg.

The Law on the Protection of Children (Loi du 10 Août 1992 relative à la protection de la jeunesse) provides that generally persons under 18 must be dealt with by the youth courts, where measures taken are aimed at protection, care, therapy and education. [Loi du 10 août 1992 relative à la protection de la jeunesse, Articles 1 and 2]

However, children can be directed to the adult courts and subject to adult penalties from the age of 16. Furthermore, the powers of the Youth Court are in some circumstances of a penal or correctional nature, including deprivation of liberty generally and solitary confinement of up to 10 days. There is no lower age limit for these measures. [Loi du 10 août 1992 relative à la protection de la jeunesse, Article 32 and Cipriani, Children's Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: A Global Perspective, 2009, p. 212]

Macedonia, Former Yugoslav Republic of.

Criminal sanctions may not be applied to persons younger than fourteen years at the time they committed an offence. [Criminal Code, Article 71]

Malta.

Children under 14 cannot be held criminally responsible. [Criminal Code, Article 35(1) as amended in 2014]

Moldova.

Children can be held criminally liable for all offences committed from the age of 16 onwards and for certain named offences from the age of 14. [Criminal Code, Article 21(1) and (2)]

Monaco.

No person can be held criminally liable for an offence committed while under the age of 13. [CRC/C/28/Add.15, 17 July 2000, para. 37]

Montenegro.

No person can be subject to criminal sanctions for the commission of a criminal offence while under the age of 14. [Criminal Code, Article 80]

Netherlands.

Children can be held criminally liable for offences committed from the age of 12. [Wetboek van Stafrecht (Penal Code), Article 77a]

Norway.

No person can be punished for an offence committed while under the age of 15. [General Civil Penal Code, Section 46]

Poland.

Any person aged 17 or over is liable to be tried for any criminal offence under the Criminal Code. For offences specifically listed in Art. 10(2) children can be tried from the age of 15. [Penal Code, Art. 10]

Portugal.

Persons under the age of 16 cannot be held criminally liable. Persons aged between 12 and 16 can be subject to penalties under the Guardianship and Education Law, which allows for the detention of children in closed educational centres. [Criminal Code, Article 19; Lei Tutelar Educativa 1999 (Guardianship and Education Law), Articles 1 and 4]

Romania.

No one under the age of 14 can be held criminally liable. A child aged 14 to 16 can only be held criminally liable where it can be proved that he or she had “discernment”. Children over the age of 16 are held criminally liable “within the framework of the system of sanctions applicable to minors”. [Criminal Code, Article 113(1)-(3)]

Russian Federation.

A child can be held criminally liable for any offence committed from the age of 16. A person aged 14 or older can be held criminally liable for a number of offences specifically listed in Article 20(2) of the Criminal Code. [Criminal Code, Article 20(1) and (2)]

San Marino.

No person under the age of 12 can be charged with a criminal offence. [Criminal Code, Article 10]

Serbia.

No person can be subjected to criminal sanctions for an offence committed while under the age of 14. [Law on Juvenile Criminal Offenders and Criminal Protection of Juveniles, Article 2; Criminal Code, Article 4(3)]

Slovakia.

Any person under the age of 14 upon committing what would otherwise be a criminal offence may not be held criminally liable. No one may be held criminally liable for sexual abuse if he or she has not reached the age of 15. [Criminal Code, Section 22(1) and (2)]

Slovenia.

Children under the age of 14 cannot be sentenced to criminal penalties. Children under the age of 14 criminal responsibility can, however, be committed to juvenile institutions equivalent to those used for older children in conflict with the law. [Penal Code, Article 71; Filipcic, Katja, “Slovenia: Dealing with Juvenile Delinquents in Slovenia,” 75 International Review of Penal Law (Revue internationale de droit pénal) 493, 2004]

Spain.

No child can be held criminally responsible for an act committed while under the age of 14, but younger children who carry out what would otherwise be a criminal act can be subject to protection measures. [Organic Law 5/2000 of 12 January, on the criminal responsibility of minors, Articles1(1) and 3]

Sweden.

No person can be subjected to a criminal sanction for an offence committed while under the age of 15. [Criminal Code, Ch. 1, Section 6. Note, this legislation has been amended since this translation was produced.]

Switzerland.

No person can be subject to criminal penalties for acts committed while under the age of 10. [Loi fédérale régissant la condition pénaledes mineurs, 2003, Article 3(1)]

Turkey.

No child under the age of 12 on the day that an alleged offence was committed can be held criminally liable. No child between the ages of 12 and 14 (inclusive) when an offence is alleged to have been committed who did not “have the ability to perceive the legal meaning and consequences of the offence, or to control [his or her] actions” may be held criminally responsible. [Criminal Code, Article 31(1) and (2)]

Ukraine.

Generally, any person who commits a criminal offence from the age of 16, can be held criminally liable. Persons who have committed a number of specifically listed offences can be held criminally liable from the age of 14. These offences are largely violent in nature, but also include certain property offences. [Criminal Code, Article 22(1) and (2)]

United Kingdom.

England and Wales.

Children can be held liable for criminal offences from the age of 10. [Children and Young Persons Act 1933, Section 50]

Northern Ireland.

No child under the age of 10 can be found guilty of a criminal offence. [Criminal Justice (Children) (Northern Ireland) Order 1998, Article 3]

Scotland.

No child under the age of eight can be found guilty of any criminal offence, but no person under the age of 12 may be prosecuted for an offence and a person aged 12 or older may not be prosecuted for an offence committed while under the age of 12.[Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act, Sections 41 and 41A(1)-(2)]

The gap between the minimum age of prosecution and the minimum age of criminal liability means that criminal offences committed between the age of 8 and 12 may be included on a child's criminal record, though a prosecution may not take place. As of July 2013, the Scottish Government said it “[would] consider calls for the minimum age of criminal responsibility to increase”. [The Herald Scotland, “Dismay as reform fails to stop criminal records for children” 1 July 2013]