JUVENILE JUSTICE: States lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility

Summary: Information on legal reform in States that have, or have discussed, lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

CRIN has collected worrying evidence that a growing number of States in all regions, far from fullfilling their legal obligations to respect the rights of all children, are moving backwards in their approach to juvenile justice and criminalising more and younger children. Join CRIN debate on how to stop making children criminals.

States that have lowered or are proposing to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility are listed below.
 

Countries that have lowered the minimum age of criminal responsibility

Denmark

In June 2010 the minimum age of criminal responsibility was reduced from 15 to 14 years. This change was criticised in the:

 

Georgia

Criminal Code of Georgia, art. 33 contains the provisions setting the minimum age for criminal responsibility (MACR)

  • CRC Concluding Observations, June 2008: "The Committee deeply regrets the decision of the State party to lower the minimum age for criminal responsibility from 14 to 12" (para. 72).
  • State's response to questions of the CRC, June 2008: criminal responsibility was lowered with respect to "deliberate murder; deliberate murder in aggravating circumstances; deliberate grave injury to health; deliberate less grave injury to health; rape; robbery; armed robbery; carriage of a cold steel by a person who has not attained 21 years or a person with previous conviction or a person convicted under administrative law for using drugs". 
  • The State reinstated the MACR at 14 years in February 2010


Panama

Article 52 of Law 40/1999 reduced the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12. 


Countries that have considered or are considering lowering the age of criminal responsibility

Argentina

The Minister for the Supreme Court, Dr. Raul Zafrroni proposed lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 16-14. As of March 2011, the proposal had not resulted in legislation (see here).


Brazil

A legislative commission approved a proposed amendment to the Constitution which aimed to lower the MACR from 18 to 16. The approval required the Senate and Parliament to consider the amendment, but it has not been passed.

  • Under article 228 of the Brazilian Constitution- "Minors under eighteen years of age may not be held criminally liable and shall be subject to the rules of the special legislation"
  • As a Constitutional right it would be at least very difficult to amend the MACR, one commentator indicated that it may not be possible, even by Constitutional amendment (see here)


France

In June 2011, French Parliamentarians voted on a new law in the National Assembly introducing a reform of the juvenile justice system. The law provides for the creation of a criminal court with a juvenile judge to adjudicate on recidivist offenders aged 16 to 18 years. The law also introduces new procedures for faster prosecution. The law was largely criticised by civil society as it represents a regression of juvenile justice and puts in danger the specificity of the justice system for minors (see here).

  • The law (No. 2011-939) was published in the Official Gazette in August 2011 and should come into force in early 2012.


Hungary
 

A draft bill seeks to amend the Hungarian Criminal Code to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12 for certain offences. More details to follow. 


Korea, the Republic of

A proposal emerged in 2007 from the Ministry of Justice to lower the MACR from 12 to 10 (see here).

  • Relevant legislation: The Act on the Treatment of Protected Juveniles and the Juvenile Act were both amended in 2007, but the changes did not affect the MACR


Mexico

State of Nuevo León

The state was considering lowering the MACR to 12 in July 2011 (see here).

Peru

In May 2012, the centre-left Aprista Party presented Congress with a draft a bill that aims to amend articles 20 and 22 of the Penal Code on the minimum age of criminal responsibility to lower it from 18 to 16 for "serious crimes", including homicide, kidnapping, theft, rape, extortion and conspiracy (see here (in Spanish)). 

  • Under current legislation (article 20 of the Penal Code), all persons under 18 are exempt from criminal responsibility, except in cases of acts of terrorism, for which the age of criminal responsibility is 15. 


Philippines

House Bill 3370 was filed in February 2008 to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 10 (see here). The issue was raised again in 2010 (see here) and in September 2011 (see here). It seems, however, that no amendment has yet been passed, though as of 2011, the Senate was considering Bills that would reform the law in this regard (see here).

  • Relevant law: The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (Republic Act 9344) was adopted in 2006 and raised the age of criminal responsibility from 9 to 15 years
  • As of 2011, the Senate was considering a number of bills on amending the JJWA with regards to the MACR, and the Senate Justice Committee indicated that it would recommend the suspension of the provisions of the JJWA with regards to MARC (http://www.crin.org/resources/infodetail.asp?ID=26102)


Russian Federation

The State Duma Committee for Constitutional Law and State Development is currently drafting a bill that would lower the MACR from 16 to 14 for certain crimes and from 14 to 12 for crimes including as homicide, kidnapping, burglary and rape (see here).


Spain

A proposal arose in July 2009 following the rapes of two young girls by a group of 12 and 13 year olds. The Minister of Justice released a statement stressing that he opposed lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12 in September of that year (see here).