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View Poll Results: When should people be held responsible for their crimes ?

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  • No minimum age

    0 0%
  • 7 years old

    1 9.09%
  • 8 years old

    1 9.09%
  • 9 years old

    1 9.09%
  • 10 years old

    0 0%
  • 11 years old

    0 0%
  • 12 years old

    2 18.18%
  • 13 years old

    2 18.18%
  • 14 years old

    1 9.09%
  • 15 years old

    0 0%
  • 16 years old

    1 9.09%
  • 17 years old

    1 9.09%
  • 18 years old

    1 9.09%
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Thread: Minimum age of criminal responsibility

  1. #1
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    Minimum age of criminal responsibility



    The minimum age of criminal responsibility is the age from which a child can be held responsible for any of his/her acts infringing penal laws. In other words, it is the age from which they can go to jail if they kill, rape or torture someone, commit some robbery, assaults or any othe rmajor crimes. Below that age, they are seen as innocent by default.

    In the USA, the minimum age is 7 years old in most states. However, at the other end of the scale, it is 18 (!) in Belgium.

    European countries tend to have higher min. age than English speaking countries. While it is 8 years old in Scotland, and 10 in England and Wales, it is 12 in Canada and the Netherlands, 13 in France and New Zealand, 14 in Italy, Austria, Germany and most of Eastern Europe, 15 in Nordic countries, 16 in Portugal and Spain, and 18 in Belgium and Luxembourg. It is 14 in Japan and China.

    In the light of current youth riots in France (many of whom are between 11 and 15), it would be interesting to discuss when should be the minimum age for someone to be held responsible for his/her criminal acts. I think that somehwere between 13 and 15 is old enough.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    The minimum age of criminal responsibility is the age from which a child can be held responsible for any of his/her acts infringing penal laws........ it is 12 in Canada and the Netherlands, 13 in France and New Zealand, 14 in Italy, Austria, Germany and most of Eastern Europe, 15 in Nordic countries, 16 in Portugal and Spain, and 18 in Belgium and Luxembourg. It is 14 in Japan and China.
    Whilst what you say is true ... there is some qualification to the Canadian case ... it may also apply in various ways in other countries, too.

    In Canada, if you are under 17 years of age and commit an offence, you are charged and tried as a "young offender". The maximum period of incarceration is three years -not served in an adult prison, but in an establishment more suited to those too young and fair of face to withstand the trauma and rigours of "the big house"!.

    In addition, any offender in Canada is eligible for release (on good behaviour etc. etc.) after serving two thirds of their sentence. This usually brings the maximum sentence for any 'young offender' down to two years (even for murder!).

    .... this is before taking into consideration any appeal for parole etc. etc.

    Under extenuating circumstances, the prosecuting counsel may ask for a young offender to be tried as an adult - something which is sometimes done - in which case the convicted party may receive imprisonment in an adult prison, or (more usually) be transferred there after reaching the age of 17.

    (This exceptionally severe punishment is usually reserved for those caught speeding, or "blowing the whistle" on major politicians, of course ! Murder would normally be dealt with far less severely! )

    Many 'young offenders' convicted of quite serious crimes are actually released and back among us after a mere few months!
    Frequently they are blatantly unrepentant and back in court on new charges ... in a matter ... of days!

    It is becoming a matter of substantial concern.

    Bring back the lash!

    ジョン

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sensuikan San
    In addition, any offender in Canada is eligible for release (on good behaviour etc. etc.) after serving two thirds of their sentence. This usually brings the maximum sentence for any 'young offender' down to two years (even for murder!).

    .... this is before taking into consideration any appeal for parole etc. etc.


    ジョン
    Good post, but this is slightly inaccurate. In Canada you are eligible for parole after serving one third of your sentence and are mandatorily released after serving two thirds of it. Getting a convicted criminal to serve their whole term requires a special motion by the crown (as happened in the Karla Homolka case), but is rarely done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by senseiman
    Good post, but this is slightly inaccurate. In Canada you are eligible for parole after serving one third of your sentence and are mandatorily released after serving two thirds of it. Getting a convicted criminal to serve their whole term requires a special motion by the crown (as happened in the Karla Homolka case), but is rarely done.
    Quite so. That is indeed the case.

    And I stand corrected.

    Regards,

    ジョン

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    It depends. I think the absolute min. age should be 8, but until the kid is 17 (adult age) I do not think they should get the exact same punishment as an adult (ie death).

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    I voted for 13, but I think up to the age of 18 offenders should be tried as minors, and the emphasis should be on giving them a good education, rather than on punishment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silverbackman
    It depends. I think the absolute min. age should be 8, but until the kid is 17 (adult age) I do not think they should get the exact same punishment as an adult (ie death).
    Well, death penalty is pretty much limited to the USA (and not all states) and Japan among developed countries. All European countries have long banned it.

    I agree that there should be some special considerations based on the age, and that education should be more important than punishment (well, education can be a punishment for some).

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    I actually think (for once! ) the UK has it right with 10 years old. However, I think there should be different treatment for offenders between ages 10 - 17 (inc.), not necessarily more lenient punishments but for them to be sent to a young offenders' institute and dealt with in a way that's most appropriate for their age.

    *sighhh* If only young offenders could be dealt with in the right way for each of them... it could help to stop them from offending again... but that's the impossible task, I think... to find the secret! I wish I could know the answer...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    14 in Italy, Austria, Germany and most of Eastern Europe
    Actually, a bit more complicated in Germany:
    from 7 onwards: limited civil responsibility (depending on level of insight)
    14-18: youth specific criminal responsibility
    18-21: theoretical criminal resp., but practically almost only youth specific CR is used
    over 21 CR, with few exceptions

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    There are a few interesting tort cases involving minors I've been studying.

    The cut off point for civil liability seems to be about 7 years old. Cases are very rare because nobody ever sues kids (they generally don't have money) but go after the parents for negligence in their care instead.

    But there are some cases. In Australia in 1966 there was the case of McHale v. Watson. The defendant, Watson, was a 12 year old boy. He was playing with a sharp metal rod and for whatever reason decided to hurl it at a fence post to see if he could hit it. His aim was true, but unfortunately the rod deflected off the fence post and hit a young girl, McHale, who was standing nearby. She lost her left eye as a result. The girl and her parents sued McHale for negligence.

    The high court absolved the defendant of all responsibility. Under the usual standard an adult would have been held liable for the same action, but the court held that a more lenient standard must be applied when assessing liability for children.

    What do you think about that?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by senseiman
    Under the usual standard an adult would have been held liable for the same action, but the court held that a more lenient standard must be applied when assessing liability for children.

    What do you think about that?
    I agree with the ruling. An adult can be expected to see the possibility that someone might get hurt, but an average 12-year-old is less able to see all possible consequences of his actions. He should be capable of learning from his mistakes though, so if he did a similar thing again he probably should be held responsible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsuyoiko
    I agree with the ruling. An adult can be expected to see the possibility that someone might get hurt, but an average 12-year-old is less able to see all possible consequences of his actions. He should be capable of learning from his mistakes though, so if he did a similar thing again he probably should be held responsible.
    I'm not so sure. If it had been a 7 or 8 year old I could see it, but I surely think that a 12 year old ought to have known better. Bear in mind that this is a civil, not criminal case so finding that the boy wasn't at all liable means that the girl who'll have to live the rest of her life with only one eye gets no compensation whatsoever for her loss.

    In Canada there was an interesting yet tragic case involving a mentally handicapped 8 year old boy. He only had the mental capacity of a 3 year old boy. One day he happened to run out into the street without looking both ways and was struck by an oncoming car. The boy was severely injured and ended up loosing a leg. The driver of the car wasn't driving recklessly, but the parents took the normal step of suing him for damages to their son.

    The issue was whether the boy should be held liable for his actions. The defense argued that an 8 year old boy should know to look both ways before crossing the street and that he was therefore the author of his own misfortune. The plaintiffs argued that the boys mental capacity should be taken into account and that no 3 year old would know to look both ways.

    The judge held that the child's mental capacity should be taken into account and that he wasn't liable for his neglecting to look both ways.

    This is where the case gets ugly. Having been held liable, the driver's lawyer argued that because this wasn't a 'normal' boy the damages should be reduced. In other words, a mentally handicapped childs leg shouldn't be considered as valuable as a normal child's. The judge was repulsed by this argument and turned it on its head. He held that because of the reduced mental capacity of the boy he had to rely on his physical body for happiness in life more than a normal boy does. Therefore, instead of reducing the amount to be paid in damages, he increased it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by senseiman

    In Canada there was an interesting yet tragic case involving a mentally handicapped 8 year old boy. He only had the mental capacity of a 3 year old boy. One day he happened to run out into the street without looking both ways and was struck by an oncoming car. The boy was severely injured and ended up loosing a leg. The driver of the car wasn't driving recklessly, but the parents took the normal step of suing him for damages to their son.
    Was the driver at fault for the accident? Could he have been reasonably expected to stop?

    I think it is totally unfair to blame and sue the driver for something outside of his control.

    If he was going too fast in a built up area that then he is fair game for blame, but if he was driving prudently and within the speed limits and this boy ran out at point blank range then the law is an ass in this situation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gaijin 06
    Was the driver at fault for the accident? Could he have been reasonably expected to stop?

    I think it is totally unfair to blame and sue the driver for something outside of his control.

    If he was going too fast in a built up area that then he is fair game for blame, but if he was driving prudently and within the speed limits and this boy ran out at point blank range then the law is an ass in this situation.
    Naturally, I agree that the driver doesn't deserve to be punished.

    The thing with tort law is that the main focus is on compensating the victim, unless he or she is the author of his/her own misfortune. Plus you have to remember that the driver wouldn't be out of pocket for losing, his insurance would pay for it. Of course his premiums will go up as a result, but when weighed against providing some compensation to the 8 year old with a missing leg it seems a small price to pay.

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    Quote Originally Posted by senseiman
    The issue was whether the boy should be held liable for his actions. The defense argued that an 8 year old boy should know to look both ways before crossing the street and that he was therefore the author of his own misfortune. The plaintiffs argued that the boys mental capacity should be taken into account and that no 3 year old would know to look both ways.

    The judge held that the child's mental capacity should be taken into account and that he wasn't liable for his neglecting to look both ways.
    Question: following the logic of the defense, shouldn't the parents have then been held responsible for negligence, as they knew the mental capacity of the boy, while the driver did not and was therefore unable to stop in time?

    I wish I knew more law, so I could phrase my arguments better...

    This is where the case gets ugly. Having been held liable, the driver's lawyer argued that because this wasn't a 'normal' boy the damages should be reduced. In other words, a mentally handicapped childs leg shouldn't be considered as valuable as a normal child's. The judge was repulsed by this argument and turned it on its head. He held that because of the reduced mental capacity of the boy he had to rely on his physical body for happiness in life more than a normal boy does. Therefore, instead of reducing the amount to be paid in damages, he increased it.
    What a damned lousy lawyer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by senseiman
    Naturally, I agree that the driver doesn't deserve to be punished.

    The thing with tort law is that the main focus is on compensating the victim, unless he or she is the author of his/her own misfortune. Plus you have to remember that the driver wouldn't be out of pocket for losing, his insurance would pay for it. Of course his premiums will go up as a result, but when weighed against providing some compensation to the 8 year old with a missing leg it seems a small price to pay.
    I don't agree with this approach at all - I simply don't believe that the parents have right to sue the driver in this situation. I don't accept that because his insurance company will pay that is is ok to sue for something that is essentially not his fault.

    If a child falls out of a window does the parent have a right to sue a man walking underneath who is holding an umbrella which skewers the child when he falls on it?

    In fact, does the parent have a right to sue the window installer because they didn't fit bars preventing children from falling out? Or the house manufactur for laying concrete on the ground under the windows which the childs splashed on?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gaijin 06
    I don't agree with this approach at all - I simply don't believe that the parents have right to sue the driver in this situation. I don't accept that because his insurance company will pay that is is ok to sue for something that is essentially not his fault.

    If a child falls out of a window does the parent have a right to sue a man walking underneath who is holding an umbrella which skewers the child when he falls on it?

    In fact, does the parent have a right to sue the window installer because they didn't fit bars preventing children from falling out? Or the house manufactur for laying concrete on the ground under the windows which the childs splashed on?
    Totally in agreement!

    But in answer to your (rhetorical?) questions - yes - sadly this is precisely the world we are now living in. Read your newspapers ... your own examples are precisely the sort of thing that come up daily in litigation!

    And I also agree very much with Lastmagi - what a rotten, greedy, lousy lawyer!

    ... and what a misguided judge!

    ジョン

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    I hope Britain never goes as far in this direction as America seems to have. I still can't believe the woman who sued MacDonalds when she spilled coffee on herself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lastmagi
    Question: following the logic of the defense, shouldn't the parents have then been held responsible for negligence, as they knew the mental capacity of the boy, while the driver did not and was therefore unable to stop in time?
    That's exactly what I was thinking.

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    I think 9 years would be appropriate.

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