In 1963 the age of criminal responsibility increased from 8 years old to 10 years old


In 1963 the age of criminal responsibility increased from 8 years old to 10 years old. An ongoing debate has arisen as to whether this age should be increased once more. Is it known that a 10-year-old, who in many eyes is seen as a child, can be legally responsible for criminal actions?
According to the Beijing Rules 1985, The ”minimum age of criminal responsibility differs widely owing to history and culture”. In most of the United States of America, Singapore and South Africa, the age of criminal responsibility is 7, Scotland is 8, whereas Hungary and Cyprus are 14. The age of criminal responsibility ”shall not be fixed at too low an age level, bearing in mind the facts of emotional, mental and intellectual maturity” (Winterdyk, 2018). The United Nations Committee on the Rights on the Child stated that an age of criminal responsibility below 12 ”is not acceptable” (Paul, 2017).
Based on Jean Piaget’s theory on cognitive development, it has proven that children must progress through stages of development before building full adult capabilities and, Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of children not morally reaching the final stage of development before passing through previous steps 1 to 6 (courses.lumenlearning.com, 2018) suggests that children cannot be responsible for their actions. As stated by Professor Nicholas Mackintosh ”some regions of the brain including parts responsible for decision making and impulse control, are not fully mature, until at least the age of 20″. At what age can a child understand right from wrong? What age would children understand the criminal justice system and the process of a trial?
Doli Incapax (the presumption that children aged 10-13 are deemed incapable of forming the intent to commit a crime or tort, especially by reason of age), was abolished under The Criminal Justice Act 1998, removing this increased the tendency to treat children as if they were adults. Most children do not hold the emotional mentality to make correct choices without a form of adult supervision to guide them. This is one reason why the Age of Maturity in England and Wales is 18 years old. Based on Section 5 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, as stated by (Paul, 2017) young people cannot consent to sex, as law suggest they do not have the life experience, or maturity levels that an adult possesses to make those choices. The age of maturity suggests children have full knowledge and understanding of criminal actions, yet no understanding of day to day life decisions. ”There are no precise moments that marks when childhood ends, and adulthood begins” (Muncie, 2004).
The statistics show from 2007 to 2017 the number of young people aged 10-17 who are first time offenders and re offenders, have decreased rapidly (Ministry of Justice, 2018) (see Appendix 1). Investigating the decrease will spark debate about the age of criminal responsibility, as to whether it needs to be increased, or stay at age 10. Therefore, discussing juvenile justice in depth is seen as a necessity (Hammarberg, 2008).