I understand if children below the age of 7 were granted immunity, because they don't understand very well, what crime is.

Children above age 10 definitely do understand. So why does the law absolve them? If that's the case, then there are many other adults who have a weak understanding of right and wrong. They could have been absolved too.

Are children absolved because if they were jailed or kept in a remand home, it could have a deep psychological impact on them? Or is there some other reason?

  • It should be noticed than in some countries, including England and (according to Wikipedia) Switzerland, children above 10 can be charged with a crime.
    – A. Darwin
    Jul 3 '16 at 18:57
  • 3
    "The law." Which law? What jurisdiction? "Children above age 10 definitely do understand. So why does the law absolve them?" You'd have to pose that question to the legislators of your jurisdiction who enacted the corresponding law. Only they know for sure. Maybe they disagree with your conclusion about the age at which children understand crime, or they decided for some other reason that it was better public policy to avoid subjecting them to criminal charges. Jul 3 '16 at 20:30
  • As a general rule, questions about "Why is the law the way it is" have answers coming from politics, not legal principles. So politics.stackexchange.com may be a better place to ask. Jul 3 '16 at 20:33
  • We can conclude that there is disagreement over whether children between ages 10 and 12 "definitely do understand". The law does not absolve criminals below age 14: it may make the defeasible assumption that such a child lacks intent.
    – user6726
    Jul 4 '16 at 0:31
  • 1
    @Anon Don't edit your off-topic question to include an off-topic answer, it's not an appropriate use of questions.
    – jimsug
    Jul 4 '16 at 17:16

Children below age 7 (or age 10) aren't granted immunity; they were not tried often because they are arrested in a rare case (less than 2% in all juvenilen offenders) (refering to Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice, National Academies Press)

Note that people aged 16 or 17 (or even 15) is already triable for criminal charges (see R v Balham Youth Court).

Back to your question, why do juvenile offenders are sometimes not being charged in juvenile courts? There are mainly two reasons:

  1. They have less experience than adults. Although adults and juvenile can take a similar approach in making decisions, juvenile lacks experience to make themselves vulnerable to misperceptions. Which could somehow be said that they lost the intention to commit crime (mens rea)
  2. Juvenile lacks understanding to legal process. For children under 15, they are not familiar with the rights they have, like the right to have a lawyer, or the right to remain silence. This could make it unjust to order them appear before a judge (or magistrate) to be tried. Therefore, juvenile offenders are sometimes absolved from litigation.

Need to note that, in some jurisdiction, juvenile offenders (under 15) can also be charged in juvenile courts summarily and be sent to rehabilitation center, or even be sentenced.

  • RCW 9A.04.050: "Children under the age of eight years are incapable of committing crime."
    – Mark
    Jul 14 '16 at 4:58

Its not quite as clear cut as this - certainly older children are more culpable then younger children - as there capacity to grasp the consequences of there actions increase, so to do there rights, obligations and responsibilities.

I understand that a key reason kids are treated differently is because of "Mens Rea" - roughly translated = "Guilty Mind" - quoting from Wikipedia "The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in the Latin phrase, actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means "the act is not culpable unless the mind is guilty". Different jurisdictions apparently have different terms for the same/closely related idea.

If you search online for "Age culpability for crime", you will see a large number of articles discussing how age and mental awareness impact the way youth crime is treated.


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