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Essay: The age of criminal responsibility

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  • Published: 26 July 2015*
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You can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats its children. If there is one thing which has always existed, it is crime. Whether it was a little boy stealing bread to provide his family in the middle ages, or a gang doing a robbery in this century. It existed for centuries, and is someone we can not avoid. No matter what, is a criminal act with intention of benefit for a few, by causing harm to others.
According to socialist Anthony Giddens , young people, predominantly male, are more likely to perform the acts of criminal behaviour. If you compare men with their better halves (women), men are also more prosecuted and sentenced, whereas the courts and judges, according to Otto Pollak, tend to be ‘more chivalrous’ when they are having a case with a female as the main offender.
But at what age should you be able to be thrown behind bars? According to an article in Britain the age of criminal responsibility is 10 years old – meaning that a 10 year old girl could be tossed into the joint. This was part of the Labour Party Government’s ‘Criminal and Disorder Act’ of 1998. Before this act, there was a belief that under the age of 14, you did not know the difference between right and wrong. The article states, that in 1997, 79,092 cases of youngsters committing criminal actions has been dealt with in court ‘ in 2004 the number was increased into 96,188. Because of the change, it has caused the British children to become unintended victims.
In some countries, like India, the age of criminal responsibility is 7 years old. According to $4.1 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the administration of Juvenile Justice (‘The Beijing Rules’), ‘In those legal systems recognizing the concept of the age of criminal responsibility for juveniles, the beginning of that age shall not be fixed at too low an age level, bearing in mind the facts of emotional, mental and intellectual maturity’. As I said in the begging, a child is not old enough to determine what is right and what is wrong at such a young age.
In Denmark, the minimum age was of 23rd of February 2012 raised form 14 years old to 15 years old. When the previous government changed the age to 14, it was met by a lot of critics and had caused much harm. The right-wing Danish People Party earlier proposed an amendment to change the criminal responsibility to the age of 12, but they had no concrete evidence why it should be changed.
There are many downsides to lowering the age of criminal responsibility. Each human who has or is imprisoned all over the world, comes with an expense for society. Not only do prisoners do their sentence; in the US, 52% of former inmates return to prison ‘ 67% of them within only 3 years. Another downside was, that according to the site ‘younger prisoners and those with longer records were also more likely to be rearrested’
Recidivism rate of American prison and jail inmates in 1994, by timer after release.
So to sum up just how important the minimum age of criminal responsibility is..
Not forcing our children to grow up, and being able to giving them ‘a second chance’ and have a real childhood. We should be able to educate them about wright or wrong before we tosh them in jail without knowing the consequences for their actions.
Richard Garside from ‘The Guardian’ is also arguing against the age of criminal responsibility. He says it is ‘set to low, rendering it meaningless and inhumane’. Throwing to young children into prison, is just another legislative measure that makes them old before their time. According to the articles and their statements, a high minimum age of criminal responsibility is the way forward.
2) Assess what can be deduced about the difference in minimum age of criminal responsibility when you compare selected countries in enclosure A2
Enclosure A2 is a plan over a lot of countries and their minimum age of criminal responsibility. As I mentioned before, India has a minimum age of 7 years. Basically the government is aloud to look up small children. A lot the children are probably orphans, living on the street and very very poor. That means that they might have to do extreme things, like stealing, just to survive and take care of themselves and their family. The government is forcing them to grow up and become older, a lot faster then they should. India has an exceeding population of 1.2 billion and the industrial and technological sectors are growing faster than ever, and the politicians are trying to maintain a good relationship with other countries.
Then we have Denmark in the completely opposite end of the chart. According to statistics made by Prison and Probation Service, 115 of the 14,469 inmates were 15 years or less.
Annual juvenile court cases in India in 1960 and 2000, respectively.
Subsidiary assignment B: Crime in America
1) Discuss the extent to which America punishes its criminals. Your answer must relate to enclosures B1 and B2
According to an article in the Economist from July 22nd 2010, the tendency of harder punishments worsened when ‘rising crime became an emotive political issue and voters took to back politicians who promised to stamp on it’. This created a ratchet effect , causing even tougher laws. But this created some problems. When the crime rate dropped, it could be because of the tough sentences ‘ when the crime rate rose, even tougher laws were demanded. This might be the reason behind the quadrupling of the United States’ incarceration rate since 1970.
We are also told a ridicules case in The Economist; an orchid-collector by the name Georg Norris, 65, was living in Spring, Texas. One day, police pulled up outside his house. They forced him to sit helplessly in a chair for hours, while they ransacked his house. 5 months later he was thrown into a jail cell with a suspected murderer and two suspected drug-dealers. He was accused of breaking the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, because some his orchid-imports from Latin America were sloppy with the paperwork. He had annual profits at a maximum of about $20.000, still he was accused of being the head of an international smuggling ring.
According to another article in The Economist, California is the state with most problems. The state has 33 prisons, and nearly all of them, have close to double the amount of inmates, then what it was supposed to.
Prison and laimates in the US in million since 1980
According to statistics by the United States Census Bureau the total number of crimes peaked in 1990 ‘ with an estimated 14,476,000 crimes nationwide. In 2009, the numbers have decreased to 10, 639,000.
In America, they have something called ‘Three strikes’ laws, which enable judicial officials to put away offenders for life. Sentences for dealing illegal drugs have been increased a lot , and the same goes for selling prescription medicine illegally. If your in bad luck, it can put you away for 15 rough years.
America punishes its lawbreakers extremely hard ‘ and as a result of that, they have overcrowded prisons and large bills to the taxpayers.

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