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Age of Criminal Responsibility

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31 replies to this topic

#1
chewychorizo

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I was talking about this in class a few weeks ago and I figured it'd be a good debate, since there's more diverse opinions rather than ''pro life'' or ''pro choice'' etc.

Right now, the age of criminal responsbility in the UK is 10. I think this is reasonable, though a part of me believes it should be lowered to 8? It was proposed last year that it be raised to 12, but fortunatly (in my opinion) this was rejected; children definetly know right from wrong at that age. I believe they do at age 8, too. Some people think that's too low and that it should even be raised to 18, for gods sake. Personally I think that's ridiculous. I think in some countries it's 14, as well, which I think is waaay too high.

Obviously whenever we talk about this it's safe to assume that we automatically think of the Jamie Bulger murder, in which he was taken away from his parents and brutally killed by two 10 year old boys. Shocking. That in itself is why we should keep it the way it is- those children knew what they were doing and it's stupid to assume otherwise.

Thoughts?

#2
Marius Pontmercy

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10? Bloody hell. It's 18 here. 17 year-old kids and under go to juvie if they've done a crime.

edit: nvm, it's 12 here. I guess that's reasonable, considering you start getting more independent at around that age.

#3
Floyd Pinkerton

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The fuck? 8?! Goddamn what the hell?

#4
chewychorizo

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A part of me thinks that, yes.

#5
Tre's Busted Drumkit

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I think it depends on the crime and the person. Sending an 8-year-old to jail for shoplifting seems extreme, but I'd have no problem with a 16-year-old (or even a 12 or 14-year-old) who committed a particularly heinous murder being sentenced to death. I'm thinking back to a case from when I grew up, where a boy who was 14 at the time raped and murdered his 8-year-old neighbor, then hid her body from police for a week by literally putting it under his bed. If ever a minor deserved the death penalty, that was the circumstance that called for it. He's currently spending life in prison with no chance of parole.

Frankly, any time a serious crime is committed by someone under the age of 18, I think a panel of three psychiatrists should be called by the court to evaluate the person independently of each other. The purpose of that would be to determine whether the person is capable of understanding that what they did was wrong. Plain and simple--we're not looking for sweeping judgments on their character, on any potential mental disorders that may have affected their judgment, etc. We're simply looking for a majority opinion on whether or not this person is capable of understanding right from wrong. If they are, proceed with prosecution. If not, court-order them into a mental institution, and try them for the crime if and when they become able to understand the difference.
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#6
captain peroxide

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It's not just about knowing right from wrong, you also need to be able to anticipate the consequences of your actions and fully understand their implications. Does a 10 year old know it's wrong to kill a child? Probably. Does a 10 year old realize that this action will put him in jail for years, or force him to live under a fake identity and avoid people for the rest of his life? Very probably not.

Right and wrong are very basic, simple concepts, and I agree that by 8-12, most kids would have a grasp on them. But another aspect of determining culpability in a crime is whether the criminal understands or understood the magnitude of their actions, or what the consequences would be. An insane person probably knows killing someone is wrong, but they can't anticipate that it might land them in jail or cause distress to the victim's family like a sane person can, which is often why the insanity defense gets someone put in a mental hospital instead of jail or death row.

The ability to determine right from wrong is not (and if it is, should not be) the only determining factor in deciding how to punish someone for a crime. I agree with Ben that in the case of a crime (a serious one, not bullshit like shoplifting), the kid in question needs to be evaluated on an individual basis.

#7
chewychorizo

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Oh, yeah, I only meant for completely heinous crimes too Ben, but then you get the whole ''what determines that type of crime'' and whatnot.

To me, knowing right from wrong is that when you do something wrong, there are consequences. That's why you don't do them. Obviously we are more developed to know that killing someone is morally wrong as well as legally wrong, and a child does not have that ability. All a child knows is that you do not do a wrong thing because you will be punished. Most children are brought up on that. It's not a case of ''don't do that because'', it's more ''don't do that or'' meaning they know there is a consequence. The bottom line is that they should not do it because it is wrong. I can't see myself agreeing with a judge who lets a chld off or taps them on the wrist simply because they didn't know they were going to jail for it.

#8
Tre's Busted Drumkit

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It's not just about knowing right from wrong, you also need to be able to anticipate the consequences of your actions and fully understand their implications. Does a 10 year old know it's wrong to kill a child? Probably. Does a 10 year old realize that this action will put him in jail for years, or force him to live under a fake identity and avoid people for the rest of his life? Very probably not.

Many adults in our society, including those who exhibit traits of mental illness and/or schizophrenia, are sentenced to long prison terms or death despite having a condition which arguably prevents them from understanding the consequences of their actions. The ability to understand and fear the consequences of one's actions should not override the basic concept of knowing that an action is wrong and doing it anyway.

Right and wrong are very basic, simple concepts, and I agree that by 8-12, most kids would have a grasp on them. But another aspect of determining culpability in a crime is whether the criminal understands or understood the magnitude of their actions, or what the consequences would be. An insane person probably knows killing someone is wrong, but they can't anticipate that it might land them in jail or cause distress to the victim's family like a sane person can, which is often why the insanity defense gets someone put in a mental hospital instead of jail or death row.

That's a common misconception in the United States. The insanity plea is not a defense in and of itself. Instead, it's an argument designed to get the court to recognize mitigating factors that would cast a more favorable light upon the defendant. It's rarely used in United States courtrooms, and when it is, it rarely works. The most common outcome in cases where the insanity plea is employed is a verdict of "guilty but mentally ill." The end result of this verdict is that the defendant is sent to a mental institution to get their condition under control for however long that takes, and once it's determined that their condition is controlled, they're transferred to a prison to serve out their entire sentence. Time spent in the institution is usually not deducted from the overall sentence, so typically, someone sentenced to ten years in prison would spend a year or more in a high-security institution, then be released to spend ten years in prison. They actually end up doing more time.

The ability to determine right from wrong is not (and if it is, should not be) the only determining factor in deciding how to punish someone for a crime. I agree with Ben that in the case of a crime (a serious one, not bullshit like shoplifting), the kid in question needs to be evaluated on an individual basis.

Agreed. If an eight-year-old wants to steal some crayons from a store and he gets caught by security, take the crayons back, give the kid a stern talking-to in front of his parents, and send him on his way. If an eight-year-old murders his friend because his friend won't let him have a cookie, then that's a different circumstance which needs to be handled differently. Is the mental growth stage of the child a mitigating factor? Hell yes. At eight years old, the kid almost certainly did not intend to kill his friend, and proving intent is a huge part of any criminal proceeding. That said, the fact that the child did not understand the consequences of his actions shouldn't override the fact that he almost certainly understood that hurting his friend was wrong and did it anyway.

#9
chewychorizo

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Agreed. If an eight-year-old wants to steal some crayons from a store and he gets caught by security, take the crayons back, give the kid a stern talking-to in front of his parents, and send him on his way. If an eight-year-old murders his friend because his friend won't let him have a cookie, then that's a different circumstance which needs to be handled differently. Is the mental growth stage of the child a mitigating factor? Hell yes. At eight years old, the kid almost certainly did not intend to kill his friend, and proving intent is a huge part of any criminal proceeding. That said, the fact that the child did not understand the consequences of his actions shouldn't override the fact that he almost certainly understood that hurting his friend was wrong and did it anyway.


Although there is a 2 year age gap from your example to Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, there can be some intent there based on their upbringing. I just don't want people going oh, they didn't know, it's fine. It might not be fine. I'm not suggesting that a child that kills it's friend by something that seems a little vague (struggling to come up with an example, playing on the road and accidentally pushing the friend out in front of an on-coming car/train whatever?) did that intentionally, but something that's like Bulger case was obviously semi-planned, and completely malicious, so they can't assume that the child is ''only eight and doesn't know what they're doing''. Obviously there would have to be a lot of work with the child in terms of psychiatriatic examinations and whatnot to determine what the child was thinking/doing at the time.

#10
Tre's Busted Drumkit

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Yeah, Alice, proving intent is a huge part of any criminal case. Thing is, intent is very hard to determine when the defendant is pre-pubescent. That's why I'm suggest the court-ordered psychiatrist panel should be providing simply a judgment on whether the child knows right from wrong. Intent is for the prosecution to prove, the defense to question and the jury to figure out.

#11
captain peroxide

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Most children are brought up on that. It's not a case of ''don't do that because'', it's more ''don't do that or'' meaning they know there is a consequence.


I don't think that applies to fucking murder. How many parents counsel their children that they shouldn't murder anyone, or they'll go to jail?

Many adults in our society, including those who exhibit traits of mental illness and/or schizophrenia, are sentenced to long prison terms or death despite having a condition which arguably prevents them from understanding the consequences of their actions. The ability to understand and fear the consequences of one's actions should not override the basic concept of knowing that an action is wrong and doing it anyway.


I disagree, but okay.

That's a common misconception in the United States. The insanity plea is not a defense in and of itself. Instead, it's an argument designed to get the court to recognize mitigating factors that would cast a more favorable light upon the defendant. It's rarely used in United States courtrooms, and when it is, it rarely works. The most common outcome in cases where the insanity plea is employed is a verdict of "guilty but mentally ill." The end result of this verdict is that the defendant is sent to a mental institution to get their condition under control for however long that takes, and once it's determined that their condition is controlled, they're transferred to a prison to serve out their entire sentence. Time spent in the institution is usually not deducted from the overall sentence, so typically, someone sentenced to ten years in prison would spend a year or more in a high-security institution, then be released to spend ten years in prison. They actually end up doing more time.


I'm talking more about in slightly less insane countries than the US, where the prison and legal system are pretty fucked up, but yeah, point taken.

#12
HeißblütigerPinguin

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being sentenced to death.

What is all this pro-death penalty shit going on in this forum? Seriously??
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#13
Floyd Pinkerton

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What is all this pro-death penalty shit going on in this forum? Seriously??

Sometimes, that's all there is to use against heinous criminals. Who's to say jail will do anything to change them? Killing the person is the only sure way of fixing the problem.

#14
Trotsky

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First of all, I wholly reject the idea of justice for justice's sake, I think any system which deals with crime should be purely utilitarian - doing what is best for society, and for those affected by the crime, and for the person who committed the crime. "Punishment" is only legitimate to me as a behavior modification tool, I do not accept that punishment should ever be used as a type of institutionalized revenge. Therefore I am not only against the death penalty but I am largely against life sentences. The only way I see it acceptable to incarcerate someone for the rest of their life is if there is a reasonable expectation they will continue to perpetuate harm onto others no matter what help they might potentially be given - only the most severely mentally ill and sociopathic people beyond any treatment, which I acknowledge there are some. Further I am against imprisonment for any non-violent offense and I don't necessarily believe any violent offense should warrant imprisonment either.

I don't think the question to ask in any case is "Did this person know what they were doing was wrong?", but rather questions like "Is this person dangerous?", "Is this person likely to continue inflicting harm on others?", "Can this person's mental state be improved?" It is especially important to ask the proper questions here when dealing with children.

I think it is a terrible injustice done to minors who find themselves in a life-in-prison situation, or even a lengthy sentence that will carry well over into their adult life, without any chance for them to ever turn their lives around. Kids in gangs can break from them, kids on drugs can get rehabilitated, kids who commit violent crimes can potentially come to terms with what they did and emerge with a healthy state of mind. But only if they have a system of recovery and rehabilitation rather than a system of retribution.

To say something like "An 8 year old who commits a murder was below the age of criminal responsibility so they will be briefly institutionalized and then set free, but a 9 year old was at the age of criminal responsibility so they should be incarcerated for life." is just absurd. It doesn't matter what age someone is, the goal should be the same whether someone is 6 or 60 - recovery, improvement, and reintegration into society.

People feel outrage from a subconscious level over certain crimes, especially if they are personally affected or can feel extraordinary amounts of empathy for victims of crime. But that is why we have a society - to recognize that our basic instincts of thinking the person who wronged us should be put to death or locked up forever are flawed, and to have a more objective collective to deal with things in the best way possible. If we have nothing more than institutionalized retribution, then society has done us little better than we could do in a free-for-all of everyone taking their own personal revenge.
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#15
HeißblütigerPinguin

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Every person ( and yes a criminal is a person) has basic human rights which include the right to life. The rights are unconditional. No matter what a person has done he still has those rights and nobody, not an individual not a state, not a government is allowed to take them away. Death penalty is unjustifiable because it denies persons the right to life and the right to full enjoyment of health.
The idea of democracy is that every one is equal and has equal rights, so it is morally wrong to kill you it is morally wrong to kill death row inmates.

No person can justify stripping another persons completely off his rights
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#16
Nele

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It's 14 here, I think the age is reasonable in most cases and of course it doesn't mean you can just kill someone at the age of 13 without any further consequences.

#17
chewychorizo

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I don't think that applies to fucking murder. How many parents counsel their children that they shouldn't murder anyone, or they'll go to jail?


It goes hand in hand with hurting others. Most children have that ingrained when they understand what 'hurting others' means. And I don't really get the ''fucking'' bit, I haven't sworn at anyone here for disagreeing.

I don't think the question to ask in any case is "Did this person know what they were doing was wrong?", but rather questions like "Is this person dangerous?", "Is this person likely to continue inflicting harm on others?", "Can this person's mental state be improved?" It is especially important to ask the proper questions here when dealing with children.


I agree with this. I think though there's a lot of proof in child cases that they will re-offend in some way when they're older or released so I feel like imprisoning them is based on a utilitarian manner. I don't think people should be locked up for the sake of it, I'm just stressing that a child shouldn't be dismissed because they're just a child or ''didn't know what they were doing''.

#18
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It's not just about knowing right from wrong, you also need to be able to anticipate the consequences of your actions and fully understand their implications. Does a 10 year old know it's wrong to kill a child? Probably. Does a 10 year old realize that this action will put him in jail for years, or force him to live under a fake identity and avoid people for the rest of his life? Very probably not.

Maybe it's been too long since you've been ten, but of course they do.

My automatic instinct is to say it should be low but then again I've always been above average intelligence, and my friends have been too on average, so I've always been aware of severe consequences and that. A large part of that is obviously also because I've been raised right, but I think that comes with anyone really. So I think ten is a fine age tbh

#19
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It goes hand in hand with hurting others. Most children have that ingrained when they understand what 'hurting others' means. And I don't really get the ''fucking'' bit, I haven't sworn at anyone here for disagreeing.


I think by "fucking murder", Alex means something like "Many adults cannot even contemplate the psychological impact on themselves, the long term effects on others, and the personal consequences they might have to face as the result of taking a life with objectivity and clarity, so how could you even expect a child to?"

http://faculty.plts....ml/kohlberg.htm

Let me present Kohlberg's six stages of moral development. Keep in mind I do not completely agree with this theory, but it generally represents something true - increasingly complex sense of ethics with personal development.

Children exist almost exclusively in stages I and II, preconventional morality. They only recognize a system of reciprocity, they do not have a developed ethical outlook. And just because a child might understand there are consequences, that does not mean a child can grasp the weight of those consequences.

Also, and I hate myself for forgetting the name and details of this experiment, but children were put in a situation where they had access to one piece of candy, and were told they could have two if they waited a few minutes before eating the first one, and many ate the first one immediately anyway.

#20
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Maybe it's been too long since you've been ten, but of course they do.


You really think the average 10 year old can evaluate the consequences of murdering someone the same way an 18 year old could (which even then wouldn't be entirely)? I'm glad you're not in charge.

I think by "fucking murder", Alex means something like "Many adults cannot even contemplate the psychological impact on themselves, the long term effects on others, and the personal consequences they might have to face as the result of taking a life with objectivity and clarity, so how could you even expect a child to?"


That's exactly what I meant, thank you.

#21
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You really think the average 10 year old can evaluate the consequences of murdering someone the same way an 18 year old could (which even then wouldn't be entirely)? I'm glad you're not in charge.

I know that a ten year old knows that murder = very, very, VERY bad things. So unfathomable you wouldn't even want to consider it.

Alex y u mad thou?

#22
HeißblütigerPinguin

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I think the fact that children don't really grasp the consequences of their criminal actions is to be considered in the court.

If I do not understand the full consequences of my actions how am I supposed to understand the severity of said actions.

Spoiler


#23
captain peroxide

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I know that a ten year old knows that murder = very, very, VERY bad things. So unfathomable you wouldn't even want to consider it.

Alex y u mad thou?


How do you know that, though? If I'm mad, it's because you're generalizing something about all 10 year olds that I think is ludicrous.

#24
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How do you know that, though? If I'm mad, it's because you're generalizing something about all 10 year olds that I think is ludicrous.

I was speaking of what I was like, and my personal experience with children of the same age. Though I did say my intelligence and how I was raised was probably a factor.

#25
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The age should depend on the severity of the crime. Like an 8 year old should know not to kill someone, but a lesser crime could have a higher age. No higher than 12, though. Any teenager should be independent enough to be responsible for their actions.

#26
Trotsky

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The age should depend on the severity of the crime. Like an 8 year old should know not to kill someone, but a lesser crime could have a higher age.


I can't even express the stupidity of this statement in words. You think the most serious crimes should have the lowest age of accountability and the most insignificant ones have the highest? What? What?!

#27
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I can't even express the stupidity of this statement in words. You think the most serious crimes should have the lowest age of accountability and the most insignificant ones have the highest? What? What?!


Uh, yeah. The more serious the crime, the more likely someone will know it is wrong. The less severe the crime, the less likely someone will know it is illegal. Even little kids will know murder is wrong. But would a little kid know it's illegal to set up a lemonade stand without a permit in public areas? Or even something like stealing from a convenience store. If a little kid was hungry and wanted something from a 7-11 or whatever, would they think twice about it? Probably not.

#28
Trotsky

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Uh, yeah. The more serious the crime, the more likely someone will know it is wrong. The less severe the crime, the less likely someone will know it is illegal. Even little kids will know murder is wrong. But would a little kid know it's illegal to set up a lemonade stand without a permit in public areas? Or even something like stealing from a convenience store. If a little kid was hungry and wanted something from a 7-11 or whatever, would they think twice about it? Probably not.


And I'm not advocating arresting young children for lifting a candy bar, I am just saying that as ridiculous as it would be to charge a six year old with criminal shoplifting, it would be a hundred times more inane to charge a six year old with aggravated assault, or murder. It would also be an infinitely greater injustice. You charge a kid with shoplifting far too young to be accountable and their parents just go through some bureaucratic bullshit and move on with their lives. You charge a little kid with a serious penalty and lock them up for their entire youth and well into their adulthood for that felony, then they are more than likely permanently fucked up because of it.

I already explained Kohlberg's stages of development, read them.

#29
Tre's Busted Drumkit

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And I'm not advocating arresting young children for lifting a candy bar, I am just saying that as ridiculous as it would be to charge a six year old with criminal shoplifting, it would be a hundred times more inane to charge a six year old with aggravated assault, or murder. It would also be an infinitely greater injustice. You charge a kid with shoplifting far too young to be accountable and their parents just go through some bureaucratic bullshit and move on with their lives. You charge a little kid with a serious penalty and lock them up for their entire youth and well into their adulthood for that felony, then they are more than likely permanently fucked up because of it.


But at the same time, you can't just let that child off the hook. There is something severely wrong with that child's brain, and while prison almost certainly is not the answer for a six-year-old, that child needs to be institutionalized for a long damn time while psychiatrists make sure they're not destined to bring harm to others again as an adult.
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#30
Radithor

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I'd say 12 is a solid age to at least begin with. Certianly not 8. At that point I was still poking rats with sticks and wondering why they'd go stiff and stop 'playing' with me.



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