Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility - A Global Perspective

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This study offers a comprehensive analysis of the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from an international children’s rights perspective. The MACR is the youngest age at which children may potentially be held liable in juvenile or adult courts for infringements of a country’s penal laws. In approaching the MACR, juvenile justice history reflects a broad division between welfare and justice approaches, but both bring serious problems that revolve around criminal responsibility as their tipping point. For example, the welfare approach deemphasizes and postpones criminal responsibility, while the justice approach is based directly upon it. Instead, international children’s rights mediate such tensions and flaws by contextualizing responsibility and the MACR within a series of key principles and substantive and procedural rights. In fact, regional and international law instruments provide obligations and guidance to countries regarding the establishment and application of their respective MACRs. Broader historical influences, however, are most important for explaining the origins of current MACRs around the world, which are documented for the first time ever by country, including key provisions, source citations, and excerpts in most cases. Indeed, the nearly uniform existence of MACRs worldwide - evidencing the legal principle that children younger than some established age should never face criminal procedures or punishments - affirms that a general principle of international law exists in this context, bringing legal obligations for all countries.


Donald Joseph Cipriani

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