The minimum age of criminal responsibility set by different countries ranges hugely from as low as six up to 18 years of age. The median age is 12.
However, in nearly all countries, children above the age of criminal responsibility can be arrested, detained and imprisoned. This means that children are drawn at an early age into criminal justice systems that can stigmatise them and damage their long-term prospects and opportunities.
This Briefing paper examines what the international standards say about the minimum age of criminal responsibility, looks at how minimum ages work in practice and provides a series of recommendations on what measures states can take to ensure that they meet international standards, in particular the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and improve their responses to children in the criminal justice system.
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