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Don’t charge children below 12, UNICEF recommends

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) is being urged to amend its “internationally unacceptable” law that places the minimum age of criminal responsibility at 10 years.

Effectively, the current minimum age of criminal responsibility means that a child below 10 years old cannot be charged for any act he/she has committed.

The current age is too low and should be increased to at least 12 years old in order to conform with the Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC), said the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

It made the recommendation in a report tabled this month in the House of Assembly titled: Current State of Legislation in the Eastern Caribbean and British Overseas Territories.

UNICEF said: “[We recommend] establishment of a single fixed minimum age of criminal responsibility, and raising this when it is too low, bearing in mind the facts of emotional, mental and intellectual maturity. Below 12 years is internationally unacceptable.”

In calling for a single fixed minimum age of criminal responsibility, UNICEF noted that the age is 10 years in the Criminal Code, although another piece of legislation may also have a bearing on how the matter is handled. That other piece of legislation, UNICEF said, allows children below 14 years to escape criminal responsibility if it can be proven that they did not have the capacity to know they were doing something wrong.

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