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Old Enough To Do The Crime, Not Old Enough To Do The Time?

By Matthew Walsh / Oct 14, 2020 01:03 PM / Politics & Law

A boy who stabbed his mother to death after she beat him for smoking in the house. Another who killed both his parents with a hammer during a domestic dispute. A third who inexplicably murdered a 10-year-old girl living in the same housing complex.

The three cases, which occurred in China in 2018 and 2019, grabbed public attention not just for their brutality, but also because the perpetrators — all children under the age of 14 — were too young to be held criminally liable for the killings.

But that might be about to change. At a legislative session in Beijing this week, top lawmakers will consider a draft amendment that would lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old from 14 for certain “egregious” acts of murder or intentional injury.

The amendment is part of a raft of proposed tweaks to China’s Criminal Law to be discussed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the country’s legislature.

But the draft amendment is controversial. While proponents say it would bring down juvenile delinquency rates, some legal practitioners and scholars have claimed it would criminalize youngsters before they reach maturity and may not have a significant impact on crime.

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