Age limits and status offences
The minimum age of criminal responsibility and maximum age of a child court’s jurisdiction have profound impacts on children and their interactions with the justice system, both in terms of whether or not a child can be held criminally liable for their actions and in terms of the applicable safeguards.
In addition, the existence of status offences can lead to unnecessary contact with the justice system and deprivation of liberty. A “status offence” refers to conduct that is unlawful only because the offender is a minor.[i] Common examples of status offences include truancy, running away from home, violating curfew, underage drinking, and general ungovernability.[ii] Engagement in status offending behaviour is often indicative of underlying personal, familial, community, and systemic issues.[iii]
In countries like Brazil and Egypt, children engaging in status offending behaviours are constantly victimised by the police and stigmatised by the society from a very young age.[iv]
Justice for children can only be fully realised if it takes into consideration the underlying and often serious vulnerability factors of children exhibiting status offending behaviours. Furthermore, children should not be subjected to legal procedures and punishment for offences that do not apply to adults.
[i] Arthur, Patricia J. and Waugh, Regina (2008) “Status Offenses and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act: The Seattle Journal for Social Justice: Vol. 7: Iss. 2, Article 10, available at: https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/sjsj/vol7/iss2/10.
[ii] Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “Status Offences”, available at: https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh176/files/media/document/status_offenders.pdf.
[iii] Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “Status Offences”, available at: https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh176/files/media/document/status_offenders.pdf.
[iv] Child Rights International Network (CRIN), “Discrimination and Disenfranchisement: A Global Report on Status Offences (Third Edition)”, available at: https://archive.crin.org/sites/default/files/crin_status_offences_global_report_0.pdf.
Disclaimer: Authors are the Global Initiative on Justice with Children with pro-bono support from Baker McKenzie. This section represents one among other positions of some members of the World Congress Consortium and does not necessarily represent the view of all institutions and members involved.