Dutch Government to consider raising age of criminal responsibility to ‘at least’ 14

Date: 29th March 2018
Category: Child justice system

An independent advisory body to the Dutch Government has recommended raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 12 to 'at least' 14 years following a comprehensive study on the matter.

The advisory body, entitled the Council for the Administration of Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles, is an independent body to the Dutch Government and is established by law. The request for the advisory body to develop a report on raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility was made by the former State Secretary for Security and Justice. The study that was undertaken to inform the report involved a comprehensive literature study and interviews with professionals and experts in the field of juvenile justice.

The Council underlines in its report that criminal justice interventions should be regarded as a last resort for children under 14 years of age. Instead, voluntary or involuntary youth care and assistance should be the preferred method of support. The Council also notes that investment in the youth care system must therefore be a priority if the minimum age of criminal responsibility is to be raised.

The Council stresses that a minimum age should reflect the age at which a young person understands what happens during criminal proceedings. The report's findings state that juveniles should only qualify for criminal prosecution if they are capable and competent of grasping the consequences of their own actions.

The study was debated in Dutch Parliament on the 15th March 2018.

This consideration by the Dutch Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 comes after legislation has been introduced to Scottish Parliament which will see the minimum age raised to 12, an age which the UN considers an absolute minimum standard.