When are children liable?
KIndians are too young at 12 or 13 to be legally eligible for a offense could be prosecuted. The legislature at least assumes that people under the age of 14 do not yet have the mental and moral maturity to be able to see the injustice of an act. According to the Criminal Code and supplementing the Juvenile Courts Act, which has existed for exactly one hundred years, it is not possible to hold them criminally responsible.
In the past, when children under the age of 14 committed a crime, there were regular calls for the age of criminal responsibility to be lowered. In 2019, for example, the Berlin CDU together with the German Police Union, after an eighteen-year-old girl was raped by two twelve-year-old boys in Mülheim an der Ruhr. According to a union representative at the time, the goal was not “to put children in jail,” but rather to use the authority of judges.
No reason for a new debate
Roman Poseck, Hessian Minister of Justice since last year and previously President of the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court, does not rule out that the debate could be started again now. “But I have a very clear position: the current case does not give any reason to introduce a new criminal responsibility limit. The age of criminal responsibility at 14 has proven its worth,” he says. Criminal law is the wrong approach for this age group; the youth welfare law also offers the possibility of a hearing by judges. “One can think about whether perpetrators under criminal responsibility should be brought into contact with the judiciary more quickly – but within the framework of youth welfare law.” Poseck also points out that serious crimes would not be prevented by a different age limit.
Theresia Höynck, professor of child and youth law at the Institute for Social Affairs at the University of Kassel, also fails to see that Freudenberg’s act creates new arguments for changing the age limit. In the recent federal elections, only the far right had the demand for a downgrade in its programs; Otherwise, however, “reason prevailed that the levers for dealing with problematic young people lie elsewhere”. Nevertheless, she considers the age limit, which like any age limit has a certain arbitrary element, to be appropriate.
Höynck, who primarily deals with children and young people as perpetrators and victims in research projects, does not state that they are more mature today than they used to be. Even if they emulate young adults in their appearance and demeanor, they are just as insecure, emotional, vulnerable and manipulable as they were 50 years ago.