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Book Review: Cipriani’s Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

This install­ment in our ongo­ing series of book reviews looks at Children’s Rights and the Min­i­mum Age of Crim­i­nal Respon­si­bil­i­ty by Don Cipri­ani. Michael Gigante’s review takes a crit­i­cal eye towards the argu­ments Cipri­ani advances in favor of requir­ing all nations to estab­lish a min­i­mum age of crim­i­nal respon­si­bil­i­ty.

By Michael V. Gigante

Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal ResponsibilityIdeas about the prop­er role of crim­i­nal respon­si­bil­i­ty in juve­nile jus­tice tend to fall along a wel­fare-jus­tice con­tin­u­um. The wel­fare approach, promi­nent at the birth of the mod­ern notion of a juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem, essen­tial­ly dis­missed the notions of com­pe­tence and crim­i­nal respon­si­bil­i­ty for chil­dren. State author­i­ties inter­vened to make benev­o­lent deci­sions on behalf of chil­dren, who were por­trayed as objects with­out lib­er­ty rights. On the oth­er end of the con­tin­u­um, the jus­tice approach—towards which clear shifts have occurred in recent decades—places crim­i­nal respon­si­bil­i­ty and children’s alleged com­pe­tence at the cen­ter of juve­nile jus­tice. Account­abil­i­ty, due process, and pun­ish­ment are the foun­da­tions of this approach. In Children’s Rights and the Min­i­mum Age of Crim­i­nal Respon­si­bil­i­ty: A Glob­al Per­spec­tive, Don Cipri­ani points out the flaws of both these approach­es and describes the mer­its of a children’s rights approach as a way to medi­ate between the ten­sions of the wel­fare and jus­tice approach­es.

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