Vietnam’s parliament debates criminal liability of children aged 14-16

Thursday, 2017-05-25 12:20:37
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Deputy Bui Van Xuyen from Thai Binh province
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NDO - The National Assembly remained split over whether to bring criminal charges against children aged between 14 and 16 for a number of crimes regardless of their severity as it debated changes to the 2015 Criminal Code on May 24.

Current legislation stipulates that this age group must take criminal liability for intentionally inflicting injury or harming other people, cases of rape or kidnap involving the demand of ransom, in addition to other highly severe and extremely severe crimes.

Such provisions were passed by the National Assembly in 2015 as the country was witnessing a rise in the number of the first three crimes listed above.

But the government has now proposed reducing liability for the three above-mentioned crimes, in favour of educational, conciliatory, administrative and censuring measures.

Under the government’s proposal, juveniles between 14 and 16 who commit such offences should only be prosecuted if their acts are classified as highly severe or extremely severe.

Deputy Bui Van Xuyen from Thai Binh province agreed with the government’s motion, stating that children are not yet fully physically and mentally mature, so criminal punishment must be weighed up carefully and more educational and humane measures should be prioritised.

Sharing the same view, Deputy Do Thi Lan from Quang Ninh said that if children have to take criminal liability for these crimes, regardless of their severity, they will have no chance to correct their mistakes and grow up.

Deputy Nguyen Thi Thuy from Bac Kan noted that in three years from 2014 to 2016, only 122 children were charged with intentionally inflicting injury or harm to other people, meaning there was less than one child in each province to be criminally punished each year.

Moreover, only nine juveniles were charged with rape and two with kidnapping for ransom.

She judged that the 2015 Penal Code is too severe on children, which in effect blurs the line between child and adult, suggesting that children in this age group only have to take criminal liability for offences of high or extreme severity as proposed by the government.

However, a number of other deputies are inclined to keep these provisions unchanged.

Deputy Nguyen Thi Phuc said that punishment should not be made lighter because lately the number of juvenile crimes has been on the rise along with an increase in the degree of severity.

For his part, Deputy Nguyen Ngoc Phuong from Quang Binh said that the age of first-offence criminals is becoming younger with increasing severity, causing insecurity in society; therefore, such offences must be strongly disciplined to prevent similar incidents and make the community safer.

Meanwhile Deputy Nguyen Huu Chinh from Hanoi said that both maintaining and narrowing criminal liability are inappropriate.

He said keeping the current provisions is incompatible with the policy towards juvenile delinquency while with the proposed changes, the government has yet to clarify why these crimes are selected and not others, some of which are even more dangerous.

He cited an example that currently citizens aged 14-16 must be criminally responsible for robbery but not for swindling property.

The National Assembly is scheduled to vote on the changes to the 2015 Criminal Code on June 20.