Antigua: UNICEF advised plans to raise age of criminal responsibility

Antigua Observer:- The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has indicated that the government of Antigua & Barbuda has discussed with it plans to push the age of criminal responsibility, now at eight years, up to the age of 12.

But the organisation expressed the hope that the age would eventually be set at 16 years.

According to the UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Maria Cristina Perceval, in conjunction with an increase in the age of responsibility, UNICEF wants Antigua & Barbuda to further reform its juvenile justice system.

“You need to think of children and adolescents when you think of the criminal law. UNICEF understands that a child needs love and not prisons … I’m sure that we [in Antigua & Barbuda] are moving forward,” she said.

“You have to raise the age but at the same time to design and implement a specific system for children and adolescents … We need justice that looks for children as children, adolescents as adolescents and adults as adults,” she added.

Perceval visited Antigua & Barbuda yesterday and held a meeting with officials of the government. She was accompanied by the UNICEF Representative for the Eastern Caribbean Area, Khin-Sandi Lwin.

Lwin told OBSERVER media that the body would like to see a “diversion programme” that would prevent juvenile offenders from being jailed alongside adults. She added that “community service” should be looked at more as an alternative to institutionalisation.

When asked how the country compared with others in the Eastern Caribbean region regarding its age of criminal responsibility she indicated that many other jurisdictions have a higher age.

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