#AceNewsReport -Mar.14: After following guidelines laid down by ‘ UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, lawmakers amended the ‘ Criminal Code ‘ in 2014 to confirm that age of ‘ Criminal Responsibility ‘ should be increased from 9-14-years of age, duly enacted criminals used the changes as ‘ Modern Day Fagin’s to avoid prosecution by getting the youngsters to ‘ Pick a Pocket or Two ‘ ….
Times of Malta reported Under-14s still used by adults for crime trying to avoid the long arm of the law, according to Appoġġ, the government welfare agency .
In November, this newspaper reported the agency’s concerns that amendments to the Criminal Code enacted in 2014, when the age of criminal responsibility was raised from nine years to 14, had created a worrying trend of criminals using children to commit crimes on their behalf, including theft and drug #trafficking.
Asked for an update on the situation, a spokeswoman for the agency said that the situation had in fact persisted.
Incidents of underage criminality tackled by Appoġġ also involved vandalism, turbulent relationships with parents, partners and others, substance abuse, promiscuity, self-identity crises, petty crime, school absenteeism and expulsions, the spokeswoman added. “The agency believes that action should still be taken against these youths, with the primary aim being to help them receive help by attending adolescent programmes or other necessary services and be followed by social workers instead of being sentenced,” she said.
Last year, Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said he was considering further legal reforms to stop criminals from using children in illegal activity.
“The onusof criminal responsibility is a heavy one that children should not be expected to shoulder before 14”
Asked for an update on the situation, a spokeswoman for Mr Abela said the government had explored the possibility of lowering the age of legal responsibility.
“Following discussions, it transpired that the idea behind raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 was to comply with the requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and also to deal with cases of juvenile delinquency through the social welfare system rather than through criminal law,” she said.
She added that criminals did not have “an open licence” to use minors to commit crimes.
“Anyone doing so is still subject to the sanctions of criminal law and, depending on the offence, may also be committing an offence against the minors themselves,” she said.
While legal experts questioned whether raising the legal age of responsibility went a step too far, Children’s Commissioner Pauline Miceli defended the move.
The onus of criminal responsibility was a heavy one that children should not be expected to shoulder before 14, she said.
Official figures show that last year, 346 youths under the age of 18 were arraigned in connection with alleged criminal activity.
Appoġġ said the number of adolescents involved in crimes was “ever increasing” and it was very concerned about this given that a huge number of adolescents were being involved in crime.
“Their involvement in such activities is due to their social background, drug problems, money and so on,” the agency spokeswoman said.
She said social workers followed youths who had diverse issues and engaged with those who were arrested or serving a sentence.
“The reason is that preparatory work for the outside world can be done at this stage, since they are in a contained environment.
“Being in a secure unit or residential home will give these adolescents the opportunity to really change and do something with their lives,” the spokeswoman said.
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