Age limit for young offenders to be raised to 18 | The New Paper

Age limit for young offenders to be raised to 18

This article is more than 12 months old

A law to protect young offenders and vulnerable children up to age 16 is to be amended to include under-18s so that more young people can receive better care.

The move will also ensure swift and better protection for abused children, help offenders re-integrate into society by erasing their criminal records after they complete their Youth Court orders, and shield them from possible harm from being with older offenders in adult prisons.

These are among the positive outcomes from extending the age limit that were spelt out by Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee in Parliament yesterday, when he presented the Children and Young Persons (Amendment) Bill for debate.

The age limit change is among four areas of suggested amendments to the Children and Young Persons Act, which provides for the welfare, care, protection and rehabilitation of children aged under 16.

Said Mr Lee: "There are many reasons why youths commit offences. Sometimes it is because of challenging family circumstances, negative influences or the absence of family support.

"Young people who are 16 years and above who commit offences are tried as adults in the State Courts or the Community Court, unless they are diverted away from the criminal justice system.

"But studies have shown these young people may still not have the full cognitive maturity of adults."

The changes include the expansion of the Youth Court's jurisdiction to hear cases of young offenders including under-18, except for more serious offences.

Currently, offenders aged 16 and older are tried as adults in the State Courts or the Community Court, unless the courts order they receive community-based programmes instead of being punished under the criminal justice system.

With the proposed changes, offenders under the age of 18 will by default have their cases heard at the Youth Court.


But with youths who commit serious offences - such as unlicensed money lending and gang or drug-related activities - or are repeat offenders, the public prosecutor has the discretion to charge them in the Youth Court or another appropriate Court, such as the State Courts.

In an effort to enhance safety in the Ministry's Youth Homes, the Youth Court can also decide to detain a youth at a Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre if he is between the ages of 14 and 18. Now, they can go to these centres only if they are under 16.

The Youth Court will also have the discretion to order the offender to undergo Reformative Training in the first instance, without going through the Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre.