A 13-year-old boy from China has avoided jail time after he murdered a 10-year-old girl in early October.
The teenager, who has been identified only as Cai, reportedly lured the victim to his home in the city of Dalian. He then sexually assaulted her before stabbing her to death and leaving her body in a ditch close to her family home. Her parents found her the following day.
Following sentencing, Cai will serve just three years in a rehabilitation facility. Being below the age of 14 – the Chinese age of criminal responsibility – this is the heaviest punishment Cai could receive under current legislation.
According to BBC News, the victim’s family had been seeking ‘the most severe punishment for the murder’.
Under normal circumstances, Chinese law dictates only minors between the ages of 16 and 18 can be held criminally responsible. However, for serious offences such as murder, rape and robbery, those aged between 14 and 16 may be tried for serious offences.
For criminals below the age of 16 who do not face criminal charges, parents or guardians are expected to discipline them. If necessary, they will be placed in a rehabilitation centre.
As reported by China Daily, police officers feel Cai’s parents lack the ability to discipline their son, meaning he has been sent to a rehabilitation centre, with his lax sentencing sparking heated debate among Chinese citizens.
Some have called for changes to current laws surrounding the age of criminal responsibility in China, arguing for it to be lowered in accordance with the needs of contemporary society. However, others have cautioned against changing the law based on individual cases.
According to China Daily, Luo Xiang, criminal justice professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, has suggested the age could be lowered from 14 to 12:
Theoretically speaking, people of any age should bear criminal responsibility if they commit intentional homicide.
Xiang has argued how the field of Criminal Law should follow the example of the General Provisions of the Civil Law, which decided to lower the age of no civil capability from 10 to 8 to adjust to society’s practical needs.
This view is shared by public interest lawyer Zhao Liangshan, who has reportedly made the following comments:
Children are precocious now; it’s necessary to adjust the age of criminal responsibility.
UN recommendations suggest the age of criminal responsibility should be no lower than 14.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2:30 and 7-9:30). Alternatively you can contact Victim Support on 08 08 16 89 111.
Male Survivors Partnership is available to support adult male survivors of sexual abuse and rape. You can contact the organisation on its website or on its helpline – 0808 800 5005.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.