The gang rape of an 18-year-old woman in the western city of Mulheim in Germany’s industrial Ruhr region has ignited a debate on bringing down the age of criminal responsibility, as two of the five suspects in the case are aged 12 and the western country does not prosecute minors under 14.
The victim of the lengthy assault, which involved “considerable violence,” according to a statement by the local police, was found lying in bushes late last Friday and was immediately rushed to hospital.
"For years we've been demanding that the age of criminal responsibility be lowered in Germany," the head of the police force union , Rainer Wendt was cited by BBC as saying, cuickly countered by Jens Gnisa, head of the German Association of Judges.
"The equation 'more punishment equals less criminality' does not work with youths," he argued, his stance echoed by a senior Child Protection Agency official cited by media as saying that the Mulheim sexual abuse case requires strict measures to be taken by the Youth Welfare Office to tackle the suspects' behavioural issues.
The minimum age of criminal responsibility varies across Europe, with several countries setting it at 14 like Germany and Italy, while Scandinavia deems 15 as the appropriate age to should criminal responsibility, the Child Rights International Network (CRIN) reports.
When it comes to the UK, Scotland raised the minimum age from eight to 12, while the minimum age in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 10 following the case of two-year-old James Bulger, who was murdered by two ten-year-old boys in 1993.