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Putting the Age of Criminal and Tort Liability into Context: A Dialogue between Law and Psychology

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The concepts of 'liability age' and 'capacity responsibility' have been widely dissected by researchers in various fields. However, their application to both criminal and tort liability of children remains inconsistent. Furthermore, rarely has an interdisciplinary approach adequately dealt with these concepts and their impact on legal norms. This text investigates the notion of criminal and tort liability age in connection with the notion of capacity responsibility, in relation to children, and further questions the adequacy of the relevant legal norms. This endeavour to improve the applicable legal norms is supported by an analysis of the pertinent findings in the field of psychology, particularly in respect of the moral development of children. Informed by an excursion through the ideas of Piaget, Kohlberg, and Gilligan, among others, regarding the moral development of children, the text also serves to assess the impact of concepts of moral responsibility and maturity, in relation to the development of the legal norms, which determine the age of liability of children. The text concludes with a proposal for a criminal and tort liability age framework, based upon indicative/presumptive age milestones, and an integrated approach to all relevant circumstances in casu.

Affiliations: 1: School of Law, The University of Manchester

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