France announces plans to stop under-13s from facing prosecution

Children younger than 13 will no longer be able to be prosecuted in France, the country’s justice minister has announced. Nicole Belloubet revealed the government plans to introduce new reform that will mean under-13s who commit crimes will not face criminal charges, regardless of their actions. They will instead be handled by social workers, in an attempt to increase the speed at which cases involving young offenders are dealt with. It currently takes an average of 18 months for these procedures to be finalised. Under current French law, only children under 10 can face criminal charges, but even those as old as 13 cannot go to prison. Young offenders are usually put under house arrest, forced to undertake training or, in some circumstances, placed in foster care. Belloubet said the reform would stop wasting the time of judges and prosecutors, and bring France in line with international law. But, the plan has attracted controversy, with the president of Paris’ regional council denouncing the reform as a “grave decision” and a “denial of realities”. “We are delivering these children to the predators,” Valérie Pécresse said. “The older ones will pervert the kids to do the dirty work.” The announcement came a year after a 10-year-old boy was charged with arson after a woman and her three children died in a fire. In 2016, an 11-year-old boy in Lyon stabbed his classmate in the stomach and was later charged with attempted murder.

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