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Denmark: Criminal Age May Be Lowered

(Jan. 26, 2010) Denmark's parliament began hearings on January 12, 2010, on a bill that would lower the age of criminal responsibility to 14. At present, it appears that the government has a majority likely to vote for the bill. If passed, the measure would make it possible for young people to be sentenced to up to 16 years of imprisonment upon conviction for murder. Present Danish law states that those under 18 years of age, no matter what crime they have committed, may only be sentenced to up to eight years in prison. (Government Set to Lower Criminal Age, COPENHAGEN POST, Jan. 12, 2010, available at

Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen, commenting on the proposal, gave his view that “[i]f you're old enough to commit the crime then you're old enough to do the time, just like everyone else.” He added “[i]t doesn't seem reasonable to me that younger perpetrators should automatically get a break. Concern for the victim may outweigh considerations for the offender's age.” (Id.)

Although the change has the support of the Liberal, Conservative, and Danish People's Parties, it has been opposed by the parliamentary Youth Commission, which recommended that the maximum sentence for those under 18 years of age be eight years. Eva Smith, a member of the Commission, stated that no matter “how bestial or disgusting their crime is, in my eyes we're still just dealing with an older child – an immature human being. … A young teenager should always be given a second chance.” (Id.)