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Can teenager be sentenced for committing crimes?

By Bamidele Kolawole

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The regime of the sentencing and treatment of a juvenile offender that has been found liable for a criminal offence forms a part of the larger framework of protection of the rights of Nigerian child under the larger Nigerian legal system.

Oluwanike Omotayo Esq.

With the prevalence of Criminal activities in our society and the effect of peer pressure, it is not unlikely to find teenagers engage in criminal acts. But are they free from Criminal Responsibility?

I will answer in the negative and state that although a teenager below 18 years of age is a minor, However a teenager between ages 13-19 does not fall under the category of a minor exempted from Criminal Responsibility under the relevant laws. Therefore, a teenager can be sentenced for committing crimes.

A Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan sometimes in March 2022 sentenced a teenager to 8 months imprisonment for Cyber crime.

 In relation to Capital offence however, Section 405 of the Administration of a criminal Justice Act provides that no sentence of death shall be pronounced or recorded on a child offender who had not attained the age of 18 years at the time the offence was committed, but in lieu of it, the court can sentence such a child to life imprisonment or to a term as the Court may consider appropriate in consideration of the principles in section 402 of the Act.

However Section 405 of the ACJA goes on to provide that apart from life imprisonment, the court may sentence the child offender to such other term as the court may deem appropriate in consideration of the principles in section 401 of the Act.

The said section 401(2) prescribes the objectives the court may have in mind when determining a sentence and one of such objectives is “rehabilitation, that is, the objective of providing the convict with treatment or training that will make him into a reformed citizen.

Obada Toyosi Charles Esq

In Nigeria, a teenager can be sentenced for committing crimes. The Child Rights Act defines a child as a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years, and the law establishes a child justice administration system for juvenile justice.1The Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA) is the primary law that governs the juvenile justice system in Nigeria.

The CYPA defines a juvenile as a person under the age of 18.2Juveniles who commit crimes are tried in juvenile courts. Juvenile courts are different from adult courts in a number of ways.

For example, juvenile courts are less formal and more focused on rehabilitation than punishment.

3. If a juvenile is found guilty of a crime, the juvenile court may impose a variety of sentences, including: Probation, Fines, Community service, placement in a juvenile detention center, incarceration in a prison.

The type of sentence that is imposed will depend on the severity of the crime, the juvenile’s age and criminal history, and other factors. In general, the CYPA discourages the incarceration of juveniles.

However, juveniles can be incarcerated if they commit serious crimes or if they are considered to be a danger to themselves or others.

The CYPA also provides for a number of alternatives to incarceration, such as probation, community service, and placement in a juvenile detention center. These alternatives are designed to help juveniles rehabilitate and become productive members of society.

It is important to note that the CYPA is not always implemented effectively in Nigeria. There are a number of challenges facing the juvenile justice system, such as  lack of resources and corruption. However, the CYPA does provide a framework for the sentencing of juvenile offenders in Nigeria.

And, in general, the CYPA discourages the incarceration of juveniles and favors rehabilitation over punishment. The Children and Young Persons Act deals with the punishment of children and young people who break the law and specifically forbids children’s detention.

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4. If a teenager commits a crime in Nigeria, they may go through the juvenile justice system, which is designed to handle cases involving minors. The court proceedings in these cases are generally more informal, and the focus is on the welfare and best interests of the child.

 Penalties for juvenile offenders can include community service, counseling, probation, or placement in a juvenile correctional facility, depending on the circumstances and the seriousness of the offense.

It’s important to note that Nigeria is a federal country, and there may be variations in the implementation of juvenile justice laws and procedures at the state level.

Additionally, international conventions and treaties, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, influence Nigeria’s approach to juvenile justice. Overall, while teenagers can be sentenced for committing crimes in Nigeria, the legal system generally aims to provide rehabilitation and support for young offenders rather than focusing solely on punitive measures.

The law also provides for the sentencing of juveniles, and the court may consider several methods for dealing with a child found guilty of committing an offense.

5. However, there have been cases of teenagers being sentenced to harsh punishments, such as a teenager sentenced to 10 years in prison for blasphemy in northern Nigeria.

6. It is important to note that the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of a Child and the Nigerian constitution protect the rights of children, and the sentencing of juveniles should be in compliance with international standards.

Ajayi Adetiloye Victor Esq.

Teenagers aged 12 to 17 years can have their freedom taken away if they are found guilty of a crime. But they are sentenced to custody instead of being sentenced to prison. This means they don’t go to prison but are sent to youth centers.

Teenagers who commit crimes are not usually placed in custody. Different states of the Federation established family courts both at the magistrate court called Juvenile Court in order to look into the issue of teenagers who commit crimes. 

Sections 149 to 151 of Ondo State Child Rights Law 2007 give power to the court to handle the issue of crime when it comes to the issue of teenagers. 

In the affirmative, a teenager can be sentenced for committing a crime but will not be in prison but at the children’s home.

Tomisin Fajulugbe Esq

The regime of the sentencing and treatment of a juvenile offender that has been found liable for a criminal offence forms a part of the larger framework of protection of the rights of Nigerian child under the larger Nigerian legal system.

 The Juvenile offender is not only protected under the constitutionally entrenched fundamental human right in chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, but also enjoys special legal protection and coverage under the Child’s Right Act.

These provisions create a framework for the proper sentencing and treatment of the juvenile as well as regulate the institutions that would enforce the sentences. Nigeria has adopted various age demarcations under which responsibility may or may not be assigned depending on the circumstances or the offence.

Thus, a child below the age of 7 is not criminally responsible for any act or omission. A child between the ages of 7-12 will not normally be held responsible for his actions unless it can be proved that at the time of committing the offence he had the capacity to know that he ought not to do it.

A male child under the age of 12 is always assumed to be incapable of having carnal knowledge and therefore cannot be held responsible for offences requiring that element.

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A child above 12 is fully responsible for his actions; however such a child remains subject to criminal proceedings in a juvenile court until the age of 18.

The Child’s Right Act provides that No child shall be ordered to be imprisoned, even when a young offender is guilty of an offence his age must be considered as a strong mitigating factor in fixing sentencing.

Under the Child’s Right Act, the court in the determination of cases involving a child offender is prohibited from ordering the imprisonment of the child offender, subject the child offender to corporal punishment or death penalty or have death penalty recorded against a child offender.

Jerry Adeyogbe Esq

The word “teenager” would not be apt while discussing the sentencing of young offenders under the relevant law relating to the punishment of such persons.

The reason is not far fetched, and that is because the age bracket of teenagers as defined in Page 1534 of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, International Student’s Edition include persons between “13 and 19 years old”.

On the contrary, Section 2 (1) of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1943 defines Young Persons as “a person who has attained the age of 14 years and is under the age of 17 years”. Although the foregoing is silent on the persons of ages 18 18eighteen and 19 are also teenagers.

Section 2 (1) of the same Children and Young Persons Act, 1943 also defines a Child as “a person under the age of 14 years” thus, suggesting that persons of age 13 can still regarded as *teenagers*

Furthermore, Section 29 (4) (a) the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) pegs the majority age of Nigerians at 18 years and above.

Still as a prelude, Section 2 (2) of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1943 expressly provides as follows “Where by this Law, it is provided that a person on the commission of an offence shall be liable to a penalty, whether by way of imprisonment or fine or otherwise, *the age of that person* shall for the purpose of *sentence* be his age at the time when the offence was committed”

In discussing whether a young person can be sentenced for committing crimes. It is also key to observe that “sentencing” could be punitive and/or reformative in nature depending on the circumstances and/or nature of the alleged offence.

Notably, however, the use of the words “sentence” or “conviction” in relation to children and young persons dealt with in a juvenile court, have been abolished by virtue of Section 16 of the Act.  

Furthermore, Section 11 of the Act provides “No child shall be ordered to be imprisoned” Sub-section 2 equally provides that “No young person shall be ordered to be imprisoned if he can be suitably dealt with any other way whether by probation, fine, corporal punishment, committal to a place of detention or to an approved institution, or otherwise.” 

However, according to sub-section 3, in the event a young person is ordered to be imprisoned, he/she shall “not be allowed to associate with adult prisoners.”

Emphatically, irrespective of the nature of the alleged offence, the law protects a child and/or any young persons from being sentenced, particularly, if such offender is convicted of felonies. For instance, in a case murder or attempt to murder, a child or young person, if guilty shall be detained or kept at the Governor’s pleasure.

Reinforcing the foregoing position of law, Sections 12 & 13 of the Children and Young Persons Act expressly provides that “Sentence of death shall not be pronounced or recorded against any offender who had not attained the age of 17 years at the time the offence was committed, but in lieu thereof the court shall order such offender to be detained during the Governor’s pleasure and if so ordered the provisions of Part 44 of the Criminal Procedure Law shall apply.”

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Generally, the Act provides the yardsticks to determine the guilt or otherwise of a child or young offender, and these include whether: (a) dismissing the charge; or (b) discharging the offender on his entering into a recognizance; (c) by discharging the offender and placing him under the supervision of a probation officer; or (d) by committing the offender by means of a corrective order to the care of a relative or other fit person; or (e) by sending the offender by means of corrective order to an approved institution; or (f) by ordering the offender to pay a fine, damages, or costs; or (g) by ordering the parent or guardian of the offender to pay a fine, damages, or costs; or (h) by ordering the parent or guardian of the offender to give security for his good behaviour; or (i) by committing the offender to custody in a place of detention provided under this Law for a period not exceeding three months; or (j) where the offender is a young person, by ordering him to be imprisoned; or (k) by dealing with the case in any other manner in which it may be legally dealt with.”

Another guideline for sentencing juvenile offenders or better still, “young offenders” is the interest of such person to remove him from association with any reputed criminal or prostitute, and this has been expressly provided for in Section 3 of the Act.

In any event, the universal jurisprudence of law recognizes that the main object of sentencing whether handed down on children; young persons or adult is for reformation, and not for punishment.

In conclusion, it may not be out of place to reiterate that the imposition of sentencing must be done in line with the objectives of sentence which is for deterrence, rehabilitation and reintegration into the Society just as it applies in other climes like Canada too.

However, it is high time that we also extended the main objectives if sentencing to adult offenders too just the way juvenile offenders are considered.

Clement Falana Esq

Of course yes, a teenager can under go trail and convicted if he / she is found to have committed an offence known to law. We have juvenile court/ family court where young offenders can be arraigned and tried accordingly and when a juvenile is convicted he/ she will be referred to juvenile home to serve the terms, juvenile home is like a correctional centre for a convicted teenager.

David Ebriku Esq

Children under the age of 12 cannot be prosecuted. If a child commits a minor offence, for instance theft or vandalism, the police will talk to the parents.

They may also send the child to the youth care office, which will either provide counselling or refer them to other services. If a child under 12 really gets out of hand, the court will intervene by, for example, appointing a family supervisor to monitor the child.

A person under the age of 12 years is not criminally responsible for an act or omission, unless it is proved that at the time of doing the act or making the omission he had capacity to know that he ought not to do the act or make the omission.

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