U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Doctrine of 'Doli Incapax'

NCJ Number
Date Published
7 pages
Current legal doctrines concerning the criminal responsibility of children ages 10-13 in England and Wales are summarized, and the views of the Penal Affairs Consortium on this issue are presented.
Children under age 10 cannot be found guilty of a criminal offense. Children ages 10-13 are presumed in law to be doli incapax (incapable of criminal intent). The prosecution must rebut this presumption before a child this age can be convicted. To rebut the presumption, the prosecution must show beyond reasonable doubt that the child appreciated that the action was seriously wrong and not merely naughty or mischievous. Although the presumption of doli incapax is a long-established part of the law, the Divisional Court sought to abolish it in 1994. The Penal Affairs Consortium regards this doctrine as an important recognition that juveniles of this age should not be considered as fully criminally responsible as adults. It should not be abolished unless this measure is accompanied by a substantial raising of the age of criminal responsibility, which is unusually low in comparison to most other Western European countries. These countries handle these children in civil court proceedings concerned with the need for compulsory measures of care. Even if the age of criminal responsibility were raised, an approach similar to the doli incapax presumption would be desirable when dealing with offenders above the age of criminal responsibility but within the juvenile court age range. Appended table and 3 references