Prosecutor General (PG) Hussain Shameem has said that lowering the age of criminal responsibility (ACR) is not the solution to prevent children from committing crimes.

His comments were in response to comments made by Attorney General (AG) Ahmed Usham who said that the administration will seek to lower the ACR from 15 to 12. The AG made the comment on Saturday while speaking at a press conference in connection with the physical attack and torture of a child by a group of children in Rasdhoo Island, Alifu Alifu (AA) Atoll.

The administration will look to make several amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act of 2019 and raising the ACR is one of them, Usham said.

“The administration has now decided to change the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years,” the AG said.

In addition, the administration will work to clarify legal procedure for when a child has to be detained, Usham said, especially since the jurisdictional authority around issuing of warrants for a child remains unclear.

Education Minister Ismail Shafiu has confirmed that 26 cases of harassment have been reported to the ministry so far this year. While acknowledging that it was a relatively high number, he said that one of the biggest challenges in addressing the problem of bullying was the lack of counsellors at schools. There are only around 50 schools across the country that are staffed with counsellors, the education minister said.

Shameem, in a post to social media, said that while the ACR in Maldives is 15 years, the nation’s criminal justice system makes provisions on how to punish younger offenders.

“There are mechanisms to take action, there are procedures surrounding it, only thing needed is [follow through] action, the PG said.

Shameem stated that, in light of global case studies, when it comes to younger offenders, education and treatment was a better solution than criminal punishment. Incarcerating children at an early age could lead to a new generation of criminals, Shameem said.

“The result is that they don’t hesitate to spend their lives in crime… To avoid childhood crimes, those young minds should be made to understand and rehabilitated, we might all have committed crimes as children, if all those crimes were punished and led to imprisonment, there would be no people in society today to talk about this,” he added.

Meanwhile, police have confirmed that they are investigating, with the cooperation of other state agencies, the incident of a physical attack inside a mosque in Rasdhoo, which was caught on video.