n South African Journal of Psychology - Neuroscience, moral development, criminal capacity, and the Child Justice Act : justice or injustice?

Volume 45, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0081-2463
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The Child Justice Act of 2008 has set the minimum age for criminal capacity at 10 years with a rebuttable presumption of criminal incapacity between the ages of 10 and 14 years. The legislation requires that expert evidence be led (by clinical psychologists or psychiatrists) in order to assist the court to determine whether accused children and adolescents between 10 and 14 years of age can be held criminally responsible. The Child Justice Act requires an examination of the cognitive, moral, emotional, psychological, and social development of the accused child/adolescent. This article critically examines the neuroscience literature on brain development, decision-making and moral development in children and adolescents as it relates to legal prescripts inherent in the Child Justice Act, in particular with regard to accused children and adolescents' understanding of the wrongfulness of an act, and their ability to act in accordance with that understanding.

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