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AU Scholars | Children, Crime, and Punishment

Spring 2015

  1. Research question: How does criminal responsibility attach onto children under the different legal systems found in the world?
  2. Goal of the research experience: The goal of the research experience is for students to learn how the criminal law deals with children who break the law under different legal systems in the world (i.e., under civil, common, religious law system). The practice of holding children criminally responsible varies widely across countries and over time. Students will seek to understand the principles of criminal liability that support disparate practices outside of the United States.
  3. Product of the research experience: Students will be required to select a country (approved by the professor) and to explain its practice with respect to holding children, juveniles, or minors criminally responsible. They will be required to research not only the current practice in their country, but also relevant historical development within the practice. Relatedly, students will research the underlying principles of criminal liability that have been offered in support of the practice in their select country, with particular attention paid to the kind of legal system the country has (civil, common, religious). As the criminal law of a particular country often itself does not explicitly endorse a “theory” of criminal liability, and the legal theorists who do explicate such accounts often disagree on which account best explains existing legal practice, students will be expected to lay out the plausible theories put forth to explain the practice in their country and then articulate, based on their research, which theory fits best with the practice. Then, they will be encouraged to seek out recent literature in the normative and empirical sciences (i.e., moral theory and psychology) to see whether that account is justified on the basis of independent research conducted outside the law. Students will be required to produce a final research paper that systematically tackles these difficult issues.
  4. Research Skills: Students will several important research skills in this course. First, they will learn how to conduct comparative research by examining legal practice within a different (i.e., non-US country). Secondly, they will sharpen their ability to grasp differences in the various legal systems in the world. Thirdly, they will develop the skill of socio-legal research by examining what accounts for changes in the law over time. Fourthly, their abilities to make normative and policy arguments for possible legal change will be cultivated.