A child under the age of seven is generally considered an infant: that is, he has no knowledge of right or wrong in any appreciable degree so as to make him criminally liable for his actions. Thus, if a seven year old boy took his father’s gun, pointed it at his friend and pulled the trigger, the child cannot and will not be charged criminally.
For one, he may not yet have sufficient understanding that pointing a gun toward his friend may cause the gun to go off and his friend might be injured .
A child has no foresight and cannot predict the possible consequences of his actions. He might even think that the gun is a toy and may not comprehend that the bullets in the gun might actually cause bodily injury or death. In this instance, the child’s infancy is looked upon by the law as a circumstance that exempts him from criminal liability. A child under seven years of age is presumed by the law as incapable of criminal intent.
A child beyond the age of seven is a different matter. The same child who is eight or ten years old is capable of understanding that his father’s gun is not a toy. He can comprehend that the bullets, when fired by the gun can cause injury or death. He will be criminally charged. But that is not to say that he can and will be found guilty.
To successfully prosecute a child beyond seven and under thirteen years of age, the prosecution must not only present evidence of his act, they must also prove his criminal intent. The prosecution must prove that he intended for the act to cause harm to his friend. This is the tricky part for the prosecution: they must be able to prove that the child knew that the gun was loaded; he must know that pointing a loaded gun is wrong; and that a gun loaded with bullets if fired can cause harm.
The prosecution must also prove that despite this knowledge, the child persisted in pointing the gun, firing it because he fully intended to cause harm to another. In this case of a child over seven and under fourteen, the law no longer presumes the child incapable of criminal intent.
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.