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In the twilight zone: adolescent capacity in the criminal justice arena

  • Sameer P. Sarkar

Summary

The rights and duties of an adolescent has been the focus of much controversy, especially in the field of capacity and consent, and to a lesser extent in youth justice. Society is constantly reviewing how to ensure fairness to all, while not denying anyone their rights. Developments in neurobiology have forced us to rethink age-old concepts about adolescent development within competence and culpability. This article focuses on the theoretical foundations of capacity or competence and provides guidance on how to negotiate common clinical pitfalls when assessing capacity in an adolescent.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Dr Sameer P Sarkar, PO Box 3544, Wokingham, Berkshire RG40 9FA, UK. Email: spsarkar@onetel.com

Footnotes

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For a commentary on this article see pp. 12–14, this issue.

Declaration of Interest

S.P.S. is a member of the National DNA Database Ethics Group, a non-departmental public body appointed by Parliament and sponsored by the Home Office. He frequently accepts instructions from defence in determining adjudicative capacity in juveniles.

Footnotes

References

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Akinkunmi, AA (2002) The MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool – Fitness to Plead: a preliminary evaluation of a research instrument for assessing fitness to plead in England and Wales. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 30: 476–82.
Appelbaum, PS, Grisso, T, Frank, E et al (1999) Competence of depressed patients for consent to research. American Journal of Psychiatry 156: 1380–4.
Beauchamp, TL, Childress, JF (2001) Principles in Biomedical Ethics (5th edn). Oxford University Press.
Cauffman, E, Steinberg, L (2000) (Im)maturity of judgment in adolescence: why adolescents may be less culpable than adults. Behavioral Sciences and the Law 18: 741–60.
Council of Europe (2000) ‘White Paper’ on the Protection of the Human Rights and Dignity of People Suffering from Mental Disorder, Especially Those Placed as Involuntary Patients in a Psychiatric Establishment. Council of Europe.
Gaylin, W (1982) The competence of children: no longer all or none. The Hastings Center Report 12 (2): 33–8.
General Medical Council (2007) 0–18 Years: Guidance for All Doctors. GMC.
Grisso, T, Steinberg, L, Woolard, J et al (2003) Juveniles' competence to stand trial. A comparison of adolescents' and adults' capacities as trial defendants. Law and Human Behavior 27: 333–63.
Grisso, T (2006) Adolescents' decision making. A developmental perspective on constitutional provisions in delinquency cases. New England Journal of Civil and Criminal Confinement 32: 314.
Hoge, SK, Bonnie, RJ, Poythress, N et al (1999) The MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool-Criminal Adjudication. Psychological Assessment Resources.
Mill, JS (1859) On Liberty. Available at http://www.utilitarianism.com/ol/one.html.
National Policing Improvement Agency (2009) National DNA Database Annual Report 2007–2009. NPIA (http://www.npia.police.uk/en/14395.htm).
Sarkar, SP (2007) Too young to kill? U.S. Supreme Court treads a dangerous path in Roper v. Simmons. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 35: 364–72.
Sowell, ER, Thompson, PM, Tessner, KD et al (2001) Mapping continued brain growth and gray matter density reduction in dorsal frontal cortex: inverse relationships during postadolescent brain maturation. Journal of Neuroscience 21: 8819–29.
Steinberg, L (2009) Adolescent development and juvenile justice. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 5: 4773.
Eddings v. Oklahoma (1982) 455 U.S. 104.
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Re C (Adult: refusal of treatment) [1994] 1 WLR 290; [1994] 1 All ER 819.
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Roper v. Simmons (2004) 540 U.S. 1160.
R v. Pritchard (1836) 7 C & P 303.
T v. United Kingdom [2000] 2 All ER 1024.
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BJPsych Advances
  • ISSN: 1355-5146
  • EISSN: 1472-1481
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-advances
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In the twilight zone: adolescent capacity in the criminal justice arena

  • Sameer P. Sarkar
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