The Legislative Assembly of Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) has approved the general outline of a government-drafted bill proposing to bring the criminal responsibility age from 16 down to 14 years for extremely serious crimes, the Macao Post Daily reported on Tuesday.
The bill was presented to a plenum, with only 24 of the total 29 lawmakers present, at the Assembly by Florinda da Rosa Silva Chan, the SAR's secretary for administration and justice, and Cheong Weng Chon, director of the Legal Affairs Bureau, the daily said.
Under the Macao Penal Code, the age of criminal responsibility, also known as defense of infancy, stands at 16, which means teenagers under the age of 16 cannot be held criminally responsible for their deeds, including murder. But a new law enacted in 2007 prescribed that offenders under the age of 16 can be ordered by the authorities to undergo "non-penal" educational measures.
It was also proposed in the bill that teenagers aged between 14 and 16 sentenced to a prison term can be released on parole after serving half of their sentence.
Since the establishment of the Macao SAR, only six "extremely serious" crimes as defined by the bill had been committed by adolescents aged under 16, the daily quoted Cheong Weng Chon as saying at the plenum.
After passing the general outline, the bill will be discussed in detail on committee level before returning to the Assembly for an article-by-article vote in its second and final reading.