Juvenile Delinquency

Juvenile delinquency refers to any criminal activity carried out by the accused below 18 years of age. As juvenile delinquency becomes a common sight in today’s time, 2 it is important to understand it from a close angle. This article has made an attempt to discuss the current issue from the perspective of three nations – USA, UK and India.

Who is a Juvenile Delinquent?

‘Juvenile’ signifies a child who is not of an age where he can be considered to be an adult under the law, to be held liable for any criminal activity. The participation of such a child in any criminal act is termed as ‘delinquency’. Considered to be a worldwide problem, juvenile delinquency has sparked numerous debates and forced countries to reconsider their current legal frameworks in order to enact and improve juvenile laws for the welfare of the juveniles. 3 Juvenile justice systems are therefore designed with the purpose of trying juveniles in court following which they are sent to a rehabilitation facility or treatment centre.

Juvenile Delinquency in the USA, the UK and India

A comparative analysis of three different jurisdictions has been made on the basis of the following grounds:

Ground USA UK India
Age of majority 17 years 4 18 years 5 18 years 6
Double jeopardy Prohibits double jeopardy of any individual. Double jeopardy can differ from case-to-case basis. 7 Does not lay down any scope for trying a juvenile for the same offence twice.

Balancing Child Rights vis-a-vis Juvenile Delinquency

Put simply, child rights must not turn out to be a misnomer in juvenile delinquency cases. Therefore, a comparative analysis in this regard have been provided hereunder as well:

Ground USA UK India
Child rights in juvenile delinquency cases Ensures monitoring of any kind of infringement of child rights at any stage of a juvenile delinquency case. Specialised systems for juvenile delinquents, keeping in mind child rights and welfare exists. POCSO Act, 2012, works with committees to ensure a balance between child rights in juvenile delinquency cases in India.

Thus, in all three nations, child rights have been given paramount consideration with the US proving to be a perfect model for allowing suits to be filed for child rights infringement in juvenile delinquency cases.

Can a Juvenile Be Tried for the Same Offence Twice?

Double jeopardy in respect to juvenile delinquency is an important topic to discuss because subjecting a juvenile to undergo trial for the same offence twice can be a detriment towards their overall well-being.

To understand double jeopardy in juvenile delinquency cases in the USA, it is important to note as to whether the Bill of Rights under the USA Constitution is entirely applicable to a juvenile. In all three landmark cases of Gault, 8 Winship, 9 and McKeiver, 10 it has been concluded that guaranteeing double jeopardy to juveniles is a fundamental fairness of any delinquency trial.

The same question came before the Supreme Court of India in the Delhi Gang Rape Case 11 where one of the accused was a juvenile. When the victim’s parents wanted the accused to be tried in general court after the Juvenile Justice Board (JJ Board), the Ministry of Women and Child Development opposed the same. They stated that since the JJ Board had already found the juvenile to be guilty, it would be unlawful and unconstitutional to try him again. This was upheld by the Apex Court as well.

How can Juvenile Delinquency Be Prevented?

It is necessary to curb juvenile delinquency from occurring in a moral society to re-establish the rule of law in the same. Such prevention can be done in the following manners:

  1. Conducting classroom and behaviour management programs: Recommended by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, USA, such preventive stepsadopt a social well-being approach towards children to educate them about right and wrong. 12
  2. Forming local communities involving parents and families: This measureis seen to be common in the UK and involves parents and children in mock situations of facing the police or committing a crime, with the aid of local communities.
  3. Making the juvenile delinquent undergo counselling or psychotherapy to prevent repeated occurrence of delinquency: This preventive measure is favourable in the long run for both the welfare of the child and society as a whole. Often recommended by courts and authorities in India,the same proves to be worthwhile for juvenile delinquents.


As we reach the conclusion, it is noteworthy to mention that societies across boundaries must work towards reducing juvenile delinquency cases. A brief comparative analysis of the three nations has been done so that each can adopt the other’s way of dealing with this menace so as to ensure a safe environment for children to grow and develop instead of being in conflict with the law of the land.

Oishika Banerji 1

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