Infancy as an Exemption from Criminal Liability:
Infancy is a ground for exemption from criminal liability. Thus, individuals who are too young to understand the nature and consequences of their actions cannot be held criminally responsible for those actions.
Who is an Infant or a Child:
Section 46 of the Interpretation Act, 2009 (792) defines a child as “a person below the age of eighteen years;” According to section 1 of the Children's Act, 1998 (Act 560), a child is "a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years."
Who is an Infant for the Purpose of Criminal Liability:
For the purpose of criminal liability, children are further divided into two age groups, with each age group having a different level of culpability for criminal liability. These divisions are:
1. Children between 0-11 years of age.
2. Children between 12-18 years of age.
Criminal Exemption for Children under the Age of 12:
A child in this age group is incapable of committing a criminal offence. Section 26 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) provides that “for the purposes of the criminal law a person under twelve years of age is incapable of committing a criminal offence”. Section 26 of Act 209 illustrates this provision as follows:
A, aged eleven years administers poison to B. A is not criminally responsible and is considered incapable of understanding the consequences of those actions from a legal perspective
Children under the age of 12 are considered doli incapax, meaning they are considered incapable of forming the intent to commit a crime because they cannot understand the nature and consequences of their acts.
Essentially, the presumption that children under the age of 12 are doli incapax cannot be rebutted by any evidence under Ghanaian law.
However, when a child is made to cause an event by an adult, the adult is deemed to have caused the event whilst the child is considered an involuntary agent per section 13(1) of Act 29.
Criminal Exemption for Children between 12 to 17 Years:
Children between this age bracket are deemed capable of understanding the nature and consequences of their acts and can be tried and convicted for an offence.
However, the arrest, investigation, trial, and conviction of children within this age group is governed by the Juvenile Justice Act, 2003 (Act 653) which prescribes special rules for the trial and conviction of children within this age group. For instance, section 3(2) of Act 653 provides that “A person shall not in the course of arrest, investigation or trial of an offence connected with a juvenile, or at any other stage of the cause or matter, release an information for publication that may lead to the identification of the juvenile.”