A file photo Le Van Luyen, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for murdering a married couple and their daughter to rob their gold shop in the northern province of Bac Giang in 2012. Luyen committed the crimes in 2011 when he was two months shy of his 18th birthday. Photo: Le Quan
Vietnam will establish its first juvenile court in Ho Chi Minh City next month in another step to improve its justice system and handle cases of young offenders better.
The court will be set up in April and run on a trial basis dealing with offenders under 18 years old, before being expanded to other provinces and cities, Truong Hoa Binh, chief justice of the Supreme People's Court, said at a meeting on Friday.
Chu Thanh Quang, deputy chief of legal affairs department at the supreme court, told news website VnExpress that the establishment of the new court shows Vietnam's commitment to protecting child rights in accordance with international conventions.
It also marks an important event in Vietnam's ongoing efforts to improve its justice system, he said.
The court will be "friendly" with children who attend hearings either as victims or defendants, according to Quang.
While statistics on juvenile crimes in Vietnam are sketchy and not up to date, local media reported last year that underage offenders accounted for more than 16 percent of criminals charged around the country between 2009 and June 2014.
Battery and robbery were the most common offenses among Vietnamese young people, they said, citing figures compiled by the center for criminal studies under the Hanoi-based Vietnamese People's Police Academy.
On the other hand, new figures released by the Ministry of Public Security showed 9,920 children were victimized in more than 8,200 cases of abuse discovered over the past five years, local media reported early this year.
Up to 65 percent of the victims were sexually assaulted, according to the reports.
The age of criminal responsibility in Vietnam is 14, but children between 14 and 16 years old can only be prosecuted on a case-by-case basis if they deliberately commit "very serious" crimes.