Legal judgments should not consider age and health status, since everyone should be 100% responsible for their actions. This is the keynote to ensure the fairness of the functioning of society, and it is also an opportunity to prevent or reduce the gambling mentality of criminals and the exploitation of legal loopholes. The purpose of the law is not to reduce crime by making people feel fear of punishment: it is bottom-line thinking that only applies to people who cannot be changed, such as antisocial personalities. If our society is built on the absence of empathy and virtue, it will become shaky, and once the punishment disappears, the evil of human nature will be exposed without reservation. If the age and health of the defendant are taken into account when sentencing, this is bottom-line thinking. This is because it shifts the focus from maintaining social stability and raising people's sense of morality to the imposition of punishment itself.
The opponents' view is that legal judgments are created to reduce the recidivism rate and to care for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, they should be provided with lighter sentences that take into account their physical condition because the reoffending rate of the elderly is extremely low. Secondly, since the elderly are already in a period of high illness and nursing, and having others to take care of them in prison will waste manpower and material resources to a certain extent, measures such as bail pending trial, and many courts are enforcing this "discount”(Martha, 2018). Opponents argue that as early as the Western Zhou Dynasty in China, when punishments were set up, there was a saying of "caring for the old and caring for the young"(Zhang, 2009), that is, the elderly and young who committed crimes were given lighter punishments. First, because the old and young are not harmful to others, and second, rulers consolidate their dominance by giving a certain degree of preferential treatment to criminals in a weak position in society. They believe that taking age and health status into account in legal judgments is a manifestation of "humanitarianism".
However, the reduced cost of crime is not due to humanitarian protection but may become an umbrella for perpetrators in legal voids, increasing the crime rate. Most studies have shown that the reason for giving "discounts" to older and unhealthy people is that older and unhealthy people generally have lower crime rates than healthy young adults, and are therefore judged to be incidental offenders, i.e. perpetrators are less likely to re-offend. However, this is not the case. When teenagers, the elderly, and unhealthy people realize that they are in a blank space, the rate of repeat offending is rising. The reason why they commit crimes significantly lower than those healthy adults is that they cannot commit crimes. That is to say, the perpetrator has always had the idea and motive to do evil, and the only thing lacking is the conditions for crime. Once the conditions for committing the crime are met, they commit it. According to a statistical report that shows the increasing crime rate in Japan, one reason for the increasing rate could be that Japan's population is aging. The number of Japanese aged 65 or over stood at 30 million as of Oct. 1, 2011, or around 23 percent of the 128 million total population (Japan Times, 2012). People with bad moral character have always existed, and when they get old, they become old people with bad moral character, instead of changing their minds and becoming good people as they age. The law reduces penalties for the elderly and unhealthy by confusing the ability to commit crime and motives, downplaying the importance of motives, and emphasizing the display of data.
Second, Age and health status should not be a criterion for judging the "weak" in legal decisions. In this case, if there are weak people, it is the aggrieved party. When the defendant is identified as weak because of his age and health status, it will not only be unfair to the victim but will cause psychological harm to them, which is also contrary to the original intention of the law. Laws are used to maintain social stability (Britannica, 2022). The law is not to rob the rich and help the poor, nor to eliminate evil, and it cannot conform to everyone's values. The object of legal protection or punishment is the act itself. That is to say, the law protects the weak, and it also protects the strong; it protects the victims, and it also protects the suspects——since it focuses on individuals’ doings but not personality. The law protects everyone with its logic. Even if you violate the law, you are still under the protection of the law and are subject to trial as already written in the law. Therefore, there is no “weak” when we are all exposed to the law, and everyone should be fully responsible for their actions. People's full responsibility for their actions will focus on character formation and moral improvement; On the contrary, the "discounts" and "preferential treatment" for the so-called weak are focused on the punishment, that is, the bottom line itself. However, the functioning of society should pay more attention to the shaping of morality, even if it is an idealized strategy (Donaldson, 2014). The maintenance of social justice is the common goal of society, and even if we all know that perfect justice cannot be achieved, we still want to improve the moral sense of the whole people and establish a good moral character as a constantly approaching dream.
In conclusion, it should be believed that neither health nor age should be a condition worth considering in legal judgments: people should pay an equal price for their actions. Because our society should not be based on a system of downturn, backward compatibility, and thinking: the question we should be thinking about is what we should become, not what we should not do. In other words, in this case, punishment exists to raise people's sense of morality and shape a stable, empathetic civilization that is closer to good character, rather than using the selfish fear of punishment in human nature to restrain criminal behavior, which would be a destabilizing force.


  1. Martha S. Smith, Jennifer L. Schriver. (2018) Judges’ sentencing decisions with older offenders. Psychology, Crime & Law 24:2, pages 105-116.
  2. Zhang Ji. (2009). The "neutralized" characteristics of the criminal law system of the Western Zhou Dynasty. Journal of Jishou University: Social Science Edition(05), 117-119.
  3. Crimes by the elderly are on the rise. (2012, December 3). Japan Times.
  4. Donaldson, L. P., & Mayer, L. M. (2014). Justice as a Core Virtue for Social Work Practice. Social Work & Christianity, 41(2/3), 207–231.
  5. Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2022, October 6). law. Encyclopedia Britannica.