Ernest Norton died as an end result to the actions of five 10 - 12 year old juveniles throwing sticks (or more likely, substantially sized pieces of wood) and stones at him. The children were tried at the Old Bailey and sentenced to two years detention.
This has prompted a debate on the age at which children have to reach in order to be treated as criminals. Currently this stands at 10 years old in the UK; it was 14 years old before the Jamie Bulger case in 1993. This is much younger than fellow Western European neighbours where the range is typically 14 - 18 years old.
The law formerly sought whether the child knew the difference between right and wrong. Nowadays, there seems to be very little doubt from the commentating adults that a 14, 12, 10, 8 maybe even 6 year old child knows the difference.
With the presumption that the child does know what the basic right & wrongs are the debate should centre on why the child would want to do wrong. There are various factors that come into it: parents, schools, peers, consequences, risk of getting caught, enjoyment.
I saw a rather disturbing comment on the BBC News Have Your Say section:
Im not interested in seeing them re-habilitated what they want is punishment.
This comment was when received as it has 27 recommendations at time of writing this. Without rehabilitation then you are just holding a young person away from the world and can expect nothing less than the same activity that took them out of society in the first place.
Punishment is an even more interesting term. To cause suffering (to an offender) for an offence. Punishments are devised for two reasons: to stand as a deterrent of for the act, to provide satisfaction to victims and interested onlookers. To put an end to crime, punishments should only exist theoretically and should not be relied upon. Especially as sentences are seem to be around to perform the latter function a lot more than the former.
Labels: Crime 'n' Punishment, Current Affairs, Society