Sunday, September 02, 2007

Deliquent Toddlers Not Huge Problem.

I saw this non story on the BBC website today, " Thousands of crimes by under-10s". For once the BBC are playing up a crime story:
Almost 3,000 crimes were committed last year where the suspect was too young to be prosecuted, the BBC has learned.

Figures show there were about 1,300 incidents of criminal damage and arson, and over 60 sex offences where suspects were under-10s in England and Wales.

This sounds bad except when the context is considered, there are over 5 million recorded crimes in England & Wales each year, so 'almost 3000' crimes by under 9s amounts to just over one in two thousand crimes which is pretty trivial. Mind you the age of criminal responsibility is a silly concept in itself and I remember thinking that when I was still under the age myself. Abolish it and let it be decided on a case by case basis whether the child can be considered responsible for their actions.

However whilst reading this story I spotted a link to an earlier story from May this year, "Criminal age 'should rise to 18' ". This is nuts, pure and simple and I guessed before I read it that it originated with the increasingly vocal pro criminal lobby group, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at Kings College, London. It is important to realise that 'youth crime' isn't a trivial subset of general crime. it amounts for a huge proportion of total crime. Criminality peaks from the mid teens through to the early twenties, so if a huge tranche of those offenders are reclassified as not being legally responsible for their actions then it would be a major step towards abolishing punishment by the back door.

Of course they might simply be benchmarking, throwing out the figure of 18 in order to to make raising the age of responsibility to 14 or 16 appear almost reasonable, in much the same way that I demand that members of the CCJS be ritually sacrificed when really I just want to make their public flogging appear moderate.

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