I’m straying somewhat outside my area of expertise here, but bear with me. Apparently, the genii responsible for all critical thought in this country have been thinking on our behalf again:
Calls to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 have been rejected by the government.
England’s children’s commissioner Maggie Atkinson had told the Times that most criminals under 12 did not fully understand their actions.
I must admit, it’s difficult for me to remember those dim and distant days when I was ten years old. But I do remember having a pretty good idea of what was trivial and what was serious within a very short time of becoming aware. It didn’t take many beatings for things to be clear to me. I think I would struggle to say that I was capable of bearing criminal responsibility when I was four, but by the time I was six, it was absolutely clear to me where the boundaries were. And they were not difficult to remember: a healthy respect for people, their animals and their property. Damage any of the preceding, and I would be in a world of pain.
A certain tolerance of accidental happenings was available, but deliberate actions bore consequences.
I always understood that my actions might have consequences and it made for a certain amount of focus when I was contemplating any given course of action.
So I find it difficult to agree with Maggie Atkinson. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that any ten-year-old child who didn’t yet understand that taking the life of a fellow human being was someone that should really be locked away indefinitely in a secure mental institution for the safety of society. And I would probably go even further: any parent who had not made this clear to their child by the age of ten should probably accompany them.
It goes some way past the degree of “remiss” and into the territory of “criminal neglect” to fail to instil such ideas into your children by the end of their first decade. And it’s ludicrous to assert that a ten-year-old would not understand that brutally beating another child to death was completely unacceptable behaviour.
Much speculation surrounds the famous killer Ted Bundy’s first kill, but the first identified kill was when he was 27, there is a strong possibility that he first killed when he was 25 and there is an outside chance that he first killed when he was 14. He confessed to 30 murders, of which only 20 were identified. So someone who started at age 10 clearly has the potential to become a very scary person indeed.
If Maggie Atkinson doesn’t think that a ten-year-old child would understand that beating a toddler to death was criminal behaviour, perhaps she should be locked away for our safety as well…