In the week that Barnados released a survey showing nearly 50per cent of adults think that children are more feral, angry, violent and abusive than they used to be and a quarter of this group think that by the age of 10 troubled children are beyond hope, the Journal attempts once again to get the courts to release the name of a child – this time a 15 year old drug addict.
The Journal’s stated reasons for doing this is so that people can protect their children and property by knowing who this individual is.
The effect, of course, is to create monsters, stimulating brute vigilantism and enabling the vindictive to indulge in the sad pastime of stigmatising troubled and damaged children.
As a society we are deeply schizophrenic about what we expect from our children and young people. We wrap them up in cotton wool, and organisations working with children have to turn cartwheels to ensure they are complying with safeguarding regulations.
We don’t allow them to vote, or to have the legal freedom to contract until they are 18. We do this because, legally and morally, we do not think they are responsible or capable in these areas until they reach this age.
Perversely, when it comes to crime, we are more than happy to give children responsibility from the age of 10, the lowest age for criminal responsibility in the whole of Europe.
Some people seem to believe that some children are naturally criminals and should be punished as if they were fully formed and informed human beings. I believe that every story of a child getting into trouble and being brought before the courts is an indictment of adult society.
These children have been failed, not just by their families and the apparatus of the state, but by every adult that passes them by and silently condemns them.
Children are made by the rest of us. We need to recognise this and change our perspective. Even in former war-torn places such as Northern Uganda, children conscripted into rebel armies and who committed atrocious, criminal acts at the behest of their adult commanders are being assimilated back into society as they are now seen as victims also.
We need to think hard about how we want to deal with this very small group of children and young people in our society. Resorting to witch hunts is not the way.
Dudley Road, Grantham