Critically examine the argument that children who commit homicide should not be prosecuted?
Violent Sexual Offenses
Sexual offending is a case of sexually abusing or victimizing another person. For the last twenty years, sexual offending has gradually increased among the western countries. The sexual offender may belong to same sex group or other sex group. The age difference may occur or the offender may belong to the same age group. In recent times, sexual offending is not only a problem in western countries, but it has also increased in other regions of the world too (Loeber and Farrington 2012). One of the most astonishing fact is that, juvenile criminals are also subjected for the crime of sexual offending. This phenomenon is a highly concerning matter, as children or juveniles are also committing sexual offending crimes disrupting the normal social structure of the society (Greenwood, Model and Rydell 2010). The main object of this essay is to highlight and critically analyze the issues of children who kill. Political and media responses against such cases is also evaluated as they play a vital role in normal society. Examination of such events is also to be carried out as these sorts of murder cases play an important role in changing the juvenile criminal justice system (Giordano 2010). Considering the fact that juvenile criminal committing sexual offending is a seldom event, but it is very important to broadly discuss about the issues as the rate of such events is gradually increasing. To discuss and analyze these factors, one thing that should be kept in mind that, it is important to find out the actual reason behind such criminal events (Farrington 2010). Child psychology play an important role in such cases as the offender is a juvenile and in most of the cases they commit such crimes without having knowledge about the consequences. According to R.N. Kocsis, juveniles commit a sizable minute amount of offenses. As per the statistical data collected by Ayres and colleagues, arrests made for the cause of sexual offenses during the period of 2000 to 2002 in England and Wales were about 7500 cases. The most concerning fact is that nearly 47 percent to 58 percent of adult sex offenders commit their first offense as an adolescent. This data only adds to the fact that, there is a huge possibility that, a juvenile sex offender will progress to and adult offender (Loeber and Farrington 2012).
The minimum age considered to be the age of criminal responsibility is the age at which the child can stand trial and can be convicted of a criminal offense. The aspect of juvenile age limit is the fact that whether the child is committing the offense knowing the consequences and outcome of it (Farmer, 2011). In most of the cases it is observed that due to lack of knowledge about the consequences and outcome, a child commits a sexual offense. The minimum age limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 10 years old. Till the year of 1933, the age limit was 8 years but, in 1933 the age limit was increased to ten years. In Scotland, the criminal age limit is 8 years, whereas, the age for conviction is about 12 years (Capriani).
There is also a concern about the fact that whether a child offender possess the knowledge, consequences and outcome of the crime he has committed. Until the year 1999, there was a legal presumption which is also known as ‘doli incapax’. According to this presumption, the children who are under the age of fourteen do not know are possessed any knowledge about the differences between right and wrong. As a result, they were considered to be incapable of committing an offense. However, this presumption was abolished through the section 34 of the act known as Crime and Disorder Act 1998. In current times, the criminal law department treats children aged between ten to thirteen in the same manner as those aged fourteen or above.
If we consider the current scenario in England, the statistical data shows that the number of children convicted of murder has fluctuated from year to year but still the number remains consistently low. Researching from the crime data, it is found that from the year 1979 to 1994, a total number of 108 young juveniles who were aged ten to sixteen. Among all these cases, eight of these were committed by the children aged under fourteen. Up to the year 1989, the number of murders committed by juveniles hovered around 20 cases per year (Cornish and Clarke 2014).
There are some famous cases which can be discussed for the better understanding of these sorts of cases. The case of Ciaran Collins (1988) is one of the famous cases in the history of criminology. In the year of 1988, Ciaran Collins, abducted a two year old child named Sharana Joseph (Greenwood, Model and Rydell 2011). The incident took place at Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. After abducting, Collins took the child to a railway embankment where he murdered the child by suffocating her in soft mud. In 1988, he became the youngest boy in the United Kingdom to stand trial for a murder case. During his trial, Collins was described as a child who was lonely and disturbed (Feld 2012). The media primarily newspapers highlighted this news very much. The photograph of the child was printed on the front page. With respect to time, this news sensation was soon forgotten. One more surprising fact about this particular case is that there is a huge similarity between this case and the Bulger case (Heide, Solomon, Sellers and Chan 2010).
Another case which can be discussed for its uniqueness is the murder case of James Bulger (1993). On 2nd February, 1993 James Bulger, who was a two year old boy was led by the hand by two other older boys from the Strand Shopping Centtre in Bootle, Mersyside (Smith 2011). The three boys walked together for about two miles through the busy streets towards the residential place of the older two boys. After two days, James Bolger’s body was found on a railway line (Farrington 2011). The condition of the body was severe, it was found as cut in half by a train. The dead body was recovered and after examination, forensic report showed that his time of death was before the arrival of the train. Reports also stated that he was beaten with a hard object specially bricks, stones and a metal bar. His trousers and underpants also have been removed (Giordano 2010). There were clear signs of sexual abuse found in the forensic reports while a tin of small paint and four small batteries were found nearby. The accused were two ten year old boys. They were charged with the offense of abduction and murder along with the attempted abduction of another boy on the same day. The boys were later on trialed at the Preston Crown Court in November 1993. They were found guilty (Jackson 2015). The name of the two boys, were Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. It was also concluded that the two boys were not aware of the consequences. Some theories also suggest that, at that age, boys generally experience puberty. Due the hormonal changes, and unknown of the outcome and consequence of such acts, they commit such crimes. But some theorists disallow this concept (Cipriani 2013). They suggest that crime and murder intentions are a psychological problem arising from mental trauma.
Another case which can be highlighted is the case of Silje Readergard. In the year of 1994, five year old Silje Raedergard was beaten to death by two or three boys aged six. The incident took place in Trondheim, Norway. It is said that all of them were playing snow castle on a football field. While playing, the boys suddenly turned to the girl. The girl was consistently punched, kicked (Eady 2010). She was beaten with stones. After that, they stripped off her clothes. They ran away and let her die in the snow. The most significant aspect of this case was that both the James Bulgar and Silje case were somewhat similar (Barry and Leonardsen, 2012). The differences between these two cases were pointed out as the media coverage. In the Bulgar case, there were CCTV images, and tabloid newspaper coverage. In this case there were no such hype and evidence. The news was not covered by any Norwegian newspaper. The name of the boys was never revealed and the anonymity is protected till now (Smith 2011). The anonymity of this incident is the biggest loop of this case. Generally people should be informed of such cases. Criminal activities like this will aware people and they will give more attention to their child. The boys were never prosecuted for this offense. They were even enrolled in local infants school after a few weeks of the incident (Barry and Leonardsen 2012). This incident the lack of integrity of the government and their casual approach towards these sorts of cases. The government should be more concerned about such incident and providing proper law and justice facility. As the offenders were children, the government let them go (Pusateri et al. 2013). It was not even mentioned that whether the boys were disturbed or suffered from any sorts of psychological trauma or disorder. If this was the case, then it was a huge risk to admit those boys in the general infant school. It was a risky diciscion by the government and the authorities. These attributes should be kept in mind in cases relating to this particular domain (Heidi et al. 2010).
However the case that involved the child by the name James Bulger in the year 1993 was informed in the United Kingdom provided a nationwide panic and shock to the civilians. The CCTV footage has shown that two child by the name Thompson and Venables has abducted James Bulger inside the New Strand Shopping Centre. Around 3:40 pm Denise (the mother of James Bulger) realized that his child is missing, and she reported it to the local police. Later police identified the two kidnappers and identified the exact time of the abduction is 15:42 from the CCTV footage of the shopping center (Wolff and Smith 2011). Later the police investigated and found that the boys took Bulger 4 km across the Liverpool canal and then to the Walton village. Finally, they took shelter in the Walton and Anfield railway station where they committed endless torture and physical abuse to James Bulger (Barker 2012). It was found that the abductor threw blue modeling Humbrol paint in the left eye of the abducted child (Ravenhill 2014). Further investigation also showed that the offenders also placed batteries in the mouth of Bulger and was later stomped with bricks and stones. Moreover, Thompson and Venables was found to insert batteries in the anus of the child and an iron bar that nearly weights about 10.2 kg was dropped in the head of the victim (Pusateri et al. 2013). This inhuman torture resulted in skull fractures in the child's body resulting in the death of James Bulger. However, further investigation and forensic studies have shown that the child has faced a total of 42 fatal injuries in his body (Wolff and Smith 2011).
The most pathetic factor in the James Bulger case was that the police also suspected the element of sexual abuse as his shoes, trousers and underpants were found to be removed. Moreover, the pathologists and forensic experts have reported that the foreskin of the Bulger's body has been forcibly retracted (Scraton 2014). The most pathetic thing that was found out by the investigators that the two murderers and abductors Thompson and Venables tried to cover the death of the child as a mere accident. For this reason, they left the corpse body of the child across the tracks of the railway line and put his head down on the rubble (Barker 2012). This was done intentionally in a hope that a train may crush his head, and that would show the death of the child as a pure accident (Scott 2013). Moreover, the found footage that was obtained from the CCTV camera of the shopping center has inflicted a mass sentiment among the civilians of the United Kingdom (Barry and Leonardsen 2012). The CCTV footage was seen at that time when the child body was already found beside the railway tracks in a lifeless corpse condition. However, the footage showed the last living and presence of the child that will always haunt the minds of the ordinary people as it will inflict a vague and false hope and possibility of intervention (Scraton 2014).
However, this murder incidence of James Bulger case brings immense criticism towards the ordinary people who witnessed the sequences yet they did not come out and protected the child from the inhuman torture and molestations (Peelo 2013). It was investigated that there were more than thirty-eight people who have witnessed the various incidence related to the abduction of the James Bulger while he was dragged and moved away for more than 4 kilometers from the busy streets of Liverpool, Leeds and Walton (Pusateri et al. 2013). This irresponsible and unethical behavior of the witnesses also clarifies their role and futile influences that ultimately resulted in the death of James Bulger. However, this inhuman event has brought the nation in a sense of mass mourning in agony and collectively it was termed as the ‘nation collective suffering' by various newspapers and television channels of the country during that time (Jackson 2015). Moreover, various journalists and reporters have claimed and represented the juxtaposition of innocent and evil. Where, Bulger was considered as the innocent victim and his killers (Thompson and Venables) as the evil and violent perpetrators.
However, the current government of the nation of the United Kingdom has shown to deal with this incidence very maturely. Since the two killers and murderers were below the age of 18, they were trailed in the Crown Court of the country (Soothill et al. 2012). Moreover, various charges were brought against this two demonic child that includes sexual violence, molestation, abduction, and murder. But, in later stages, the European Court has claimed that the Crown Court of the United Kingdom does not commit proper justification, and they also denied appropriate and fair trial against the defendant Thompson and Venables (Selman 2013). Moreover , the European Court of Justice has stated that the ritual and formality that was done by the Crown Court of the United Kingdom has been very mysterious and was very intimidating for a child who belongs to the age group of eleven and twelve (Barry and Leonardsen 2012). Later, the United Nations Committee has released their statements in the context of this event. They have published various reports on the Rights of the Child and critically reviewed the provisions of the Crown Court of the United Kingdom where they allowed the children to be processed in adult courts (Ravenhill 2014). However, the United Nations has suggested that the British Government to take proper care so that no child is treated as an adult inside the court arena. Nevertheless, in spite of all these the Crown Court has arrested them for a time period of 8 years and were provided with proper rehabilitation and was later freed in the year 2001 (Wolff and Smith 2011).
The CRC or the Convention on the Rights of the Child proposed by the United Nations has established a treaty that defines that a child below the age of eighteen should be treated like any human being and should fall under the state or domestic legislation policy (Soothill et al. 2012). However, it also declares that the arrest and detention of the child and their imprisonment should be treated as the last resort (Green, 2008). Moreover, the detention should be based on the rehabilitation of the accused child and it should continue for a little time, and the child should face less number of confinement years compare to an adult criminal. Moreover, this United Convention's declaration also suggested that the children should not be sent to the prison rather they should be put in rehabilitation for proper rectification and evaluation procedures (Selman 2013).
Most writers and analysts do not view that the children should not be held criminally responsible for according to them children cannot be held accountable for a criminal act since they are not appropriately attributed (Titus 2015). Most of the analyst believes that children lack the capacity to engage in proper ethical and practical reasoning. However, it is recommended to have good reasoning for the children for the reason of committing the crime. But, sometimes these ideas seem to be very much distorted as those children have been observed to answer their actions in terms of coherent reasoning (Selman 2013). Furthermore various research works and psychological findings have showed that the children have different motivational and reasoning for acting the crime, and they also possesses the capacity to perform various rationale actions. However, in most of the cases, people consider their inexperience and age as a determining factor and find them weak in using this capacity in terms of the criminal act (Nelson et al. 2013).
Depending on all these factors various countries in the world has set up legislations and laws related to the age of a children. For example, age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales are considered legitimate from the age of ten. However, if it was found that the child is below the age of ten, then no criminal charges will be conducted against the child. Moreover, in the United Kingdom if the children belong to the age group of 10 to 14 then he/she can be convicted of the criminal offense based on genuine and authentic proofs (Luce 2013). On the other hand, the countries like Luxembourg consider the correct age for the criminal responsibility of a child is from the age of eighteen (Selman 2013). However, the United States of America consider 6 plus age as the appropriate age for accusing children if he/she commit any criminal activity. Moreover, the policy also focuses on the subject of not considering the child offenders as adults. As this act can hamper the anonymity of the child and would also fall under the direct scrutiny of the media. This will hinder and hamper their career prospect and this policy also violates the rights of the child as proposed by the United Nations in their convention (Nelson et al. 2013).
Various Non-governmental organizations and human right activists have actively protested against the prosecution of the child. The reason that have put forward has a good justification and logistic reasons (Luce 2013). The court procedures and norms often made the children puzzled and tensed, and they might not understand the rules and regulations of the court policy and procedure. Moreover, most of the children would fear in speaking the truth in a public courtroom which is often considered as an open forum. Hence, this would refrain them from properly defending their act, which may result in false jurisdiction over the child. Moreover, the trial process of criminal prosecution often takes very long time, and this may refrain from getting proper treatment to the child if he/she requires appropriate therapy as that might result in prejudice their case (Barry and Leonardsen, 2013). For instance, the Bulger case took a total of nine months to come to the trial.
However, it has been observed that juveniles are often not prosecuted for committing the same crime as that of an adult. Juveniles has the right to a public trial by jury. Moreover, the judge in the court can easily rule out the conviction by only hearing the trials and cases and can easily overlook the evidence. On the other hand, the juvenile system of justice differs immensely from that of the adults. In the case of the adult criminality, they are punished heavily whereas the juveniles are taken to the rehabilitation program and they are served in order to rectify them. Moreover, it has been observed that the children's court are very much open than that of an adult court system (Loeber and farrington, 2012). On the other hand, it has been noted that the media highlights the crime of a child very minutely when it is compared with that of an adult. Moreover, it has been noted that many children who committed a fatal crime have been released due to lack of evidence. However, the killer of Bulger was convicted due to the presence of the uncovered and raw evidence that was provided by the CCTV camera of the supermarket. Furthermore, it can be concluded by saying that the children are mostly released after committing a fatal crime due to their innocence, lack of experience and also due to lack of media focus (Greenwood et al. 2010). Moreover, the family of the children needs to take higher responsibilities in teaching the student with proper ethics and manner so that he can refrain himself from committing any criminal activity.
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