Advanced search

To think that children know the difference between way before the age of 14?

(30 Posts)
Ionlylikeitwhenitrains Mon 12-Nov-12 07:35:37

senior magistrates are discussing raising the age the age of criminal responsibilty 14.
A IBU in thinking children know right from wrong before the age of 14?
AIBU in thinking it's f'ing crazy that an 11, 12, 13 year old could get away with murder?

It's a long time since i was 10 but I definately could be held responsible for my actions.
Not as much as an older child, but I could differentiate right from wrong.
That's because I had parents that taught me this.

I think it would be suitable to base any convictions punishments and rehabilitation on a child personal/family circumstances.
I also think it would be disastrous to excuse any wrong doing because in many cases children like that go on to commit atrocities and I can seee so many potential offenders slipping through the net

< trying my best not to sound hysterical >

HollyMadison Mon 12-Nov-12 07:43:25

I don't think behavior would be excused - it would be dealt with appropriately for that age. Which is probably not the same way it would be for an adult or older teenager who committed the same offense. I agree that an 11 year old should know what is right and what is wrong but knowing something is wrong is not the same as being criminally liable for an offense.

Nuttyprofessor Mon 12-Nov-12 07:45:44

An 11 or 12 year old that murders has probably had an abusive childhood. Not sure prison is the answer. Don't think it should be used as a get out of jail free card but it is probably not too late to turn their lives around.

I have an 11 year old DS who absolutely knows right from wrong but some children are dragged up in ways I don't want to think about.

Sirzy Mon 12-Nov-12 07:48:37

The problem is so often when children commit crimes it is because of the fact they have been massively let down by their parents and the system on a whole and/or they have other issues and health problems. I don't know what the answer is but I am not sure that for most 'punishment' in the sense of being locked up with equally mixed up youngsters will help.

WhoWhatWhereWhen Mon 12-Nov-12 07:49:26

It's not about knowing right from wrong It's about a teenagers brain not always having proper impulse control, like a car with a very sharp accelerator but crappy brakes.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Mon 12-Nov-12 07:49:48

You said it all when you said 'That is because I had parents that taught me this'.

I agree that children should know right from wrong by the age of ten, but it is very easy for them not to know the difference if their parents have been crap. If it didn't matter, we wouldn't make sure out children have a stable loving environment to grow up in, we wouldn't teach them and take them to school on time each day, we wouldn't try to feed them properly, because they would just 'know' how to behave by the age of ten. But they don't, they need to be taught, and if a child isn't taught, then I'm not sure it's fair to make them responsible for that.

TheOneWithTheHair Mon 12-Nov-12 07:55:56

Also it's about whether they are capable of understanding the consequences of their actions. My ds is 4 and he knows that if you shoot someone with a gun they will die and that is wrong. However he doesn't really understand why it's wrong because he has no concept of the end of life or that it's not for him to decide if someone else lives or dies.

WaitingForMe Mon 12-Nov-12 07:57:33

I'd put the age of criminal responsibility around the age they get to secondary school. if they don't understand society by then, they surely have the low IQ or mental problems that would see an adult deemed less responsible for their actions.

HollyMadison Mon 12-Nov-12 08:01:22

Also, the amount of intention and judgement imputed to a child is different from that to an older person. So, an 11 year old might be expected to think "if I hit someone on the head, although not very hard, that is wrong because hitting isn't nice and I might get told off by the police" whereas an adult should think "if I hit someone on the head, although not very hard, that is wrong because hitting may cause someone with a medical condition to be severely brain damaged or cause them to trip and hit their head and be killed." So I don't think it's appropriate to punish in the same way.

Ionlylikeitwhenitrains Mon 12-Nov-12 08:06:01

I understand that children that are raised in abusive homes are usually the ones who commit such crimes.

Genuine question, does a child of 10+ who has had an abusive upbringing not understand societal norms?

TandB Mon 12-Nov-12 08:09:46

I'm a defence lawyer and have regularly represented children of 12 and 13, although rarely younger children.

I have absolutely no doubt that the majority of my young clients have been capable of understanding right from wrong. I was involved in one case where three out of the twelve defendants were under the age of 14. They were all from respectable families, were doing well at school and had never been in trouble before. They got together and planned a criminal rampage of staggering proportions, and the record of their discussions (many of which took place via various social media) showed that one of the younger ones was probably the most active and enthusiastic participant. They discussed the effect the crimes might have had on their victims and laughed about it.

I strongly support rehabilitative sentencing for young defendants, but I wouldn't support a raising of the age of responsibility. It is possible to understand the particular vulnerablities of young people and find a way of helping them, while still requiring them to take responsiblity for their actions.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Mon 12-Nov-12 08:10:19

Not always, no. But there is no blanket rule. Some will, some won't, depending on their personality and the type and level of abuse they have received.

fluffygal Mon 12-Nov-12 08:14:12

No they don't lonly . My worry would be that if they then received no punishment for murder then when will they ever learn its wrong?

I recommend reading the serious case review of the two boys (think they were 9 and 11) who attacked the other two boys and nearly killed them. It gives you an idea of the type of background children who commit these crimes have. Also it highlights that they had already commited the same type of assault on someone else and were not punished, then went on to do it to these two boys. So not punishing didn't work in this case! If anyone wants the link let me know I will dig it out.

Geeklette Mon 12-Nov-12 08:16:13

Raise the age? Heck no. You do that, you are offering blanket protection to people who do genuinely understand what they are doing, as kungfupannda says.

Is Jamie Bulger so quickly forgotten?

fluffygal Mon 12-Nov-12 08:17:40

kungfu I agree with you.

Sirzy Mon 12-Nov-12 08:21:43

Children only learn to understand social norms if they live with them. If a child grows up in a house where drugs, assault and god knows what else is normal then they will think that is normal.

Schools can only do so much to show children what is right and wrong but if they child doesn't attend school as much as they should or their parents are telling them school are wrong it's a lost battle.

valiumredhead Mon 12-Nov-12 08:22:23

Having read The Wicked Girls and The Guilty One recently, I have been thinking about this a lot. Apparently (according to the latter book) we have the lowest age of responsibility in Europe, everywhere else is MUCH higher.

Kids don't kill just out of the blue - like nutty said, there is usually a whole back story.

PastaDee Mon 12-Nov-12 08:23:18

I prosecute kungfupannda and I wholeheartedly agree.

I think a lot of people who make assumptions about YO's home situations often haven't worked in the criminal justice system.

The worst one I ever worked on was a 13 year old responsible for a vicious assault on an old lady as he stole her bag. He lived with his mother and grandparents who did everything to give him a happy and stable upbringing. He used to hit his mother too and was totally and utterly out of control.

Juveniles are well represented by defence lawyers who work hard to ensure the Magistrate is aware of personal circumstances so they can be taken into account. Raising age of responsibility won't help IMO.

goralka Mon 12-Nov-12 08:28:01

Is Jamie Bulger so quickly forgotten? - but should the culprits in the Bulger case have been tried in a full adult court? really?

sashh Mon 12-Nov-12 08:51:10


When Robert Thopson was interviewed by the police, one thing he said was; "If I wanted to kill a baby I'd kill my own".

To me that is utterly chilling. Why does a 10 year old think that way?

But then there are reports that he was brought up in a houshold where the children regularly tourtured each other. That an older brother asked to be taken into care because home was so bad.

Please do not think I am saying he didn't do wrong and should not have been punished.

But I think a 10 year old, or even a 14 year old does not neccessarily know right from wrong. They may have a very squewed view of the world. They may have little or no control over their lives and limmited real world experiences.

This should be taken into account when prosecuting.

There should be some thing between, 'OK you are 10 you are legally responsible' and 'you are 9, you are not legally responsible.

I think a 10 year old probably thinks more like a 9 year old than a 30 year old, but legally they are treated the same.

valiumredhead Mon 12-Nov-12 08:58:38

sashh good post.

wordfactory Mon 12-Nov-12 09:03:31

I think a ten year old can understamd right from wrong in very black and white terms but I don't think they have the capacity to understand the implications of doing wrong.

valiumredhead Mon 12-Nov-12 09:11:54

I think some ten year olds can tell the difference between right and wrong depending largely on their home life.

socharlotte Mon 12-Nov-12 09:15:23

If kids , or anybody for that matter, commits heinous crimes it's either as a result of their environment or as a result of their innate evil personality.Neither of which is their fault.So by following the line of reasoning of some posters we should never punish anybody for anything?

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 12-Nov-12 09:26:05

I agree whowhat whole heartedly about the impulse control aspect.

I think a 10 year old probably thinks more like a 9 year old than a 30 year old, but legally they are treated the same.

and this ^^

I think the age should be raised, teenagers are not adults no matter how much they act/talk like them. Have you not read that massive thread that was about with teens acters like toddlers? Teens still have a lot of growing up to do and learning about right and wrong. I wonder how many MNers will admit a bit of shop lifting when they were teens? Or being with the boys in a stolen car? Drinking and drugs under age? Most of the boys I went to school with regularly mugged people to make enough to get a £5 credit fags weed and alcohol. Luckily most of us never got more then cautions and now grown up and are a good part of society. The ones in prison were the ones who got caught not the baddest of the bad bunch just wrong place one time.

A 10yr old who knows right and wrong well yes he should but will he still at 14? Or act on his knowledge of right and wrong?

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: