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Emma B BS: 10 year old rapists get coddled (89* d) RE: BS: 10 year old rapists get coddled 19 Aug 10

In 1998 the Crime and Disorder Act was passed which was generally understood to have abolished the centuries old doctrine of doli incapax for children between the ages of 10 and 14 (ie the presumption that children from 10 to 14 lacked sufficient understanding to be criminally responsible)
At the time many progressives felt this was an assault on all notions of social reform by a government intent to mark itself as the 'natural party of law and order'.

Writing in the Independent on the politicisation of child offenders in England, Paul Vallely opined,

"In Britain, under the guise of a thirst for justice, we indulge a lust for vengeance. It is as if we need a vehicle for outrage displaced from wider disquiet about social trends for which child crime becomes a kind of lightning conductor."

He has also commented on the major differences in which children accused of committing crimes are treated in different European countries

"Our system of justice is adversarial in nature. Each case is a joust between two barristers seeking a clear verdict, guilty or not.

But the truth is rarely so black and white, most particularly where children are involved.

What would have been more productive was a consensual search for the truth and an attempt to arrive at a common view on what was the best way to deal with all three of these children.
Some other countries, like Scotland or France, attempt that through the legal process but an examining magistrate questioning the child. In Sweden a child psychologist sees the child and provides a statement to the court.

In this case statements from teachers were solicited and presented by the defence barristers. One boy was described as a model pupil who had never displayed and tendency to bullying or sexual behaviour. Such a contribution in a multi-agency conference would contribute to a more nuanced judgement than conviction or acquittal.

Adversarial law seeks winners and losers. But the activities of delinquent youth often produce no-win situations. Sometimes the least-worst option is realistically the best that can be achieved.

Justice should ultimately be about repairing damage to our social fabric. So often it is not.

Can a 10 year old understand what rape is?

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