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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
Is there a solution to child crime?
Child crime graphic
A nursery school has re-opened after a two children - aged six and seven - broke in and completely ransacked the premises.

Paint was strewn around the room, taps were left running, chairs were thrown around and toys and equipment were broken.

It took volunteers from the community around Caia Park Nursery School in Wrexham, north Wales, three days to clear the site before it was fit to re-open on Monday.

North Wales Police said they have spoken to the children involved but that they are below the age of criminal responsibility.

A child has to be aged 10 or over before they can be dealt with as criminals by the police or the courts.

What can be done to prevent crime being committed by young children? Are they too young to have criminal intent? If not, should the age of criminality be lowered? Or are there other, more suitable forms of punishment?

This Talking Point is now closed. A selection of your views are published below:

I once worked on a salad bar in a supermarket, and one day my colleague caught a child climbing on the display and digging in the salad bowls with his hands while his mother stood right at the side of him, totally oblivious. My colleague firmly but politely told the child to get down, at which the mother seemed to suddenly come out of her coma and took offence that someone could possibly be telling off her child, and she promptly went and complained to customer services. When will people wake up and take responsibility for their own children? Then other people, like my colleague, wouldn't be put in the awkward position of having to take disciplinary action themselves. This is the job of the parents.
Sonya, UK

God help us if we have to listen to any more liberal clap trap on parenting, if they have any more of their own way, we'll be getting 5 years in prison for shouting at your kids. Well done liberals you¿ve had Britain a safer place.

Spare the rod and spoil the child. Need I say more?
John B, UK

Whoever thinks that it is perfectly reasonable to name and shame them now so that they carry the burden of this through all their childhood clearly has not thought through the implications this will have on them in their future development and later life. Tell a child that they are criminal and they will believe you and start a pattern of this behaviour which would be very difficult to break later. By all means, they should be made to clear up their mess as a way of teaching them the damage they have caused - it would take them longer to clear it up than to do it - but labelling them as criminal at such an early age would do more harm than good.
HT, Wales

Why not lower the age of criminal responsibility? children as young as 3 and 4 know right from wrong

Amy, UK
This isn't a case of criminality, it is a case of extremely bad parenting. Who in their right mind would let a six and seven year old out to do this? What we need here is the parents to pay for the damage. You can make all the speeches you like, but at the end of the day, when it hits the parents' pockets, we will see an effect. If you bring in a law that parents have to pay for damage and compensation if their kids go wild, then youth crime will stop completely. It will be interesting to see what the parents blame this on, computer games or TV.
Vish, UK

I seriously believe that today's children should suffer the consequences of their actions in the same way as most people reading this did. A short sharp shock from the hand of a parent or school teacher certainly kept the majority of kids in-line when I was a teenager (now only 28). When you consider how society has changed in the last 15 years or so, it's frightening to think what we'll have to put up with in another 15 years if these children are allowed to go unpunished. My wife now refuses to call at our local shop due to the abuse she recieves from groups of 9-15yr olds.What can we do?
Fatty, Swansea,Wales

One way of dealing with this sort of situation could be: fines for the parents, an offenders list (MS, UK) and then court appearance and sentencing on the day of the children's 18th birthday.
Dan, UK

There is something seriously wrong with this six and seven year old. They should be taken for a mental health evaluation, they and their parents should be checked on at home to make sure their family life is a healthy environment. This was indeed a crime and they were calling out for help.
C Pikulik, USA

Why not lower the age of criminal responsibility? children as young as 3 and 4 know right from wrong. if they commit a crime then common sense should prevail, if the police believe it was intentional and deliberate and that they are likely to continue such behaviour then they should be able to act, special children¿s courts would act fairly and responsibly toward the children and the parents. The reason some parents are not bothered is because they know the children and themselves can not be punished.
Amy, UK

The parents are responsible, morally and in law. If they don't know what their children are up to, that's negligence of a very high order. I have children of this age, and I cannot conceive of any circumstances under which I would allow them out unsupervised.
Guy Chapman, UK

Corporal Punishment is the best, fairest and cheapest way to discourage criminal action by youngsters. People can go on saying no to it but there will come a time when they will be forced to resort to it. Better sooner than later!
Robin Hassall, UK

Most reasonably educated adults can understand the concept that children of a very young age who commit acts of vandalism or violence, do so because they have been emotionally short-changed by their parents. It is therefore obvious to me that the parents should take full responsibility for their children¿s behaviour, until they are deemed old enough to be tried in a court of law. It is seen as a "right" of people to have children, I suggest that it is a privilege that should neither be taken lightly, nor abused.
Jack Burge, England

We seem to be the only mammals that do not use force to control their offspring. Even a house cat will clout a kitten if it goes too far

Simon Devine, UK
The legal system shouldn't have to be anywhere near these children. At such a young age the law must require parents to act and remain responsible for their children AT ALL TIMES with the exception of when they are at school. My parents managed this, as did those of my friends - it's not rocket science, after all (what kind of fool can be outwitted by a seven year old?). Honestly, how hard can it be to discipline a seven year old? What happened to coercion, emotional blackmail, shame & guilt, and the odd slap on the back of the legs that stung more than anything? These methods appear to have generally worked for millennia - you don't need any coppers to do it either.

Lower the age of criminality?? NO. fine the parents or lock one of them up. A child under the age of 10 should have parental supervision and if they don't have it then the parents are failing them!!
Jake, Canada (Ex U.K)

Its simple ... children belong to parents ... parents are responsible for said children ... said children do bad, said parents pay the penalty. The bigger the crime the bigger the punishment. In addition create an offenders list naming the culprits and their parents. For every offence, it takes two good deeds to get off the list. One list per borough and if you move you get transferred to the new borough list. Give every one access to the list and lets see how effective pride is as a tool of justice.

The Parents should have been made to assist in the clean up and then been made to pay for all the other costs as well. When the parents are actually held responsible for their children they may stop them running riot. Lets be blunt the fault is purely with the parents not the children. Andy
Andy, UK

Parental supervision or lack of it is the key. Perhaps contracts of guaranteed good behaviour linked to parental orders might be the answer. Surely the community can press the parents to be responsible for their children
Paul, Wales

Fine the parents - hit them in the pocket, and you will soon find that these 'ineffectual parents' will develop good parenting skills very quickly

Graham Parry, UK
We seem to be the only mammals that do not use force to control their offspring. Even a house cat will clout a kitten if it goes too far. Let's not forget that, to quote, force is the supreme authority from which all other authority is derived. Force has resolved more issues throughout history than any other factor. Let's all wake up, stop deluding ourselves and face reality shall we?
Simon Devine, United Kingdom

I have a hard time understanding parents who don't know where their six and seven-year-old kids are or what they are doing. I also wonder what is considered "normal" behaviour in their respective homes. I think a good look at the home lives of these kids is essential, lest they risk a worse infraction in the future. It's been my experience that kids who behave this badly are either spoiled with material goods and ignored, or badly treated.
Jennifer Ethington, USA

Children under the age of ten should be the responsibility of parents. Lets face it, you can't be much of a parent if you cannot control your seven year old child Fine the parents - hit them in the pocket, and you will soon find that these 'ineffectual parents' will develop good parenting skills very quickly.
Graham Parry, UK

At the ages of six and seven, both of those children knew exactly what they were doing and that it was wrong. Such acts should not go unpunished, even if it is only to make them clear up the mess and appreciate what the consequences of their actions for other children and staff were. More worrying is where on earth were the parents? How could these kids be without adult supervision for such a long time? The parents must accept some responsibility. It is their job to teach them right from wrong.
Eileen, UK

The fundamental issue in this is the parents. If the parents cannot bring up their kids properly, there is no hope. Short of a long, harsh stay in a detention centre of military school or something, they'll be set in their ways. It's a vicious cycle. Uneducated adults who don't know any better have children, and then don't have the mentality to raise their children properly. What can you do?
Andy, Nottingham, UK

If youngsters cannot be brought to book at six or seven, is there any likelihood of them being controllable as they get older? At this age it is their parents who should be made responsible for their children's actions and I would like to know what they were doing at the time these children ran rampage at their primary school.
Hazel, UK

At six and seven these children know the difference between right and wrong, it's their background and their culture which has confused them. Punish them? Why not. They have to be taught that, in their society any wrong-doing and you pay a price. Obviously they won't be jailed but it is a case for the parents to accept a punishment.
Dennis, England

Perhaps if the children's parents had been made to clear up the mess in the school they might think twice about letting such young children out unsupervised long enough to cause such damage. Oh and there would be no harm in the children themselves taking part in the clean up too.
Gill, UK

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16 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blunkett targets young criminals
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