It cannot have escaped your attention in the last couple of days that a sentencing hearing has been going on to decide on the period of detention for the two young brothers who brutally attacked and left for dead two young boys in Edlington, South Yorkshire.

Keeping an eye on the news I had rather been hoping that given the serious nature of the crime a long sentence would be passed and that some semblance of my faith in British justice could be restored. Sadly this was not to be the case. What actually happened was both inadequate and disgraceful. The brothers were handed a minimum sentence of 5 years.

To put this in context and thus explain my complete and utter outrage, consider the following. At point of sentencing the bothers are aged 11 and 12 respectively. This means that subject to good behaviour and their managing to persuade the authorities that they pose no danger to society (which considering the failings of social services before the case they are highly likely to be able to do), these violent criminals will once more be free to roam the streets at the ages of 16 and 17. This is of course just in time for them to reach adulthood, their criminal record slate to be wiped clean by the authorities and them to proceed into adult society as if nothing had ever happened.

Can I be the only one who sees something seriously wrong here? Ok, the sentence could be extended given that the term was a minimum one, but do you seriously think that is going to happen? Already we hear cries of blaming the parents, shifting the responsibility. Sure, the parents might carry a portion of blame, sure, prosecute them for abuse if you want, but do not under any circumstances let that detract from the fact that is was the two young brothers who committed this heinous crime. To add insult to injury, they have refused to reveal the identities of these thugs. If an adult had committed this crime they would be named and shamed in the public press and be looking down the barrel of 25 years in jail.

The rationale in treating children differently in criminal court is that society deems them to be less capable of perpetrating the severity of crime that might be carried out by an adult. The problem is that we steadfastly stick to this notion irrespective of the crime commited by the child, this case being a classic example, 5 years vs. the adult 25 years, yet the societal impact of this crime and it’s perpetrators roaming the streets is the same, irrespective of their age.

Seated round the dinner table at the home of a good friend and her family over summer we got onto news and current affairs discussion, in particular about the increasingly violent actions of young people. In putting my views across I coined the phrase “You do the adult crime, you do the adult time”. I received a resounding note of agreement from all in attendance and indeed have continued to do so going forward when I have quoted the phrase to others.

For too long we have merely bemoaned the fact that the balance of power is in the hands of the criminal rather than the law abiding citizen. We have talked for too long. The time for action is now.


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  1. Chris Worfolk Said,

    January 25, 2010 @ 8:26 am

    I did think about this at the time and I’m not really sure there is an easy solution.

    I mean, they genuinely are kids. I’m not sure I could really comprehend such actions when I was 11 years old and I had good parents who did instil morals in me. It’s easy to say let’s just blame the kids and not shift the responsibility but I don’t think this is the case – it is by default the responsibility of the parent to raise the child, it’s not the child’s job to raise itself as a good upstanding member of society.

    Also, what is the difference between a 5 year sentence and a 25 year sentence? Is there any evidence to say that a 25 year sentence will mean that they are less likely to offend again? I haven’t seen the stats but I would imagine it’s far easier to reintegrate and become part of society when you leave prison at 16 than when you leave at 36.

  2. Joe Hames Said,

    January 27, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

    It isn’t a question of how many years – 25 is too few. The question is “Why haven’t they been burned alive, skinned alive, buried alive, or in some other way been killed…alive?”

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