A child committing crime, and being held responsible is a huge debate across the globe. Criminal responsibility is the age at which a child can be held responsible for a crime. In the England the age is 10 years, but across Europe the age varies from 8 years to 15 years, not only in age but also regarding the way in which the children are punished for their crime. The Guardian asked a panel of people the question 'the age of criminal responsibility in England is 10, which allowed James Bugler's killers to be prosecuted. Should it be altered?
' The responses to this question were printed in the Guardian on 20 June 2001 (quoted in Book 1:page 20). Four particular comments were printed, each consisting of views that encompass the 3 different approaches to childhood: Scientific, social constructionist and applied approach. To discover how these approaches shed light on children and criminal responsibility, it is necessary to use the said article to explore the views each of the panel had and how they relate to the particular approaches, to reveal how each shed's light on children and criminal responsibility.
Also relevant are childhood constructions they are three discourses – ways of understanding children, through interconnected ideas. These are Puritan, Tabala Rasa and Romantic. A puritan believes in harsh discipline, children should be brought up within strict boundaries because they are born evil and need to be controlled. Tabala Rasa discourse believes in encouraging freedom of play and exploration while teaching right from wrong, nurturing in a healthy environment. Children could become evil and wicked without this environment.
A romantic discourse sees the child as innocence and pure, the child needs protecting from the world, or they would be led astray. The Guardian asked the question about criminal responsibility. Four particular views were printed in the paper. Ann Hagel Policy Research bureau, Carolyn Hamilton – Children's Legal Centre, Lyn Costello – Mothers against murder and aggression and finally Beate Raedegard, whose daughter was murdered by young boys in a case similar to the James Bulger case.
The chart (appendix A) shows a summary of the responses that the women made, I have made comments relating to the questions listed in the TMA Booklet (U212 Block 1 Assignment Booklet). The responses are my interpretations of what each is saying. Almost all feel that the consequences of what the child has done as more important than the actual crime they had committed, along with 3 of the 4, believe the outcome of committing a crime should be treatment, support and rehabiliton. A welfare model would be much better way of dealing with children who commit crimes.
Whereas in the case of the killers of James Bulger a scientific decision was made that the boys based on their age could stand trial in an adult court room. These views can be linked directly to the 3 different approaches, identified and explained next. The Scientific approach aims to establish the facts by producing theories and testing them, working with predictions, the roots of the scientific approach lie in the theorist and his hypotheses, which he/she works though so the facts can be discovered.
Piaget (1896-1980) cited in Book 1 page 12, devised a theory of how children think and what happens as they grow to these processes. Piaget suggested that children undergo transformations in the way they think, through a series of stages: sensori-motor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational. Piaget tested his theory by observations of children, and he concluded that children are not less able than adults to think, more that they think in a totally different way from adults.
This is a classic example of scientific approach. In response to the question, scientific approach can shed light by enhancing our knowledge regarding the practical questions such as ages and stages when a child would or Should be able to have a reasonable understanding or right and wrong, and the consequences of their actions. Social Constructionist are concerned with alternatives ways in which a subject can be viewed, and questions be answered through exploration and examination.
Social constructionist concentrate on the influences of culture, history and social processes, which all effect how people react and interact with the world. It is also concerns with the practical and moral consequences of socially constructed concepts; E. g. Childhood is a socially constructed concept, it exists because people in a particular society have ideas about what childhood is and should be, so childhood would vary across cultures and societies. Using a social constructionist approach to criminal would allow people to acknowledge that
Children to commit crime for various reasons, using discourses: Romantic – sees children as good, innately and that any bad behaviour is because they have been damaged by experience, treatment not punishment would occur and it would consist of therapy by psychologists or counselling. The Puritan discourse: which sees the child as inherently evil and amoral, any bad act, crime carried out, is due to innate wickedness and should be punished. This discourse does not make any allowances for help and support or the background of the person involved.
Applied approach focuses on the practical issues and is split over the models. The welfare and justice model. The welfare model views children as doing wrong due to being deprived or mistreated, and who is in need of nurturing to overcome the disadvantages. E. g. Building self- esteem and confidence. Justice model regards being faced with certain situations, for which policy and law come into affect. The applied approach is finding the balance between the 2 models; it draws on both the social constructionist and the scientific approaches helping to make sense of current policies and systems to improve juvenile systems.