Thursday, 28 June 2007

A Problem Child

A 11-year-old boy who has admitted carrying out 26 offences in 13 weeks near his Bristol home has been put under curfew and electronically tagged.

Police had asked a court to name him, but magistrates rejected the request.

On Wednesday the boy, who has claimed to be "untouchable", admitted crimes including burglary, theft and indecent exposure at Bristol Youth Court.

He was also warned that the courts could apply for permission to lock him up before his 12th birthday in March.

The boy, who lives in the north of the city, pleaded guilty to seven offences and asked for 19 more to be taken into consideration.

He was also made the subject of a 36-month supervision order.

Speaking after the hearing, Det Insp Guy Worrall said: "Because of his age, the courts are limited in their powers to deal with this boy, who commits crime across two police districts.

"He is not concerned about being disturbed inside someone's home and continues to commit crime while on bail.

"Officers continue to arrest him, but our advice to the public living in South Gloucestershire and Bristol is to make sure doors and windows of their homes and outbuildings are secured and valuables locked away."

Even his own solicitor admitted she had no "useful suggestions" for how to deal with him after previous community orders had failed.
In this case, the police and the solicitor genuinely cannot be blamed for their lack of ideas. It is very difficult to incarcerate a child under the age of 12: generally it can only be done where the little thug has committed an offence that carries a sentence of at least 14 years' imprisonment. As this is, presumably, not the case here, there really isn't a lot that can be done.

Which, of course, is a problem in itself. In my opinion, with children like this, you need to be prepared to step in early, and give them a good, sharp, and prolonged shock. He's already committing two crimes a week: imagine what he might be doing in six or seven years. It's odds on he'll break the curfew, and a tag won't physically stop him doing anything. Rather, what children like this need is boot camp. This boy needs to be taken away from his family, away from all those who might encourage him to offend, and, indeed, away from any possibility of offending, for at least a year. If nothing else, then this would mean that he would be unable to plague the law-abiding public while he was incarcerated. But, more importantly, only the martial discipline of a boot camp (allied with education, and, perhaps, rehabilitative treatment) has any hope of turning a child like this into anything other than a young hooligan.

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