Within the last fortnight a 13 year old boy, yes 13, has appeared in court charged with slashing a fellow pupil across the face with a knife. To make matters worse, if that were possible, it happened at school, in the canteen at lunchtime.

To demonstrate the seriousness of the matter he appeared ‘on petition’ following several days on remand at a young offenders institution.

The teenager was charged with a total of five offences including assault to injury and assault to severe injury and permanent disfigurement – make no mistake these are extremely serious offences and a guilty plea or verdict will doubtless lead to a custodial sentence. The implications of this will follow the perpetrator around for the rest of his life.

Regular readers of my blogs will know that I have a real interest in criminology so I suppose the questions to be answered are  firstly what leads a boy born in only 2003 to commit such an awful ‘crime against the person’, secondly what do we do with him including possible punishment and rehabilitation and thirdly what measures can we implement in order to try and prevent these sorts of incidents re-occurring.

To exemplify matters and show the full horror of the situation, have a look at the following eye-watering stats:-

  • In the period 2012-2014:-
  • 44,341 under 16s recorded for crimes
  • 4,866 under 12s recorded for crimes
  • 376 under 8s recorded for crimes
  • 20 four year olds recorded for crimes
  • 5 three year olds recorded for crimes
  • 5,154 violent crimes recorded for under 16s (2013/14 only)
  • 409 sexual crimes recorded for under 16s (2013/14 only

I find those statistics jaw-dropping and positively Dickensian in nature.

Back in the 19th century, Italian prison psychiatrist and criminologist, Cesare Lombroso espoused ‘Darwinian-type’ views and suggested that crimes were committed as a result of ‘biological conditions’ . Essentially, therefore criminals were ‘born that way’.

Lombroso’s works have been largely discredited in the modern day, yet there are those who still believe that he was right.

Sociological theories suggest that crime and criminal activity are external to the individual and involve experiences within the area where an individual live ( or lack of them), other factors such as peer pressure and, crucially, the family. I was interested only last week to hear a considerable number of students speak of almost what they regarded as ‘inherited crime’ – in other words socially unacceptable behaviour but when witnessed by someone young and impressionable enough is somehow perceived totally and utterly acceptable.

If this offender in West Lothian has been subjected to this sort of dysfunctional and morally unacceptable behaviour for the decade or so he has been alive, is it any real surprise that he has been able to commit such a crime?

Or for that matter Daniel Stroud, the killer of Bailey Gwynne in Aberdeen or Will Cornick who stabbed teacher Ann Maguire to death at school in Leeds.

Whilst mercifully rare, they are not unheard of and we must examine ways of establishing why these crimes are being committed and what preventative measures can be taken to prevent recurrence.

Education is , I suspect the principal answer – if 3 year olds are ‘committing acts’ which are having to be recorded by Police ( but, of course, are way below the age of criminal responsibility), and, additionally do not clearly possess anything like the required level of maturity to be accused of intent – it nonetheless poses and interesting yet difficult to answer question. If they are void of what the law requires them to have to be charged ( intent etc.) , what is it that makes them commit these acts at all?? Is it simply an ‘instruction’ from an older individual? Do they simply look at peers, brothers, fathers etc., see them behave in a certain matter and copy it? It would seem incongruous to say the least, that if a 3 year old saw someone drive a car they could jump behind the wheel themselves and deftly drive to the shops.

Yet it is exactly the mimicking of behaviour we see in others which is often at the very heart of criminal behaviour, especially in ‘the young’.

Get Police talks an intrinsic part of the school curriculum, from P1, or even sooner and have them weekly, almost as if they were a subject. Make the talks relevant and hard-hitting so that there is to be a zero tolerance towards the glamorisation or sensationalism of  crime. There is a lot more to be done over and above this but it would be a start.


Thanks for stopping by, folks – have a good day.

Mr. O