These thoughts are not new, in November 2005 the BBC reported; ‘the age of criminal responsibility should be increased from 10 to 12’, according to a report by a Commission on Families and Wellbeing. It is worrying that before long nothing will constitute a ‘criminal act’, any more of this methodology and our society suffers the ultimate consequence of a free for all meltdown without any standards!
But applying a little ‘mild force’ to the problem also appears to be unacceptable. In January 2005 it became unlawful to smack your child although ‘mild smacking’ was still allowed under a "reasonable chastisement" defence against common assault. At that time the NSPCC (amongst others) were up in arms saying "It should be just as wrong to hit a child as it is to hit an adult." When the law was being enacted in 2004, Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown (Warwick Medical School) writing in the British Medical Journal argued that the law was ‘too ambiguous for doctors to offer judgements’ on. It was also stated; ‘there was already a shortage of doctors to give evidence in child protection cases as a result of the increasing number of complaints about colleagues involved in such work and recent cases where ‘experts' evidence had been disputed’. So, as the ‘mild force’ option is also a non starter, where do we go from here?
In ‘Street Life’ (BBC News Magazine Feb 2007) a report on ‘Gang Culture’ and the affects on our youth today probably gives an answer. Shaun Bailey recalls his near miss with crime and violence as a youth. He thanks his uncle for introducing him to the Army Cadet Force and is grateful for the opportunity of not becoming the perpetrator of another crime statistic or even worse dead, like several of his pear group at that time. Now I’m not suggesting that every kid should join the cadets however, all of them need a worthwhile purpose in life, a sense of belonging to a ‘gang’ and, something to keep them off the streets. Something to teach those values and standards we all need. To give them a sense of respect, both for themselves and for others.
As we appear to be totally incapable of teaching these values in our schools or at home today, perhaps the time has come for us to examine the ‘National Service’ option again? After all, the