Disturbing reports out of England say two boys, ages 7 and 8, raped two girls in 2014, bringing to light a disturbing number of children accused of crimes for which they’ll never be prosecuted.
Manchester Evening News reports that the 7-year-old boy allegedly raped a girl under the age of 13 while the 8-year-old boy allegedly raped a girl under the age of 16. The shocking report notes that they are just two of more than 1,000 children who allegedly committed crimes in the Greater Manchester area last year but will never be prosecuted because they are under the age of 10.
In the U.K., 10 is the age of criminal responsibility, so for more than 1,000 children under 10 who were accused of committing serious crimes in the last three years, none of them will ever be charged or see the inside of a courtroom.
“It can be upsetting for the victims of these crimes because the normal situation of a court case, most of the time, cannot happen,” Detective Superintendent John Chadwick said. “That is why appropriate referral procedures are in place to minimize a child’s involvement in criminal activity, provide crime-prevention advice, to help them understand the difference between right and wrong and, where appropriate, safeguard them.
“It is always upsetting when very young children are involved in crime, and that is why there is a communal responsibility for all agencies to respond, not just to the needs of the victim, but also the offender. A child does not just go out and commit a crime; there are a whole host of influences that can lead to an incident occurring.”
While the law does not allow for children under the age of 10 to be charged, Chadwick explains that “special measures” are generally put into place on a case-by-case basis.
“If we identify that the individual suspected of that crime is under the age of 10, and therefore under the age of criminal responsibility, they are dealt with on a case-by-case,” Chadwick said. “Investigations are handled sensitively by specially trained officers, as there are often a number of complex factors that need to be considered with regard to both the victim and the offender. For instance, we and a number of partner agencies, such as social services, local safeguarding boards (and) youth offending teams, work closely with the parents or guardians of that person to address the cause of the offending.”
Experts say that many children who commit serious crimes, like the two young boys accused of raping the teen girls, actually have been victims of similar crimes themselves, so while punishment of some kind may be necessary, they may actually need help outside of the criminal justice system.