Thursday, August 17, 2006

Should 10 year-olds appear in court?

I'm of two minds regarding this proposal by Canada's Justice Minister to allow the courts to intervene in cases of criminal behaviour by children as young as 10. On the one hand, he does have something of a point: young children can be under criminal influences, and require intervention in order to prevent temporary tendencies from becoming permanent dispositions. On the other hand, the courts are a pretty blunt instrument, and I'm not sure what empowering them is supposed to do that couldn't be just as easily (if not better) accomplished by expanding the interventionist powers of child welfare organizations. Or, for that matter, providing parents and communities with more resources to help prevent criminal influences from taking hold in the first place. (But that would require funding childcare, and no Con will ever do anything so reasonable.) On the whole, then, although it's good to see the Justice Minister at least doing something to try to prevent criminals from becoming professional criminals, the methodology seems to suffer from the typical Conservative myopia. The notion of rehabilitative or community-based initiatives doesn't appear to occur to Mr. Toews, and it may end up being children who suffer.

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