Law enforcement practitioners (in this case the police) aim to uphold the laws of the land without fear or favour by firm application of legislation. Their general aim is to; prevent crime, to detect crime and hopefully, detain those individuals suspected of committing the crime, subsequently bringing them to justice. What they’re generally not expected to be is psychoanalysts…
In every modern civilised society the foundations of legislation (the law) are derived from social, ethical and political considerations, all of which help to formulate the concept of criminal responsibility.
The fundamentals of a crime are known as the actus reus and the mens rea. These two Latin terms mean “guilty act” (doing that which is prohibited) and “guilty mind” (i.e. the intent to commit the crime). The traditional view is that moral culpability requires that one should have recognized or intended that one was acting wrongly…(Read more)
Despite the almost constant search for reasons why someone does (or doesn’t do) something in our society these days, many of those responsible for the application of our criminal law generally have no interest in or time for, understanding the reasons why someone actually commits a crime. This aspect of the criminal mind is mostly left to Criminal Psychologists, Mental Health Practitioners, the judicial system and various elements of our Social Services, all mainly after the crime has been committed.
Criminal psychology is the study of the wills, thoughts, intentions and reactions of criminals. The study goes deeply into what makes someone commit crime, but also the reactions after the crime, on the run or in court. Criminal psychologists are often called up as witnesses in court cases to help the jury understand the mind of the criminal…(Read more)
Where is the line between instinct and free will in humans? Whether or not the answer can be found in either of the two following links is mostly immaterial, but read on if you so wish.
- Defining Right and Wrong in Brain Science
- Neuroscience and the Law: Brain, Mind and the Scales of Justice
Recently, it has been suggested that the age of criminal responsibility should be raised. ‘Experts’ favour the change due to the “advances in neuroscience” which I’m not competent to argue for, or against. If nothing else, the change would however serve to provide parity across the whole of he UK. As things stand currently, England, Wales and Northern Ireland use the age of 10yrs but Scotland uses 12yrs of age. More details of the ‘expert’ opinion can be found in the Royal Society report Brain Waves 4: Neuroscience and the law.
I can understand the desire for ‘parity’ across the UK but I would question the desire for it to be the age of 12yrs. There are many examples of children younger than 10yrs, never mind 12yrs, intentionally committing acts that they fully understand are criminal, only to laugh at the law saying; “you can’t touch me, I’m too young!”
Raising the age in England and Wales would have advantages, a factor the government have undoubtedly recognised. Apart from removing the age group of 10-12yrs from liability within the Criminal Justice System, it would also serve to ‘write off’ another large swath of criminal activity from statistical records. You can rest assured it wouldn’t be long before government were crowing about crime reduction success. But, the offences, offenders and most importantly the victims, would still be there. It’s just that the suffering would be ‘under the radar’ and not recorded, or even acted upon probably.
Given that so many suggest our children are maturing far faster than ever before, the answer must be to find ways of dealing with what is happening, not simply sweep it under the carpet and suggest it doesn’t actually exist. It’s wrong to place things in a box marked ‘too hard to deal with’ simply as a money-saving exercise for the public purse, isn’t it?
- Crime age might be ‘set too low’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Age of criminal responsibility is too low, say brain scientists (guardian.co.uk)
- Should the age of criminal responsibility be raised? | Open thread (guardian.co.uk)
- Thompson and Venables: Victims of Knowledge Gaps? (legalfocus.wordpress.com)
- Response: Sentencing of young adults should take their maturity into account (guardian.co.uk)
- Children should not face court over ANY crime until they are 12 (dailymail.co.uk)