Volume 91, Issue 51

Thursday, November 27, 1997

Mike the Knife


Young and restless

It is time for the legal system to take a recess on defending excessively violent youngsters and talk a little more about giving them a suitable detention.

Although statistics show a decrease in overall youth violence in Canada, Tuesday's stabbing of an eight-year-old boy during recess at London's Princess Elizabeth public school should still raise concerns about the ruler-slapping, paddy-whacking punishment of the Young Offenders Act on such a disturbed youth.

Earlier this week, two British Columbia teens, who are now charged with second-degree murder and could soon be charged with first-degree murder, assisted in beating a teenage girl before they chose to go back and finish the job. They knew what they were doing.

In the London case, few could argue the offender was unaware of what she had done. A witness said she told the boy she would kill him if he did not say his name. He didn't. And as swiftly as the knife hurled towards his throat, so too should the alarm sound to re-examine Canada's policy on handling violent youth.

Even when many fingers are pointed at her parents, the school's recess monitor, her teachers, excessive violence on television, peer pressure or society in general, it does not change the fact that this girl is unstable. Aiming the blame does not act as an excuse for anyone who threatens to take somebody's life and actually attempts to pull through on it.

When the intent to commit a fatal crime is easily provable, age should not be a factor. If someone is old enough to consider taking a life, the punishment should be severe. Giving a homicidal teen a slap on the wrist (in accordance with the current laws) won't help anyone sleep, nor will it solve the assaultee's psychological needs.

And although serving some solid jail time will not improve the stability of young criminals, it would act to remind future youths who have the capacity to judge the magnitude of a violent crime, that they are going to be held accountable and get more than just a good grounding if they go through with it. It is time to send a message that intent to kill is a ticket to jail, not a two-year visit to Camp Recovery.

It's not that the Young Offenders Act should be removed, since its role in protecting the identities and providing a safer direction for misguided and misbehaving youths is instrumental towards turning them around. But in cases where there is indisputable intent to kill or maliciously harm another person, it is time for the courts to skip the children's rules and hand out a very adult detention.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997