‘Like any good quiz, crime is crammed with titillating reveals..’ https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2017/armchair-detectives
Last night we heard:
‘Children under twelve will no longer be arrested and treated as offenders here in Scotland. MSPs have voted to increase the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 years-old. Some don’t think it goes far enough but the family of a boy killed by an 11-year-old, are angry.’
We meet his cousin, too young to remember, and they tell us about the victim, then we hear, so that we can feel the horror, that:
‘The three-year-old was taken from his Granny’s garden before being beaten with sticks and stones and drowned.’
The cousin speaks repeatedly between the words of politicians and presents the legislation as somehow offensive to the memory of the child.
We do not hear, as we should, just how rare a killing by someone under 12 is and thus how little use it could be in framing legislation. I can only find this same case from 1990, nearly 30 years ago. Is Reporting Scotland really suggesting that a single, incredibly rare case is of any value in reporting the implementation of this legislation? Children under 12 do not kill but they do commit lesser crimes and currently find themselves scarred by that for the rest of their lives. Why did the report not consider the multitude of cases where the legislation will be a boon rather than scrabbling in the mud and gore, desperately to find the only case of murder by a child they can find to shock and upset us to no purposeful end?
How did this proceed? Who thought to try to find a case so horrific to present as some kind of spurious balance? Was it like this?
‘See if you can find any murders by an under-12? Quick!’
‘What only one in the last 30 years? What about Mary Bell? She was Scottish.’
‘1968? Really? Time flies. It wasn’t in Scotland? Great image though, shame.’
‘Oh, OK we’ll go with that one. Contact the family and see if they’ll come on tonight.’
‘Just his cousin? She looks too young. Does she remember? We said his family are angry. Ach, it’ll have to do.’
Once more Reporting Scotland sinks below that of a public service provider to find itself alongside the Sun and the Daily Mail in their foul-smelling swamp.
It’s sadly not unusual. Reporting Scotland have that inbuilt tabloid tendency to use single traumatic cases to make points they think matter for wider policy and action when they do not because they are not typical of a trend. See these recent cases: