Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The first 14 year old charged with a crime in Denmark

July 1 Denmark changed the age limit for criminal responsibility from 15 to 14 based on the success learned from the U.S. In order to create a safe society the lesson learned is that you need to lock 1 percent of the entire population up in prisons so the rest can live in peace. It is called “a new start” by the politicians.

A couple of hours later the first arrest was made.

It was a 14 year old boy who had stole a car and had gone for a joyride where he reached speeds around 110 miles per hour. The speed itself would have been of no concern if it had been done on high ways because experiences from Germany tells us that speed limits is not needed (They don't have any on most of their high ways). Second spending time on a race track is a mandatory part of the education of new drivers in civilized countries. The problem was that he drove his car on ordinary roads where he could have killed some or ended up as Porsche girl.

But what is known about this boy?

The local journalists found that he in fact was on a home visit from a residential program. He had been detained at this facility by the social services because he used to hang around older teenagers who didn't dare to shoplift or break into houses because they risked criminal consequences. Those older teenagers had made their own little crowd in the best Fagin style.

However criminal investigation is pricey and the social services decided to remove the younger teenagers to residential facilities instead of letting the police investigate. Fagin-boys as we have chosen to mention them is quite ordinary in Denmark and the penalty for playing Mr. Fagin himself is a joke. Now where the law has been changed the criminals have already adjusted so you in certain neighborhoods can find 12- or 13 years old committing crimes.

The crime wave in the little town of Svendborg was over. The police was happy that they had time for their donuts again. The social services could write a lot of reports and in this way tell the world that they benefitted the society.

Until Greece went down the road and had to be saved by the rest of Europe in order to avoid bankruptcy as a nation. Denmark had to pay their part and in exchange conduct massive cutbacks in our society.

Suddenly the social services were told that they had to save 12 million DKK (about 2,000,000 dollars). In order to save all that money they ordered 15 of the children in residential care back home for a mandatory home visit. They didn't care if the children were removed because the parents couldn't handle them due to own problems or they had been Fagin-children as the 14 year old boy.

So he returned home.

During his first week home he stole a boat and a gocart. He was arrested by the police and returned home. Then came his arrest on July 1. Now he was arrested, charged with a crime and returned home.

As I write this blog we have July 6. He has been arrested a total of 5 times. July 5 he was arrested in the morning for a breaking together with two girls also aged 14. Later in the afternoon he had stole a moped and despite the low speed he managed to crash into a car in slow motion. The police are tired. Juvenile detention in Denmark cost around 1,000 dollars per day. They are overcrowded during the summer time because crimes always occur when youth are not in high school where they can calm down in the Friday bars over a couple of beers, so youth have to conduct a lot of misdemeanors to risk detention. However he is closing in to meet the standards as they say it.

When will he be in court so he can face the consequences for his crime wave?

Properly sometime in winter!

What will properly be his fate?

More time in residential treatment, but this time court-ordered to the state can pay the bill!

I have to challenge our system. I have to challenge our motives to change the age limit of criminal responsibility. I have to challenge the use of residential treatment programs.

We are talking of a 14 year old boy. His brain is not fully developed. He cannot understand what is waiting around the corner due to his actions.

Teenagers at that age do not include past and future consequences when they decide what to do. They only operate in present time.

When a teenager made bad decisions the answer is not to punish them. The answer is to give them a consequence. We are talking of a huge consequence here.

I have been advocating for a total remodeling of our justice system for the minors.

When a child commits a crime I believe that first step is to ask the school if the child understands right from wrong. If the child is challenged with illness, then the child cannot be held responsible.

But if the school reports that the child functions similar to what is expected from a child aged 12 or above I believe that the police should ask the child or the parents if the child is ready to take responsibility for his actions and avoid any criminal record.

If the answer is yes then the teenager will have to appear before a court of his peers within a week. Based on the previous actions of the child the police may order that the child wears a GPS bracelet and observes a curfew during that week. Otherwise the child and the family should make themselves available for interviews 24/7 by the social services and the appointed teenagers who will be taking the roles of prosecution and defense.

At the trial date the teenager will have to appear before a peer court which will hear the case and sentence the child to write apologies to the victims, give a verbal apology to his parents, assign a number of community service hours and peer court jury duty services.

Once the consequences have been served the sheet is clean. However the family can be ordered to meet with a family coach. If the family fails to corporate with the coach, the parents can be fined until they comply. We have to focus on the family unit rather than the individual child.

Denmark is the country among the Nordic countries which make the most use of residential programs. In a time where we have to rely not only on our own economy but also on the economy of other European countries we have a vulnerable system. The decision to place a child in residential treatment is too often taken without a plan for the future.

While we criticize the teenagers for making bad decision based only on present facts, we have to acknowledge that the entire social system is function very much like teenagers. Where is the plan for the youth once they reach the age of 18 and fall out of the system?

We want a society without crime. There are other paths to choose in order to reach that goal than locking one percent of the population up.

Our system has not served this 14 year old boy very well.

But it has also not served his victims well. The boat had an owner, the cars had owners, the moped had owners and some people may not feel the safety of their own anymore because their personal items have been tampered with.

I must call for a real new start.

I must call for new criminal justice system for the minors which work for their minds. A system where punishment is replaced by consequences handed out not months after the crimes has been made but within a week.

As a taxpaying citizen I want a simple system where the money is used in the local community for the good of ordinary people. Whenever some take something from the local community, they shall pay back to local community.

The time for a change is now.

It can only be done too slow.

14-årig svendborgenser fortsætter kriminel ferie, by Helge Rahbaek, Fyens StiftsTidende, July 5 - 2010 (Article in Danish)
Sparekniv sendte 14-årig retur, by Torsten Nielsen, Fyens StiftsTidende, July 2 - 2010 (Article in Danish)
Første 14-årige sigtes i Svendborg, by Michala Dieckman, Fyens StiftsTidende, July 1 - 2010 (Article in Danish)
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