DEBATE: Should courts treat juveniles like adults?

Early this month, the world woke up to a story of the murder of a 39-year-old British citizen called Angela Wrightson. The murder wouldn’t necessarily have been front page news if her killers were not two teenage girls aged 13 and 14 and the fact that they excitedly used the photo sharing and messaging application; Snapchat, to update their friends about their brutality.

Yes. Some crimes are not even debatable

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Early this month, the world woke up to a story of the murder of a 39-year-old British citizen called Angela Wrightson. The murder wouldn’t necessarily have been front page news if her killers were not two teenage girls aged 13 and 14 and the fact that they excitedly used the photo sharing and messaging application; Snapchat, to update their friends about their brutality.

The world was in shock but what we all had to remember was the fact that these two teenagers would be punished but the punishment would not fit the crime since they are below 18. Annoying, right? Well, today we are debating, should juveniles be tried in courts of law as adults? This is a controversial topic based on the fact that most teenagers are driven into some crimes by peer pressure. I say yes, depending on the gravity of the crime, juveniles should be tried as adults if the crimes that they have committed are adult.

Every day, murder, rape, and other heinous crimes are committed by youths below 18. Why should they be accorded preferential treatment?

I understand that as a teenager, one is bound to make mistakes. I am not saying that if a teenage boy or girl enters a mall and shoplifts, try him and sentence him to a year in jail. Perhaps not.

However, no matter how old one is, murder or rape are not crimes that are committed without the culprit putting thought into it. Any teenager who tortures and kills a human being or commits rape should not be treated as a child and should not be allowed to get away with it. By letting them get away with it, we continue to encourage the rot that is slowly but surely eroding the world.

There should be no excuse. Youths who commit crimes are criminals and we should not let their age continue to allow them to be on our streets, living as our neighbors, and in many instances, committing more crimes.

I believe that teens should be held accountable for their actions and tried as adults. If you are worried about the punishment, simply don’t commit the crime. Period.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

They’ll lose their sense of hope

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I would like to believe that there’s a reason as to why adolescents are referred to as juveniles and why the entire legal system, probably the world over, instituted juvenile detention centres. These are minors who, according to most legal systems, are below the legal alcohol consumption age, can’t drive or get married until they are of a certain age.

As thus, they are treated differently from adults because adults are believed to be of sound mind and capable of making sound decisions. This is the same reason why laws don’t have exceptions such as “because this election is important, let’s give children voting cards,” or “this war is important, let’s dress kids in camouflage, give them guns and send them to war”.

All this is put in place because children are considered weak, both mentally and physically, and this is the same reason why they are tried as juveniles and not adults. By having children tried and treated as adults, they’ll most probably be sent to an adult facility which they are mentally not able to handle and this could further damage them.

Sometimes, juveniles commit crimes out of ignorance or peer pressure and trying and treating them as adults could damage their future because they’ll have criminal records. Juvenile records are usually not treated with the same weight as those of adults, however having them as adult criminal records, regardless of the fact that the crime was committed when they were juveniles, will follow them throughout life.

Let’s not forget that there are higher chances of adopting new and dangerous crimes because they are put together with adults who are highly dangerous. In addition, they might be physically and sexually assaulted because they are too weak to defend themselves. And what message are we giving to these young people?

We are telling them that there’s no hope for the future and that their life will never amount to anything but that of a criminal and a convict. In the long run, this will only damage society and the juvenile’s life when they could have turned their misfortunes around.

Instead, why don’t we focus on rehabilitating the young people and keep them from committing such crimes again? This can be done by coming together as a community and help them build trust with the community, police and legal system. However, if we prosecute them, they’ll most likely stay violent or worse; become the most dangerous criminals once they are released.

dean.karemera@newtimes.co.rw

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