Yet another tragedy exposed by the recent London riots is the story of the 11yr old who stole a waste paper bin. And who according to Scotland Yard is the youngest rioter in London to face prosecution. It was tragic that he should have been on the streets in the first place; and tragic that he should be being considered for a custodial sentence. But the real tragedy was that this was not his only criminal offence.
On August 8 a group of men had smashed the windows of a department store, causing £6,000 worth of damage. A policeman spotted the boy reaching in to take a waste bin, worth £50, and arrested him.
Five days earlier the boy had been given a referral order in respect of an unrelated incident that involved arson, criminal damage and carrying a pointed instrument. He had been cutting the seats of a bus with a Stanley knife, and had tried to set fire to the exposed foam. When the driver would not let him off the bus between stops, the 11-year-old smashed through the exit door, jumping out while the bus was still moving.
Where do we go from here? His behaviour is clearly unacceptable and it is easy enough to say that the adults around him have failed him. But we need an approach going forward that can deal with the boy without abandoning him to the vagaries of the penal system and risk writing him off altogether.
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