The Vancouver Sun printed this increasingly disturbing story in the morning news.
The gist of it is this: two teenage boys (13 and 15) beat two elderly men (76 and 82) to death in a park washroom for their wallets. Instead of convicting them on charges of second-degree murder, the judge convicted them on charges of manslaughter. They may get out, without serious repercussions, on bail.
This would not be a particularly tragic article if not for the judge’s statement in his ruling: “Here it cannot be forgotten that the accused were 13 and 15 years of age at the time of the offence. The lack of life experience and the relative inability to see serious consequences accompanying an act are hallmarks of youth. On balance I have a reasonable doubt that the two accused meant to cause Mr. Thandi bodily harm knowing it was likely to cause his death.”
Feel free to actively disagree, but I believe that the judge’s statement can be summarized as such: thirteen- and fifteen-year-olds cannot understand that repeatedly beating an elderly man in the head with a baseball bat may kill them.
I hope that this comes across as absurd to my readers as it did to me. If the Canadian justice system thinks that a fifteen-year-old cannot understand that baseball bat + elderly man’s head = possible death, then I have no hope of ever being taken seriously in this country. After all, I will be fifteen next month. It’s depressing to think that if I were to beat someone to death with a baseball bat, the courts would think me too young to understand what I had done. All teenagers, in fact, know that taking a bat to someone’s head might kill them; the majority of us go a step further and understand that this is also a very bad idea.
If all a fifteen-year-old can get for beating two old men to death is a slap on the wrist, what sort of a message is this sending to teenagers? Go ahead and kill someone for pocket money; we think you’re too stupid to realize what you’re doing so there won’t be any consequences. Does the justice system really think that giving a teenager a slap on the wrist for murder at fifteen will make him an angel at twenty? God forbid; if this teen hadn’t killed someone, he would have been driving in a year. Isn’t that a scary thought?
You would think that a teenager mentally disturbed enough to beat an old man to death for pocket money would be in enough trouble even if the victim didn’t die, but apparently not in the Canadian justice system.
And they wonder why youth violence is on the rise. Here’s an idea, folks: maybe teens that murder old men should be held accountable for their actions. If they were actually punished for murdering someone, maybe less teens would consider it, hm?
Needless to say, I sent the Sun this letter in response.