May 30, 2004

Crazy Kids

by PG

Not content with becoming self-pornographers, now teenagers are plotting their own murders.

"John," a 14-year old, used a series of false identities in an Internet chatroom to convince a 16-year-old friend, "Mark," that Mark could become a member of the British secret service by stabbing John to death. Mark fortunately was an ineffectual hitman, and John survived the attack that he had planned.

John pleaded guilty to incitement to murder and perverting the course of justice, for which he received a three-year supervision order. Mark was given a two-year supervision order for attempted murder.

Judge David Maddison explained the abnormally light (relative to the usual punishment for such crimes) sentences thus: "These could not be described as any normal circumstances." And the article concludes,

The bleakly serious nature of the case is expected to lead to calls for tighter monitoring of internet chatrooms. Belinda Sproston, of the parental control software firm CyberPatrol, said: "The conversations that these boys were having would not have been allowed in a monitored chatroom."
This strikes me as a poor response to this bizarre incident.

First, both of the young men involved, but especially Mark, deserve heavier sentences. He thought that he was committing murder, not assisted suicide, when he began to stab John, and his punishment ought to fit more closely with his intent.

I would not recommend putting Mark in an adult prison -- clearly, he is easy and suggestible prey -- but he needs more than a supervision order, which is the British equivalent of probation. Juvenile detention and massive amounts of psychological therapy hopefully would provide rehabilitation and punishment to the offender, as well as being a more emphatic deterrent to other would-be James Bonds.

The expected calls for tighter monitoring of Internet chatrooms sound likely to be demands for mandatory government regulation, which is not the solution to cases such as these. Frankly, Mark sounds gullible enough to have fallen for, say, a series of notes in different inks and handwritings that transmitted a similar message. Technology made John's plan much easier, but it did not create the plan nor fulfill it.

John's and Mark's parents, not their government, ought to be the ones invading their privacy and ensuring their safety and good behavior. Had John's parents been more aware of their son's suicidal state of mind, or Mark's parents of his frequent communication with people who incited him to murder, the assault could not have happened.

May 30, 2004 06:29 AM | TrackBack
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