Responsible Child

Whilst turning on BBC iPlayer to catch up wit His Dark Materials I saw this on the front page and it instantly caught my attention as a interesting thing to watch.

Based on a true story and asking the question on whether a child as young as 10 can understand what it means to commit murder it is a interesting look at how our courts work when the youngest offenders in our country are held to the same standards as adults.

I know this is based on a true story but it is one of those things that felt like the perfect storm.

A child leaving his father because he couldn’t live with him anymore just to go to his mother who has a new abusive partner and nearly straight away there is a violent fight where her partner attacks Ray’s, the child on trial, older brother.

In a way it is a sad story of how some families fall through the cracks and sometimes bad things happen to good people. They never really get into what happened with Ray and his father to lead him to going to live with his mother in a overcrowded council house with a partner who was abusive.

After the charges are dropped on Scott and he returns to the house Ray’s older brother is thrown into a state of depression, Scott continues to be violent to the mother and social services turn their back on the family feeling having the father back in the house made it more stable and therefore classifying the children as no longer being children in need.

If anything it shows not only how adults who are meant to protect children end up failing them but explains how a child can not process their actions in the same way as a adult either.

Thing is it was super sad that Kerry and Pete had to feel like they had to spin a tale.

We as the audience saw that it was a very clear cut story that Scott was violent, he attempted to kill Nathan with a axe and the charges fell through. Nathan obviously was terrified, his entire family were living in a house with a man who had attempted to kill him and who he had been told by his mother was planning on “finishing the job”. Ray, a child, who loved his family and had moved into this house and helped look after his younger half siblings and witnessed the attempted murder as well as the violent outburst from Scott to his mother helped in his opinion do what the courts wouldn’t do and protect his family.

Now murder is wrong, we all know this, but it showed that our courts are happy to take a child as young as 10 and put them in front of cynical jaded adults and put them on trial as if these adults were his peers. The Psychologist he visits isn’t happy about it saying that he shows empathy and is obviously suffering from PTSD but also showing his defense team that Ray doesn’t openly come across as such. As he doesn’t show outward emotions or regret, and why should he when he believes that what he did was to defend his family, it is obvious a jury of adults will judge him not as a child whose story is much more complicated but as a adult fully aware of what they were doing and the complications of life in general.

Even in court whilst there are allowances like Ray being allowed to sit with his team instead of on his own like Nathan he was treated as if he was a fully capable adult. The trial focused on what happened that night never asking what happened before or building a story to why it would happen, both Nathan and Veronica don’t give evidence leaving the entire weight of the trial sat on character statements from people around the family and mainly on Ray’s side as well as Ray himself.

Which meant that anything other then what happened that night was incapable of being used in court as it was Ray’s word on his own with no evidence or other witness backing him up.

I don’t really know where I stand on things like this.

In a perfect world everyone should be judged for what they did and what truly is the difference between a child committing murder and a adult? Should the life of someone young be put more highly then their victims because they still have a life to lead and room to change? Can we ever understand people enough that we can tell if someone does something in cold blood and full understanding of their actions or indeed is age a factor in whether or not Ray would have picked a different path if he wasn’t so young?

Truth is I don’t think there is a perfect balance. No one can know someone’s story, no one can understand what leads someone to do something so horrific. We can but strive to do our best to bring justice to those who deserve it but when the ones on trial are the ones that were deserving of justice in the first place where do we draw the line going forward?

It is worth the watch just to open your mind on how our courts work, make us think how we look at cases put into the papers and how a story can be twisted to make anyone look bad.

We don’t know the truth of any story yet we sit here and judge.

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