Posted 31 марта 2023,, 14:06

Published 31 марта 2023,, 14:06

Modified 31 марта 2023,, 19:53

Updated 31 марта 2023,, 19:53

Murderers at the age of 10: what to do with the children who have committed serious crimes?

31 марта 2023, 14:06
Crimes in Russia are becoming more and more violent. The number of murders and attempted murders has increased for the first time in 20 years. The regions report that in 2023 the number of serious crimes committed by minors has increased. And Russia is not alone in this trend.

Yelena Petrova, Natalia Seibil

In Khimki, near Moscow, on February 7 of this year, a 5th grade girl-student attacked a classmate with a knife and inflicted more than 100 stab wounds on her.

The girl was in a serious condition in intensive care, but survived. And although the prosecutor's office has opened a criminal case under articles on attempted murder and negligence of officials, the attacker will not be punished – criminal liability in Russia, as in most other countries of the world, regardless of the crime, occurs after 14 years. The victim and her abuser are 11…

The number of serious crimes committed by children and adolescents is also growing in other Russian regions. In the first half of 2022, in the Sverdlovsk region, as well as throughout Russia, the total number of offenses decreased, and juvenile delinquency increased. Also, the proportion of girls involved in committing offenses increased from 7.4% to 8.7%. In the Saratov region, the number of crimes committed by minors in 2022 increased by a third.

Statistics on how many murders were committed by children under the age of 14 could not be found, but a comparison can be made, for example, with Germany. There, on average, such crimes are recorded annually from 11 in 2019 and 2020 to 19 in 2021, although it may be that we are talking about group crimes, and the number of cases remains stable. The data on the perpetrators of the crimes are strictly classified, there are no names, no information about how the murder or attempt was committed, nor what the motives of the juvenile offenders were.

The recent murder in the west of the country shocked the whole of Germany. The victim Louise was 13 years old, her killers were 12 and 13. They confessed to stabbing their classmate with a knife. There has never been such a thing that it was the girl herself who killed anyone. After the commission of the crime, both families of the minors who committed the murder left Freudenberg forever.

But immediately after the emergency, a discussion broke out – despite the fact that both girls were released from criminal liability due to their age, how should the state and society react to such crimes, and most importantly, what will become of them later?

Criminal liability in England or Australia, for example, begins at the age of 10. So, quite recently, the European media were outraged that a 13-year-old teenager for snatching someone's mobile phone and giving him another slap in the face, served 2 months in prison, waiting for the trial. In Switzerland, responsibility for serious crimes also comes from the age of 10, but juvenile offenders go to prison only from the age of 15.

When such murders happen, both in Europe and in Russia there are voices about the need to lower the age of punishment. The authorities of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the crime occurred, are calling for a change in the punishment system, and the country's justice minister is categorically against it.

Psychologists and psychiatrists, regardless of which country they work in, say that lowering the age will not do anything, and that it is very likely that juvenile murderers are not monsters, for the most part. According to the Russian Interior Ministry, about half of teenagers who commit serious crimes grow up in full families, about 40% live with one parent, and only 9% live in boarding schools and orphanages.

Dirk Bayer, a professor at the Zurich Institute of Applied Sciences, says that, most likely, we are not talking about insensitive violent children who have dragged out an antisocial existence all their short lives. Most likely, a conflict developed between the victim and the killers, the resolution of which they considered possible only as a last resort. Against the background of belated maturation, which is observed all over the world due to the changed methods of upbringing in families, children cannot realize that death is forever.

- You understand: a huge number of children have not yet formed cause-and-effect relationships. They don't understand very well what they are killing. Normally, this understanding should be formed by the age of 5-7. And imagine that this is a pedagogically neglected child, he may not understand it very well by the age of 10. "I'm like everyone else, I did what everyone else did." It's not very common, but it's serious.Sergey Enikolopov, head of the Department of Medical Psychology at the Scientific Center for Mental Health, together with his colleagues in the 90s, tried to conduct a study on the observation of 100 children who committed murder in Moscow.

All of them were under the age of 14, from 9 years and a little older. The study ended in nothing – the prosecutor's office banned it. However, because of the so-called child protection, no one knows what kind of children they are.

Sergey Enikopolov recalls that he especially remembered one boy:

- I can say that many of them were absolutely mentally healthy children who fell under someone's influence, drinking, socially disadvantaged. But the mother of one of them, when this tragedy happened, she called the biological father, stepfather and said: now you will work, and I will monitor the child. I was just delighted: she acted as if she was a psychologist. I transferred him to another school, became actually a guard. The boy began to learn English, visited France and England with the school. And he wanted to talk about it, and not about the crime. It was wonderful...The most important problem with children who have committed murder or attempted murder is that it is unclear what to do with them afterwards.

One thing is clear – it will not end for them just like that. In Germany, the procedure looks like this: it may happen that girls who have killed their girlfriend can be taken away from their families. They will undergo anti-aggression trainings and multi-system therapies.

Russia also has programs to reduce aggressiveness. However, these programs help to manage anger, not reduce it. The main aspect of working with such children is working with their fears, with social and personal tension. Does this mean that children should not shove pills, but use pedagogical methods?

- Not pedagogical ones! Our teachers are worse than the police. The police are more professional. Educationally – yes!  Child psychiatrists can also be involved. First of all, clinical psychologists for analysis. And then there are psychologists who are ready to work on the re–education or pre-education of these children," Sergei Enikopolov believes.

There used to be deviant schools in Moscow. Many of them were closed because they were not schools, but prisons for children. After that, we made several schools using methods that could help. However, it was difficult to say for sure, because no real studies of this problem have been conducted. There began another problem: the training was too expensive, there was not enough money, good teachers began to leave.

Professor Bayer, observing minors, is convinced that most of them can return to the path of virtue. To do this, children need a stable social environment. Rehabilitation is needed for children to realize what they have done. After committing a crime, they are most likely lost and do not know what to do next. But time will pass, they will have to realize what they have done and take responsibility for this crime.

The prevention of offenses, which the authorities and the ministries of Internal Affairs of all countries dream of, without exception, means in practice only one thing: once a teenager turns off the right path, the police and the juvenile supervision authorities immediately come into play, and the school will be to blame for everything again.

Psychologists advocate for the wider introduction of psychological assistance for adolescents. The stigmatization of psychiatry leads to the fact that the necessary treatment is postponed, and then if the child is a psychopath, development along the clinical line will go unnoticed by others.