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When grooming is legal

One current hot topic is so-called “grooming”, the practice of adults meeting children on the Internet, and encouraging them to do things that are more than a little distasteful, illegal, or just vile. Most often, this is applied to paedophiles, who “groom” children to encourage them into sexual acts. It’s basically taking the innocent and perverting them.
So it was interesting to see grooming applied in a slightly different context: that of a terrorist who “groomed” a 15 year old boy and turned him into a terrorist. The boy, now aged 17, has just been giventhree years detention for sending a letter purporting to be laced with ricin to Prince William. Yet, the person who did the grooming gets off scot free – and the organisation he is part of cannot be named “for legal reasons”, unlike the hapless youth.
All of which raises the interesting question of just when a child become responsible for his actions?

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  • http://www,hegemony.org.uk/rithmo/ Jim

    Short answer: in Scotland the age of legal responsibility is 12, which I believe is the same as the UK. Scotland has recently raised the age from 8 to keep in line with human rights legislation.

    I think you’re confusing legal and sexual responsibility: in the case of sexual grooming it is the intention of the groomer to commit a crime. The groomee is not committing a crime: whether they have legal responsibility for their actions is irrelevant. They merely have to be under the age of consent.

    In the case of the Scottish chap, he had committed a crime, and his groomer, if he/she exists, will be indictable under a simple charge of conspiracy, rather than grooming. I suspect the reason that they cannot be named ‘for legal reasons’ is that (again, if they exist) is that the admirable Scottish legal process is catching up with them.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Exactly the point that I’m getting at: all legal responsibility relies on the notion of someone having responsibility for an action. We regard the child here as being responsible enough to face trial for one type of action (violent), and children of the same age are not responsible enough to decide to have sex: the presumption is that they are coerced (“groomed”) into it by an adult.

    So the question is why do we regard children as being responsible for one kind of action, yet regard them as not being capable of being responsible for another?

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