This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
The age of criminal responsibility has been a hot topic for years.
On one hand, people fed up with vandalism, break-ins, car theft and antisocial behaviour clamour for tougher penalties regardless of age. They want magistrates to throw the book at offenders.
On the other, youth advocates say locking up kids is not the answer and is downright inhumane, often setting them up for a life of crime. They want for the age of criminal responsibility to be lifted.
Often lost in the noise are the pleas for parents to take some responsibility for the poor behaviour of their offspring. That idea has been given weight by the conviction of a mother in the US, found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for not preventing her son from committing a mass shooting at a school in which he killed four classmates.
Jennifer Crumbley is the first American parent punished over a mass shooting committed by their child. The prosecution accused the Crumbleys of buying their then 15-year-old son a pistol, which had been not been secured, and of failing to get him help for his worsening mental health.
The Crumbleys had refused to take their son home after the school had found a disturbing picture he'd drawn forewarning of the attack. But the school failed to check his backpack, in which he'd hidden the pistol. He opened fire on the same day.
Her husband faces the same charges at a separate trial.
Mercifully, Australia has been spared school shootings, thanks to relatively tough gun laws introduced after the Port Arthur massacre.
Youth knife crime, however, is a growing problem, front of mind after the recent stabbing murder of a Queensland grandmother. In that state, youth crime and juvenile justice will be key issues when the state goes to the polls in October.
In Victoria, legislation has been introduced to prohibit the purchase of machetes by children under 18 years of age.
Should parents take some of the responsibility if young Jayden falls in with a bad crowd and steals cars for TikTok notoriety? Should they be held liable for failing to exercise their duty of care to their child and to the wider community? The Crumbley prosecution ought to open up those questions for discussion.
During my childhood, rebellious ratbaggery was nipped in the bud by my angry parents. I'll never forget their fury when I was caught shoplifting after the Sunnyboys, Choo Choo Bars and Redskins tumbled out from under my shirt in front of the shopkeeper. I never committed that offence again.
But there were kids in the neighbourhood whose parents didn't care about - and sometimes applauded - their children's misbehaviour. Or they simply couldn't believe their precious son or daughter would ever do bad things. I was envious at the time but grateful for my oldies' strictness ever since.
Obviously, the state can't lock up every parent whose brats cause mayhem. Nor can it take into care or custody every child who offends. But if you subscribe to the principle that it takes a village to raise a child, the whole community needs to step up.
Just like the shopkeeper who alerted my parents to the fact I'd stolen from him.
And just like the Michigan school which tried to alert the Crumbleys to the fact their child was signalling a murderous act in the making.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Is juvenile crime a problem where you live? Should there be court-imposed consequences for parents when their kids commit crimes? Have we lost that sense of community when it comes to keeping minors on the straight and narrow? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Working families are still under acute financial pressure but fewer cash rate hikes of late has tempered growth in their overall living costs. In the 12 months to the December quarter, living costs rose 6.9 per cent for employee households, down from the 9.6 per cent peak in the June 2023 quarter.
- The ABC has scrapped a planned drag storytime event citing "hateful and offensive" backlash. The national broadcaster had invited families from the LGBTQIA+ community to be involved in the filming of a drag storytime event at a Sydney library for its Mardi Gras coverage.
- Anthony Albanese has led calls to lift workplace standards in Parliament House after delivering a commitment on domestic violence. The Prime Minister used an International Women's Day speech to commit to ending violence against women and children.
THEY SAID IT: "As a newspaper reporter, I covered and was around a fair number of crime scenes involving juvenile delinquents, and few things bothered me more than listening to their parents. Crying, ranting, proclaiming how great their children were despite being kicked out of school or previous run-ins with the law." - LZ Granderson, Los Angeles Times columnist
YOU SAID IT: Stranger than fiction, the mysterious death of a British spy would make a great plotline for an espionage novel.
Irene writes: "What a sad story about Gareth Williams, a life cut short. Could there have been two sets of keys for the padlocked North Face bag? John, I haven't got tired of getting up at the crack of dawn to read The Echidna. Wonderful start for my day."
"I loved your account of Gareth Williams' death, some known evidence of the Coroner and Scotland Yard, that muddies the bathwater, a lot more than it clarifies," writes Donald. "I would also like to spin a more complex tale of it myself with a bit more information. Thanks, well done."
Samantha writes: "Who needs keys to lock a padlock? Surely they would have been put in the bag before it was closed and locked."
"ASIO workers are not spies," writes Philip. "They're spy catchers. ASIS are spies."
Bob writes: "Best spy story ever. The cracks in the camouflage were always there, but The Echidna finally revealed himself as a lefty spy. Recruited by the ABC (7.30 Report) back in the 80s."
"What an interesting piece today from you on the definite plot for a new spy novel. In the past I have enjoyed a good spy novel, and closely followed the Spycatcher case. I found The Spy Catcher Trial by Malcolm Turnbull a really fascinating read, and well written too. My consciousness of spying was initially alerted by a work colleague who lived at McMahons Point in the 1970s, very close to what was recently established as a spy agency location. Close neighbours were aware the residence was not just an ordinary set of friendly neighbours. Keep up the great work."