Bribery could prevent corruption of youth: Steve Boggan examines an 11-year-old's crime initiative

Click to follow
SOCIOLOGISTS and politicians mulling over the age-old question of how to control Britain's child criminals may have to consider a new solution being put to John Major - bribe the little monsters to be good.

Mark McKevitt, whose idea of paying children to behave is receiving Home Office attention, believes children would be good if the Government promised to pay them pounds 1,000 on reaching 21 without a criminal record. He should know, because he is only 11 years old.

Mark, from Halewood in Liverpool, wrote to Mr Major after the murder on Merseyside of toddler James Bulger and after his brother was mugged twice. 'The good kids don't seem to get any reward,' he wrote. 'This (pounds 1,000) will give them something to look forward to when they get older. The bad kids have nothing to lose either but this might make them think twice before they do something wrong.'

A letter from Mr Major's office said the Prime Minister was 'very impressed' by the suggestion and was passing it on for further consideration by the Home Office.

Although expensive at first sight - there were 642,200 10 year olds in Britain at the last census in 1991 - there is a certain economy to Mark's scheme, according to Andrew Willis, senior lecturer in criminology at Leicester University. 'Kenneth Clarke (the Home Secretary) is already talking about spending pounds 65m on new centres for juvenile offenders,' he said. 'On top of that, it costs up to pounds 30,000 a year to detain each child. And, even if the offender isn't given detention, it costs a lot of money each time a child gets into trouble with the police.

'There is the cost of police involvement and custody; the deliberations of the Crown Prosecution Service on whether to take action; the cost of a legal defence; the cost of the judge or magistrates, the court clerk and the other court officers; and social workers or probation officers have to become involved to produce a pre-sentencing report. That amounts to a lot of money.'

The annual bill for policing and prisons is about pounds 6bn, so perhaps pounds 600m invested annually, with a proportion returning to the Government and with nothing to pay for the first 11 years, is not such an outrageous suggestion.

Peter Wyman, a tax partner at Coopers and Lybrand, said the cost of funding Mark's scheme could be re-couped by a third of a per cent on VAT or income tax, and could pay for itself if there was a reduction in juvenile crime.