What should we do with a child who brandishes a gun in the corner shop?

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The Independent Online

The lawyer of the boy who is probably Britain's youngest armed robber has said that his raid on a newsagent's was "a game that went horribly wrong". The 12-year-old pointed his sawn-off shotgun at shopkeeper Jasbir Singh Guliani and asked for money. The game went horribly wrong - from the child's point of view - when Mr Guliani refused to be intimidated, and engaged the masked and hooded child in 20 minutes of conversation until the police came.

What Mr Guliani was brave enough to do, was to treat a child as a child - even if he was pointing a sawn-off shotgun at him. (The gun, which the boy said he found, was later found to be unloaded, but Mr Guliani didn't know that.) He told the boy he was too young for cigarettes, and suggested sweets and crisps instead. He found that authority in the situation quickly devolved to him, and that it was not long before the boy was telling the shopkeeper about his problems.

These problems were many, and included domestic violence. He told Mr Guliani that he has been in foster care, and had been thrown out of school. The boy is now in local authority care. He is taking his maths GCSE early and is a promising footballer. He is estranged from his father. His mother says he had planned the robbery with his brother as a "joke".

The story of this boy joins a sad litany of recent stories of children who have committed crimes of terrible violence. One of the most shocking, the murder of schoolboy Luke Walmsley by 14-year-old Alan Pennell, has highlighted the "no-blame approach" to bullying at school, which was developed because often punishment does not change bullies' behaviour.

The trouble is that the no-blame approach doesn't change their behaviour either. In minor bullying cases, sitting children in a group and talking about the situation in a non-judgemental way, is a good thing. But when matters escalate, the system is clearly open to abuse. Just explaining to a bullying child that his actions hurt others is not going to stop him when it is only picking on another person that makes his own problems go away.

It strikes me that even though this child has committed a serious crime, his mother and his defence lawyer are both attempting versions of the "no-blame" approach. Yet treating what this boy did as a "game" or as a "joke" will not help him at all. Mr Guliani treated the boy as a child but as a criminal as well. He was kind, but moral and firm.

The happy ending to this man's sensible and humane actions should be that the boy he apprehended can be helped, as well as held to account for his actions. With his mother and his lawyer both so determined to deny what happened as much as they can, there's not much chance of that. Somewhere there's a positive medium between brutal retribution and "no-blame approaches". It is time that we found it.

For Pete's sake, leave the man alone

The frenzy of self-fulfilling anticipation that surrounds the young musician Pete Doherty becomes more offensive by the minute. Barred from playing with his group The Libertines until he stops taking drugs, Mr Doherty is now in the newspapers far, far more than he was when he was a functioning artist.

Mainly, the media interest has been prompted by the sense that this is an accident waiting to happen, and one they can be at the scene of straight away. News editors hardly knew who Kurt Cobain was when he blew his head off. Writers never found out what happened when Richey Edwards disappeared. No one got to interview Syd Barrett after his brain got fried.

Now, Doherty is selling his story to the tabloids to pay for drugs, which is a neat way for the papers to invest in getting what they want - a nice juicy tragedy. Every false move the young man makes becomes part of a sick mythology. This week the fact that he failed to turn up at a pub gig was a national news story.

One person, though, is doing what everyone ought to be doing, and giving Doherty the message that none of his behaviour is acceptable until he stops taking drugs. That person is his bandmate Carl Barat, who says he will have nothing to do with his friend until he addresses the issue of this addiction. This is the only way forward. Anything else simply reassures him that self-destruction is cool.

A distressing exercise in mass mourning

On Thursday, mourners started attending a series of burials of 1,000 unidentified babies, many of them foetuses, recovered from hospitals including Alder Hey. Some of the remains date from the 1950s. No doubt the volunteer mourners, unconnected to the children they are burying, are moved to their involvement by real emotion. Sometimes their own dead children have had organs removed without their knowledge. But the expression of it - the burying of each body in a specially designed "blanket of love" - is all cloying symbol and no substance.

And like many of the expressions of public sentiment that have become such a characteristic of British life, they are also presumptive and cruel. These little corpses, far from necessarily being unloved, may have been much anticipated by parents.

These same mothers and fathers, despite their grief, may have felt that the death of the family member they had been awaiting could be better commemorated by leaving the baby in medical hands. Now, those who believed in the healing power of pragmatism can only stand by and wonder if their lost baby is one of the ones being reclaimed. I hope they can reassure themselves that they did nothing wrong, and do not deserve this hysterical rebuke in the least.

¿ Poor rold Peter Andre and Katie Price. While the public can't tell if they are really a couple, my picture confirms that the pair have little idea what their motivation is either. The photo is a still from Mr Andre's promotional video for his new single, "Loved You the Right Way", released on 6 September. But Katie swears she isn't in the video for promotional reasons.

Apparently Jordan took part because "I didn't want any other women to get that close to my man". Mr Andre felt the same way. So why do they look so uninterested in each other? They must be together to avoid the loneliness of narcissism.

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