The Ashburton Guardian. MAGNA EST VERITAS ET PRÆVALEBIT. FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 1890. JUVENILE CRIMINALS.
Among the many returns laid upon the table of the House during the present session is one dealing with police convictions against offenders under fourteen years of age. This return was procured at the instance of the member for Christchurch North, and is of -more than passing interest, showing as it does that the children of this colony are not, as a class, so dreadfully bad as a certain type of social reformer would have the public believe ; while it also shows that New Zealand children are not the models of perfection some enthusiasts would paint them. The return embraces the last three years, and deals with the age and sex of offenders, and the class of offence of which they were convicted. In 1887 we find that 225 children, ranging from the age of seven to thirteen years, were convicted of various offences, and of this number 224 were boys ; m the following year, the convictions recorded were 267, of whom 263 were boys; and m 1889 the total was 265, of whom 259 were boys. Thus, m three years, of 757 convictions m the Police Courts. 746 were boys, and 11 only were girls. The class of offences include larceny, breaking and entering premises, malicious injury to property, burglary, and minor offences. An analysis of the convictions shows that 496 offenders, out of a total of 757, 'were convicted of petty larceny, 74 of malicious injury to property, and 69 of breaking and entering into premises. Tims 639 of the offenders were convicted of serious offences, the principal offence being theft. We gather from this, therefore, that a vast number of New Zealand parents are not careful to instil into the minds of their progeny the commandment "Thou shalt not steal." This being so, it might be advisable if a printed card, bearing these words, were placed m a prominent position m all the State schools, and we commend the suggestion to the attention of Education Boards and School Committees, who are, m large measure, the guardians of the young. The other offences upon which children of tendery ears have been convicted, m addition to the foregoing, are scarcely worthy of mention, being confined principally to stone-throwing (43 offenders), and such-like offences, which are common to boys of all countries. The return is not so satisfactory as we should have liked to see it, as it shows that, on the average, 252 children of tender years are annually convicted before the police courts of charges, the vast proportion of which are of a serious nature. Of course, it can never be expected, under any social system, that there will be an entire absence of juvenile crime, but we think that the number of offences could be very considerably reduced if more parental restraint were exercised, and a little more attention were paid to the teaching of a moral code m our public schools. The child is the father of the man, and if there is a disproportion of juvenile criminally, there will be also an increase* m .adult criminal statistics m the cour.se of a few years.