Baby Charged with Attempted Murder

Recently, in Pakistan, a nine-month-old baby has been charged with attempted murder. Musa Khan was booked for supposedly taking part in a riot in one of the city’s slums. Musa was among five people identified in a police document known as a first information report following disturbances in February in a slum area of Lahore when workers for a gas company came to try to disconnect houses that had not paid their bills. According to the report, written by a now suspended police officer, Musa and his co-accused tried to kill the gas company workers and the policemen accompanying them by throwing stones. The people living in the area maintain that there was only ever a peaceful protest because only women were at the homes and once police came signs were raised in front of them.

The country’s media have highlighted the absurdity of the charge after the boy attended court, during which he cried while having his fingerprints recorded and had to be comforted with a milk bottle. The media has emphasized that this incident has shone an embarrassing light on Pakistan’s shambolic criminal justice system, where underpaid and ill-trained police can be quick to lay false charges that can ensnare the innocent in years of legal troubles. In addition, lawyers involved in the case have highlighted that this is an example of collective punishment on families that Pakistani Police has employed. This practice of collective punishment is also an example that some people, especially police in Pakistan, do not want justice at the hands of the Court but rather they use collective punishment to put entire families, or any one remotely associated with a crime, through hell.

In addition, the charging of toddlers is relatively rare in Pakistan and in fact the lawyer representing the baby has stated that the penal code made it impossible for children under the age of seven to be considered to have committed a criminal offence. However, there are examples of young children being ensnared in the country’s blasphemy laws, which have been much criticized by human rights groups. The point is that this nine-month-old baby being charged with attempted murder simply calls into question the efficiency of the Pakistani Police.

Does anyone find this story just absurd?

How would this collective punishing policy be handled in the U.S.?

Source: Reuters

Picture: NBCNews

5 comments

  1. This is a completely absurd charge and would not stand in the United States. Just like the baby’s attorney cited to the “infancy presumption”, where children under seven cannot be charged with a crime, the United States has the same law and enforces it strictly. Under a United States framework, there are two fundamental parts to committing a crime: the actus reus (or the act itself), and the mens rea (the mental state of the person committing the act). Here, it is unclear what the child even perceived to have done. It is bizarre and crazy for me that a 9-month-old baby can take part in walking much less a riot, but that is what officials charged him with. But what is more important here is the mens rea component of the analysis. The baby cannot even speak to ask for milk or food, much less establish a mental state with intent toward committing a crime. He cannot understand the consequences of his actions, cannot understand his charges, and cannot understand his rights. He cannot form an intelligible, knowing, and voluntary waiver of his rights or anything else involving the crime. Thus, that is why children under seven years old cannot be charged with a crime. Children’s development and maturity are as such that does not allow for them to establish the second part, or mens rea, part of the analysis. Therefore, this case involving a 9-month-old baby is absurd, unjust, and just plain crazy.

  2. I would have to say that I find this story to be absolutely absurd and I am in disbelief that the case has gone beyond accusations and a 9 moth old has actually been charged with attempted murder. The Pakistani criminal justice system has definitely taken it too far.

    The concept of “collective punishment” is definitely an interesting one. While I see some parallels with conspiracy theories here in the United States, I do not understand the reasoning behind charging a baby. Especially with the requirements for intent and needing the ability to stand trial, the concept is truly baffling. I believe charging the baby’s parents are enough of a punishment on the family because of the lasting impact it will have. These charges will not only stigmatize the family but they are sure to be very costly and the possibility of jail time will deprive the child of a stable family life. I do not understand what purposes, if any, are behind the punishing of a 9 month old.

  3. I also find these charges absurd. Such a young child, only nine months old, is not capable of forming the requisite intent for criminal activity. This is definitely a new low for the Pakistani police who have been heavily criticized these days. I am glad that the country’s media is highlighting the absurdity. I cannot fathom how a nine-month-old can be charged with attempted murder and have his fingerprints recorded. If you have to comfort a crime suspect with a milk bottle, then you know that something is really wrong. The Pakistani police need to be more careful with who they charge because they are putting too many lives at risk without sufficient evidence or reasonable charges. This nine-month-old being criminally charged puts the child and his family at risk, and it’s a waste of the court’s time. The Pakistani police need to be reprimanded and go through more rigorous training perhaps, and this case in particular should be immediately dismissed.

  4. This story is quite absurd and something needs to be done to fix it, which could be as easy as dismissing all the charges against the child. Where is the intent? Where is the child’s mens rea? Did the child even play a substantial role in the crime? And what bigger motive does the child’s incarceration serve? Deterrence? The child probably could not spell deterrence, let alone pronounce the words, but all this posturing is doing is ruining a child’s childhood and creating someone who will grow up to spite the government and create unrest in the future. For argument’s sake let’s say that deterrence is a viable theory to base the child’s incarceration. If general deterrence was applied, would this type of deterrence even be recognized by children of his age? Would they be able to recognize what is wrong and what is right from his example, or would they not even be exposed to such crimes? More poignantly, the child probably had no control of his situation. If he had to be calmed down by a milk bottle through the investigation, it’s safe to assume that he legitimately has little control of where he is at or what he is doing. The fault lies within the parents and putting the child in such a dangerous situation. With specific deterrence, while the child may never think to do a bad thing ever again (or if incarcerated will never have the opportunity), will the child even remember? Maybe this is just a punishment for the parents to teach them a lesson, but would it not be more important to just incarcerate the parents? This backward policy of allowing children to be punished is totally against what criminal law seeks to promote and the case should be thrown out completely.

  5. This story is utterly ridiculous and shows just how defective the justice system currently is in some countries. How can a nine-month year old child, still on a bottle and most likely learning to stand be charged of attempted murder? Usually at this age an impression of a child’s fingerprints are taken in order to hang them up for memory, not to create a criminal record against the child. It is outrageous to charge a child for a crime that he obviously does not posses the ability to commit. The collective punishment concept seems similar to ideas of conspiracy or aiding and abetting within the United States. However, these concepts require some kind of intent or knowledge of the action that has occurred in order to hold the person liable for assisting in the commission of the crime. The idea of collective punishment should in no way be able to condemn a baby for taking part in a crime as grave as attempted murder. This accusation seems to be a punishment for the parents more then the child, having to sit by and watch as their child is exposed to such absurd accusations.

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