Child criminals - should the parents be punished?

After long custodial sentences were handed out to three teenage thugs who all committed serious offences following dysfunctional upbringings, we ask to what extent their parents should be held responsible for their crimes?

Lewis Barlow, 14, and Leon Gray, both of Winn Gardens, were ordered to serve at least 12-and-a-half years for murdering partially-sighted dad Colin Greenwood at Middlewood tram stop.

Meanwhile, Callum Daniels, aged 15, from the Manor, was detained for a minimum of five years for robbery, rape, burglary and escaping from custody.

"This is a tough one because, although I feel that it is the responsibility of the parents and that they should be punished, I also believe that the Government should provide them with more tools to be better parents.

"Ninety per cent of these so called 'bad parents' will have had poor upbringings themselves.

"It's a vicious circle which is an extremely difficult one to be broken. Even if parents are punished for their children's crimes or them missing school, are they really equipped to stop things happening?

"I'm not convinced that punishing parents will have any impact on improving things; these parents are not equipped and their actions could even drive their children to undertake even more crime.

"Poorly equipped parents, i.e. people who have not been provided with the necessary life skills, are always going to struggle and start on the back foot.

"This applies to childhood obesity as well, which, in my eyes, is a form of child abuse, as the child straight away will have health problems and social problems such as bullying and isolation."

Peter Smith, aged 27, Hillsborough.

"It's quite obvious they should be in this case, but the old "approved school" system seems the right answer."

Richard Roper, aged 58, Gleadless.

"It's no surprise that children turn out horribly dysfunctional when they come from broken homes - or even a broken society.

"Children who run riot have very little chance in life - educational failure, chaotic home lives and no discipline are a recipe for crime, drugs and a life with no real meaning.

"We have to work out how to improve parenting, and be more prepared to remove children from parents who are patently incapable of looking after them properly.

"We also need to address the root cause of the failure. Social breakdown, drugs, educational failure and benefit dependency have left our country in a mess, and there are few obvious ways to fix it."

Rob McIlveen, aged 26, Crookes.

"It is my strong belief that parents should be held fully responsible for their child's actions.

"All parents should be subject to a parenting order the first time a child commits an anti social act, then the parent and child should then be monitored by a social worker or probation officer."

James Smith, aged 73, Stocksbridge.

"The parents of the above offenders are clearly not responsible people themselves.

"I do think parents should be held responsible for their child's misdeeds. But, when the situation reaches this sort of level, I do think the law should step in.

"The problem is the lack of discipline. What kind of a society do we live in today, when a child can threaten to take his own parents to court?

"There is no corporal punishment anymore.

"What hope do the young people of today have, If they clearly don't know the difference between right and wrong?"

Jane Coulston, aged 47, Crookes.

"Sadly, the behaviour of children is not always in the control of parents. Kids often copy the culture of their peer group.

"What is needed is the ability to spot early warning signs of criminal behaviour by combining feedback from the police, schools and neighbours.

"Then, social services may hopefully provide a course of action before something serious happens.

"This will cost extra money but could prove a worthwhile investment and perhaps stop the tragic consequences of violent behaviour.

"As the recent Sheffield incidents show, we are simply dealing with punishment rather than prevention."

Barry Cummings, aged 65, Broomhall.

"I think if you asked a lot of parents where their children were and what they were up to they would have no idea.

"I hear youngsters walking about the streets in the early hours of the morning and so, to a large extent, I think parents do have a responsibility for the behaviour of their children.

"But obviously they can't be watching the kids 24 hours a day so the way they are brought up has a lot to do with their behaviour patterns as they grow up.

"There seems to be very little deterrent these days to stop children committing crimes.

"You don't see many police on the streets on the estates, so the youngsters seem to think they can do what they want when they want but when they are caught doing something wrong, they and the do-gooders in our society grab every opportunity to blame something (eg drugs and alcohol) or someone else.

"Let's not forget there are thousands of youngsters and teenagers who do fantastic things in our communities but this obviously does not make good news or reading, as we hardly ever hear or read of these fine upstanding young people."

Kevan Smith, aged 50, Manor.

"When these so-called 'children' commit such serious crimes, they should be treated like any other criminal of that calibre, which means having their names and photographs published, instead of the usual excuse of 'cannot be ….for legal reasons' rubbish.

"Furthermore, their parents should also be subjected to the same exposure. And to give (and perhaps warn) the public some indication of the 'child's' upbringing and circumstances, the parents should also be asked their occupation or if, and how long they have received benefits, if they are married and/or have a live-in partner, if they have any other children, and if so, have they been in trouble with the law.

"Of course, we would always expect the standard 'no comment' answer, as we don't want to compromise anyone's human rights. Except, that is, the human rights of the victim."

Peter Charles, aged 50, Hillsborough.