The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Monday, May 26, 2008

Crime in the UK and Singapore.

Violent crime is the type that people most fear: property can be replaced, life and limb cannot.

I have lived in both the UK and in Singapore. There are many differences between these two countries. Most people are of the view that Singapore is less free and that one's life is less restricted in the UK. There is some truth to this, but there is another side, too. In the UK, there is an epidemic of violent crime afflicting the nation - in Singapore there is no such thing.

In 2006, the Metropolitan Police released a statement that 52 teenagers a week, in London, were subject to knife related crime. That is an astonishing figure and indicates that London is no longer the safe place it was, when I was growing up there. I have seen no figures for Singapore, but in the six years I have spent here, I have only heard of a handful of cases of knife use, in the media, or by word of mouth. It is rare, here.

Why is the UK suffering an epidemic of knife-related crime - and Singapore is not? Well, one key reason is the way the state responds to violent crime. The UK takes a softly softly approach: the penalties for knife crime are really very minor, there. Singapore takes a harsh line, on all crime.

In the UK, in 2006, the Violent Crime Reduction Act increased the maximum penalty for carrying a knife from a pathetic two years in prison, to an almost as pathetic four years in prison. I am not able to find the corresponding penalty for Singapore but, as an indicator, a comparison can be made with gun possession. The possession of any weapon in Singapore is severely punished with lengthy prison sentences and caning (which causes terrible wounds). The use of any weapon in a crime results in life imprisonment and caning. Should anyone be killed by the weapon, the penalty is death - and death is almost inevitable in the Singaporean system. I have never seen anyone "let off".

I have watched the Singaporean legal system now, for several years: punishments for all crimes tend to be severe - and I have never seen moderation in the state's response to crime. In the UK, however, in 60,000 incidents of knife use, only 9 offenders received the maximum penalty. So, the Singaporean state responds aggressively to an individual with a weapon. The UK state does not. Singapore has no violent crime problem; the UK has a terrible one. It is reasonable to conclude that the UK problem is partially caused by its judicial leniency - were they to adopt a harsh response to the possession of weapons, the problem would most probably decline.

In a very real sense, the UK has chosen to have a knife crime problem. They have chosen to have the problem because they have chosen to respond too leniently to the criminals. Imagine that they adopt a harsher penal regime. Imagine that to be found carrying a knife, or any other weapon, would lead to a mandatory penalty of 15 years in prison without parole or bail. Imagine that using the weapon in a crime would lead to a mandatory penalty of life without parole. Imagine that killing someone with the weapon would lead to a mandatory death sentence for the killer. How much knife crime (or other weapon related crime) would the UK have once a few criminals had been sentenced under the new regime? I would think that they would have very close to NO KNIFE CRIME AT ALL.

So, it is up to the government of the UK and its judiciary to solve this problem. All they need to do is come down harshly on the weapon wielders - doing so will make the UK a safe haven, once more, as once it used to be. I really rather hope they do something akin to what I have suggested.

Yesterday, news of the latest teenager to die in a knife-fight in London broke across the world. Rob Knox, an upcoming actor, with a role in the next Harry Potter film, was stabbed to death defending his younger brother and friends from an enraged knife-wielding 21 year old man, outside the Metro pub, next to Sidcup railway station. Rob was stabbed four times, while trying to disarm the man and several others were injured, too. Had the UK a Singaporean style response to crime, it is most likely that this young actor would not have died. It is most likely that his killer would have thought better of the penalty he would receive and not carried a knife in the first place.

Fourteen teenagers have been stabbed to death in London so far this year. How many more must die before the UK adopts a civilized response to knife crime? By civilized response, I mean a response that protects the people of the nation and refuses to tolerate such crime. So, in a sense, one should be as uncivilized as possible to the criminals, so as to preserve the quality of life for everyone else.

Rob Knox's death has brought the knife issue in the UK to the attention of the world. Let him not have died in vain. It is time for the UK to act. Knife crime is easy to stop. All they have to do is make the penalties truly substantial - then it will quickly become a problem of the past.

For the sake of the UK, I hope the government there chooses a better future for its people: stiffen the law, to save the society.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and five months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and ten months, and Tiarnan, twenty-seven months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind, niño, gênio criança, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:11 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha, ha! Knife crime is nothing compared to gun crime....

9:38 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

If I am not mistaken, both knife and gun can kill you quite easily: the only real difference is range. All lethal weapons should be banned in all countries and the carrying of them should bring lengthy, mandatory prison sentences. If that were done, murder rates would fall dramatically worldwide.

However, I appreciate that, in America the NRA will prevent this from ever happening.

Have a safe day.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you're not advocating caning in the UK. I think it's quite barbaric. I agree perhaps increased prison terms are called for. But I also think these conclusions are not so easy to draw. Usually the probability of being caught is a greater deterrent to crime than the severity of the penalties. I wonder if that may be lack of enforcement more than weak penalties.

Crime was heavy in London back in the days of caning, tar-and-feathering, and putting people in the stocks. Lots more people were executed back in the 1500's too. Yet the murder rate was high. I think you may be jumping to conclusions too quickly.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Nowhere in my post does it say that I advocate caning in the UK. It just says that there is caning in Singapore. That is all.

As for your bringing up the past...I don't think it is very informative. To compare the present to the past is misleading, when you could, instead, compare different countries in the present. If we do this, we see something interesting. Countries that have harsh penalties - AND APPLY THEM CONSISTENTLY (like Singapore) have low crime. The reason is simple and obvious: the potential criminal knows that they are going to be in for a terrible punishment if they commit the crime - so they don't commit it in the first place. The UK could learn a lot from this. Right now, the UK is descending into a kind of criminal chaos where the thug with the knife or gun rules. That should not be tolerated. The country is becoming unlivable in. What is needed is harsh penalties that are UNIVERSALLY applied, throughout the UK in every court, with mandatory minimum sentences over which the judges have no say, that are truly deterrent. Then crime would fall rapidly.

I suggest that you actually try living in a country that has a legal system that operates as I suggest. If you do, you would discover that daily life for a law-abiding citizen is much nicer - for the simple reason that you have nothing to fear on the streets. The criminal is the one who is in fear. It works. Anywhere it is applied, it will work.

The UK should really give it a go before it descends any further.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Ned Stark said...


Another possibility could be the ease of law enforcement in Singapore. Not to say that the Police in UK are ineffective; it may be related to the difference in geography etc. Thus Anon's pt is rather valid given that in the past law enforcement was rather crappy.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Miao said...

I recently read a report saying that a UK woman was regularly raped by her own father throughout 16 years. Her father threatened to kill her mother if she told anyone else about it. In total, she was sexually assaulted 800 times and was pregnant 6 times. None of her children survived (died either in miscarriages or when they were only a few months old). She is now married, and would never have reported the crime to the authorities had she not read about the Austrian Josef Fritzl case. Her father was sentenced to 3 years in jail for repeated rape and incest.

16 years of terror, 800 offences of abuse, 6 painful pregnancies, all the immeasurable emotional turmoil - and the rapist only got 3 years in jail. I felt very indignant when I read that. And then I recalled your post. Harsher sentences are necessary. Like you, I don't believe in letting off the culprits easily. I am glad that Singapore is taking such a tough stance on certain issues.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The problem, Miao, in many societies is that criminals have groups advocating their rights - but victims tend to have less say on the matters. The result is that the law gets soft on crime...resulting, of course, in more victims. I like the idea of a place that creates a true deterrent to crime - especially violent crime - for who wants to live in fear? It is the criminals who should live in fear - then everyone else can live in peace.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, Ned, for your comment. My doubts over the comparison with past societies is that they were different from us in so many ways - not just in method of punishment. To compare them to the present, therefore, is misleading (for there are too many variables). Modern societies around the world have much more in common and comparisons are likely to be more instructive.

In societies that give criminals a hard time (and lawyers are not able to get them off with light sentences), crime tends to be low. In societies that are soft on crime and lawyers are able to get light sentences for their clients (the UK...), crime is out of control.

Living in a low crime society is a lot more comfortable than living in a high crime one. I see many opportunities in the US, for instance - but we have chosen not to live there because its record on violent crime is simply unacceptable, when there are safer alternatives (like all of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia). In such circumstances, I don't see why anyone would bring a family up in a violent society. There are peaceful alternatives.

Yes, law enforcement was crappy in the past - but then it is pretty crappy in some modern countries (the UK for instance, where if you are a teenage criminal you can run amok at will and will get told off at best).

Most knife criminals in the UK get off with a verbal warning. That is pathetic. In some ways, the legal system there is mad. They haven't stopped to think why they exist: to preserve the peace and protect the public - not wrap criminals in cotton wool and say: "There, there...was Daddy nasty to you? Did mummy not love you? No wonder you murdered three people...but it is OK, we understand." That is the way it is going - but it is not the answer to anything.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Onlooker said...

But you must see the cause of the problem . With the massive influx of Immigrants into England (France,richer EU country), the crime rates increased and it the same situation here.
It's human nature to seek a better life but not when it is at the expense of committing criminal acts to get the break or promotion.
Honor killings in England.
Outrage of modesty in Netherlands (or Norwegian I forgot).
Racial riots in France.
Olympic riot in S.Korea by Chinese.
In the case of Singapore, Who could forget the SOUP SPOON incident where the employee stab a supervisor to death?
The dismembering of bodies both by local and mainly Asian workers.
There are a lot of cover ups to hide the increase in violent crimes in Singapore or simply not reported (those that SPH/mediacorp does not care to report).
Like the case where a foreign (Thai) worker ( heard from a friend in construction works ) was killed in his shared quarters with a broken beer bottle over a gambling incident. Mostly these incidents are played down or just given a brief mention to give the illusion of low crime rates.
The point is:- British press are more open and tend to report crimes to help their citizen cope but here in Singapore ,critical news are usually filtered to give investors the confidence to invest here.
So take local news with a pinch of salt :)
And remember our police slogan "low crime does not mean no crime"

3:50 PM  

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