This chapter provides a general introduction to, and overview of, the content and structure of the book, using the cases of Mary Bell and of the killers of James Bulger to illustrate its approach. It discusses the definition, use and application of the term “child” throughout. It then introduces the concept of criminal capacity as it is to be applied and emphasises its significance. It places the discussion of the issue of youth offending in the context of legal history, looking at Scottish legal writing dating from the 17th century onwards. The central theme of the paradox of the (simultaneous) child/criminal is also identified
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