Dad-daughter duo creates podcast to teach criminal law to kids

How do you explain deterrence and the presumption of innocence to kids?

Peter Sankoff, a University of Alberta law professor, and his 11-year-old daughter, Penny, have tackled those complex conversations in a family-friendly podcast.

It’s called Translating Criminal Law: Rated G

The duo recorded 10 episodes in their Edmonton, Alta., home — breaking down criminal law concepts so young children can understand.

“I do like law. I like the idea of keeping people safe with law,” said Penny.

Read more: B.C. court tosses ticket issued to man playing podcast on cellphone in cup holder

Her inquisitive nature and bubbly personality has helped guide the loosely scripted podcast and has forced her dad to think of ways to explain the law in plain English.

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“I’m in it every day so I don’t see what it’s like, but Penney does. So she sees everything fresh and it throws questions and I’m like, ‘Well, I guess I have to explain what that means,,” said Peter.

“Law is a way for setting up rules for grown-ups,” Peter told Penny during their first recording.

“These things are so bad that we don’t think people should do them.”

Peter has related the lessons to rules at home and said kids already have an intuitive understanding of criminal law.

“It will give them a better sense of understanding at an early age about one of the most important concerns in our society,” said Peter. “Moreover, by learning about how the criminal law works, young people will get a better understanding about how misbehaviour is treated, and why, and perhaps be able to relate this to their own lives.”

In the Sankoff household, reading at the breakfast table is not allowed.

Penny called that rule an “outrage” but conceded breakfast was a time to set up and talk about the day.

Throughout the podcast, Peter and Penny exchange witty banter — “Rated G” has meant staying away from the not-so-nice side of criminal law.

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“It’s pitched at a kid’s level in terms of the type of language I’m using,” said Peter, “which just means I have to deconstruct the concepts… and not use words like deconstruct.”

Read more: Alberta RCMP stats show reduced crime rates in 2020

Peter also breaks down confusing lawyer lingo and Latin legal terms you’d hear in Canada’s courtrooms.

He later tests Penny on what she heard but perhaps the most endearing part of the 30-plus minutes are the lessons from “Penny’s corner.”

An education on all things tween-related.

“I enjoy teaching him things he probably has no idea about,” said Penny.

TikTok and other social media is at the top of that list.

“She’s right,” admitted Peter. “I don’t follow any of that stuff.

“Honestly, it’s all news to me, so I find it really awesome — sort of getting lessons on what’s going on.”

The pair said they plan to keep producing the podcast as long as they have listeners.

For Peter, the time over the airwaves are more moments he gets to spend with his daughter.

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“I’m delighted, like to me that’s the win.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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