If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime the saying goes — but what if that time is an indefinite period?
Last week’s story about the shameful bullying of a schoolgirl, with three juveniles eventually being arrested and bailed by the police, prompted us to reflect on the internet and justice (yes, again).
It’s a given that bullying is vile, that bullies are inadequate in some way and that anyone caught bullying deserves to be punished. The comments that follow are not meant to detract from that.
Our first thought was: how stupid is someone to film themselves bullying another human and then load that video onto the worldwide web? We use that description deliberately: it’s worldwide and its webby nature means you can’t control who sees what, once you’ve presented it to an eager world. Commit a crime and let the world see it and you might as well tattoo “arrest me” on your forehead.
Our second thought was for the bullies themselves. Most bullies we knew at school grew up to be rather blandly pleasant, sometimes with no real recollection of how bad they were (their victims always remember, of course).
The girls who have been bailed for the attack were 16 and 13. We can’t comment on specific cases that are in the courts, but a 13-year-old will be a different person in two years’ time to the one they are now, never mind 10 years. A 13-year-old dumb enough to post a video of herself committing a bad thing will forever be haunted by that video.
If you don’t believe us, ask the Macclesfield lad who peed on a poppy wreath. He was drunk — he’d been on a drinking binge organised by a company called Carnage UK — but that’s no excuse. He went to court and was given community service, the judge making suitably stern comments.
That was 2009, the teenager now a (hopefully) mature man of 26. However, you can be sure that some time this year a post will appear on social media saying “This man wants locking up” as the photo of him doing the dirty deed once again sets off on its regular tour of the worldwide web. It would be no surprise if the poor sod hasn’t changed his name. He’ll never escape.
Similarly, the juveniles accused of bullying last week. We can’t name them because of their age but social media did (and legally, they had not been charged at that point) and those names and that video will probably continue to circulate for ever more, whether or not they are convicted.
Future employers hiring staff and Googling applicants will not be kind to people they see urinating on poppies or attacking someone and filming it. It’s a harsh punishment, whatever the original offence.
Cheshire Police are hot on testing for drug-driving and if you’re a young person, smoke a joint, drive, get arrested and lose your licence, you will also get your name in the paper, and probably on line. Our biggest source of complaints is now from young people who have done just that. Their responses can be breathtaking.
“I think this content is my intellectual property, and it can’t be used without my permission,” said a drug driver.
“Lack of positivity and more focused towards irrelevancy and small-time shock and awe,” another commented, using a fake Facebook name and clearly still stoned.
“Terrible newspaper specialising in deceit and breach of civil rights. Revert to word of mouth and trusted articles from mainstream sources!” said yet another, using a fake name and a fake Facebook account to argue the case for using only trusted sources. Actually, he could have been the same stoned driver from the previous complaint.
“I would definitely prefer if you were to refrain from slandering my name and breaking the Data Protection Act,” said yet another outraged teen (convicted of fare dodging).
This week we had a complaint from a mother complaining on behalf of her daughter, saying the fact that a drug-driving ban was on line was “very distressing”.
The daughter herself was more threatening: “I will proceed to take legal action against you. I’ve read my rights,” she said, clearly not having read anything actually in the real world.
To be fair to the mother, all parents know that children of any age can do stupid things and then regret them. The girl’s mother did not condone the crime and said her daughter had made a mistake.
But the truth for these drug-driving complainants, parents and teenagers alike, is that we could so easily be putting their name in the paper for a different reason — they’re dead.Or they’ve killed someone else.
Drink/drug driving is not a harmless crime, like dropping litter: the police this week launched a new campaign targeting the “fatal four” — drink/drug driving, excessive speed, using technology while driving and not wearing a seatbelt.
They’re not the “made a bit of a mistake four” or the “I know my rights if you print this four” — they’re the fatal four.
We print all court cases, and often people do not like seeing their name in print. Naming and shaming is part of the judicial system and has been for centuries but, with drink/drug driving in particular, it also serves as a deterrent –—people who take intoxicants and drive risk killing someone. Their punishment should be used as a deterrent.
Don’t take drugs and drive kids: the least bad terminal result will be terminal embarrassment.