Thursday, 17 September 2009

A time and place

Two teenagers were cleared today (16th September) of planning a Columbine type attack on their school in Greater Manchester. The prosecution had based their case on the teenagers' diaries and the case began when this 'fantasy' was mentioned in a phone call to a friend. there were no weapons and the defence did say that at no time was anyone in danger.

So where does danger start? There is a joke when someone is cautioned (and what they say may be taken down and used in evidence) by a police officer and the answer given is "trousers". An alternative is "please don't hit me again officer". Both these replies may not be so funny to the police officer. We all like to laugh but the basis of a joke is very often at the expense of others. The banana skin may physically hurt. A joke about foolishness may mentally hurt. In 2002 there was a competition to find the world's funniest joke and the winning line concerned someone making a mistake and shooting someone to death. Conversations may be misunderstood.

Now put this in a Columbine context. When do the police get involved? If we locked up everyone who said "I'll kill him" then everyone would go to prison. So words on their own are not good enough. Prevention is better than cure but court cases need a little more evidence. Maybe the CPS was right to take these boys to court even though in this case it doesn't look like it, but what would have happened if Columbine II had taken place in Manchester?

We have to be wary of the sensitivities of our police officers. We have to consider our jokes about carrying bombs when entering airport security areas. Let's enjoy life and have a joke but there is a time and place for everything.

Change the world

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