Kids' Abuse Drives U.K. Pensioner to Suicide
May 16, 2001 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Kids' Abuse Drives U.K. Pensioner to Suicide Stories like this really make my blood boil. This is happening all of the time in the UK. Many of our children are completely uncontrollable. Lots of Brits live in fear of children who bombard their houses with bricks and deliberately scratch their cars.
But the police remain powerless since the courts can't sentence these children to hard time. In a country where hard discipline is discouraged, is it time to start really spanking children again? No, I think it's time to start spanking the parents.
posted by wackybrit (25 comments total)
People suck.
posted by jasonepowell at 11:10 AM on May 16, 2001

"Hampshire police refused to comment on the tragedy — or to reveal how many times the veteran had called them out to help him. " ... "Three youngsters that had a lot to do with it went past Bill’s home after he was found dead and laughed and spat at it. "

So both the police and the neighborhood seemed to be aware of these holy terrors, even knowing who they were. And apparently nothing was done because... ? This is another sad case of people who stood idly by and watched these things build up, then expressed shock that it ended the way it did.

Sometimes conflicts need to be resolved without the police or the courts, a very blunt instrument for justice. Why didn't a group of concerned neighbors start showing up at these kids houses, talking to the parents, or even escalating it to the boundaries of legality? Christ, the kids were 11 to 15- what would they do if the neighbors or members of that community caught them doing these things and just started whuppin' them right there on the sidewalk, a slap on the face or a spanking? After a few times of that, the kids would start to learn the costs of their actions, and the law would tire of dragging the whole neighborhood in to the courts.

Right now, those kids are just laughing at the still- impotent neighbors, "too scared to be named for fear of also being victimised". Well heck, if you aren't going to do anything but quiver and moan and whine, why the heck would these kids stop what they're doing?
posted by hincandenza at 11:52 AM on May 16, 2001

Hmm, the sun, that great source of truth. Not sensationalist at all, no way. I don't suppose he would have received much of sentence for threatening the kids, but he chose to kill himself instead.

Good material for the tory election campaign though.
posted by alexfarran at 12:18 PM on May 16, 2001

what's a "yob?"
posted by crunchland at 12:33 PM on May 16, 2001

From WordNet (r) 1.6 [wn]:

n : a cruel and brutal fellow [syn: {bully}, {tough}, {hooligan},
{ruffian}, {roughneck}, {rowdy}, {yobo}, {yobbo}]
posted by stbalbach at 12:49 PM on May 16, 2001

hicandenza: Wise words, but I guess you don't live in the UK. People in similar situations have tried talking to the parents before, however, many parents don't mind their children doing these things, or just don't have any control over their young ones.

And.. if you, as an adult, slap a child in the street, you'll be hauled in front of a court quicker than you can say 'just cause'. Even parents can be taken to court for spanking their own children now. That's Britain. Kids have the ultimate protection under the law, even if it's the kids in the wrong.

alexfarren: It's a real story, y'know. And it's not as if I'd bring it up as a Tory point, because I'm considering voting for Labour this year! (anything but the Lib Dems)

Yeah, he might not have got a sentence at all. But then he'd have gone back, and had to face exactly the same thing day in day out. The police were hardly helpful. What do you do when you're under constant assault? Well, this guy just panicked and killed himself. Kinda like many of the school kids with guns, no?
posted by wackybrit at 1:32 PM on May 16, 2001

Or, the slightly more indepth Times version.

"Hampshire police said last night that they had no intention of questioning any gang members, or of pressing charges." - Yeah, sounds about right. Hope they catch some people doing 35mph nearby though ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 1:36 PM on May 16, 2001

Believe me, child harassment is on the increase, especially in Liverpool. It gets the point when you dread the half-term holidays, because those bored teenagers are going to about town, and if your not careful something is going to happen.

Not too long ago I was waiting at a bus stop because I was going out to dinner with a friend. I happen to be looking up the street to see if the bus was coming when five lads, couldn't have been more than 13 or 14, happen to hatch my eye. I got the usual 'What are you looking at?' which I tried to ignore, but they were slowing down. I explained I was just watching for a bus, but by then they had rounded me.

Now I'm not a small person, but I wouldn't know the first thing about fighting, so I just stood there as one of them (the one who'd obviously taken a dislike) took up the pugilist position, fist in front. I just stood watching him, one eye up the street still, hoping that bus would arrive.

He punched me in the face.

I swore, loudly. The only vague bit of comfort was the look on his face when, as my bulk moved towards, he wondered actually what kind of damage I might do. He wanted to stay and try his luck, though his friends had other ideas - and since peer pressure is stronger than madness - he ran also, with me wondering about his parentage at the top of my voice.

To be honest I was more surprised than anything. It wasn't till I met my friend half an hour later I calmed down. Trouble is now of course, when I'm on that road and I see a bunch of lads about that age in tracksuits I wonder if its them back for second pickings. Not that I'm psychologically scarred or anthing.

So when I here about people three or four times older than me having to put up with this crap, I do wonder if society isn't going something to pot . . .
posted by feelinglistless at 1:37 PM on May 16, 2001

"It's a stinking world because there's no law and order any more. It's a stinking world because it lets the young get onto the old, like you done.'s no world for an old man any longer. What sort of a world is it at all? Men on the moon, and men spinning around the earth, and there's not no attention paid to earthly law and order no more."
posted by solistrato at 2:19 PM on May 16, 2001

Too bad the old guy didn't have a real gun.
posted by kindall at 2:35 PM on May 16, 2001

There are estates in Britain on the brink of vigilante justice because of little bastards like this. There's a pub directly opposite my house, and the square outside is the regular Friday night venue for 16 year olds with bottles of strong cider. What do we get from the police? The occasional helicopter overhead, a bizarre horseback patrol one weekend, and the knowledge that there are dozens of speed-traps set up to fund the constabulary, and dozens of officers sitting in front of CCTV screens with their cups of tea.

kindall: if the pensioner had had a real gun, then you can bet that the little fuckers would have got hold of one as well. Better to have, like my neighbours, a crowbar or a cricket bat at hand.
posted by holgate at 2:51 PM on May 16, 2001

While I agree wholeheartedly that there are some little sods around these days (it's one of the reasons I've moved back to the countryside after 10 years in towns in the South East), I wonder about the veracity of this particular story. It seems to have only been run by the often sensationalist, frequently partisan Murdoch press (The Times is no longer the 'Thunderer' it once was, it often seems more like a tabloid in broadsheet format these days) and Annanova which picked it up from the Times.
I'd like to see a more balanced, less sensationalist view, but having searched several other UK news sources I can't find any mention of it. Can anyone find a more reliable source for this?
posted by Markb at 3:36 PM on May 16, 2001

kindall: if the pensioner had had a real gun, then you can bet that the little fuckers would have got hold of one as well.

If the little fuckers had any reason whatsoever to believe the pensioner had any right to defend himself with a gun, they wouldn't go anywhere near him. They're petty cowards that will only attack people they know cannot possibly defend themselves through physical strength, and are prohibited by law of defending themselves in any fashion that does not require physical strength. There's a reason violent assaults in the UK are skyrocketing, and such events are rare in the US.
posted by aaron at 3:56 PM on May 16, 2001

(By "such events" I mean roving bands of yobs attacking helpless people for no real reason whatsoever. There are violent attacks in the US as well, of course, but generally remain within the lowlife community. And in any case, violent crime in the UK in general is higher than it is in the US.)
posted by aaron at 3:59 PM on May 16, 2001

Solistrato threw in this thoughtful quote: "It's a stinking world because there's no law and order any more. It's a stinking world because it lets the young get onto the old, like you done...[snip]"

True. People have always moaned about kids and violence, but things are starting to build to a head. An old man wittering the above in 1950 would be complaining about 'those dang kids' who kept stealing apples from his apple tree.

He'd complain about the kids being smartassed, about the kids listening to Elvis Presley, their awful clothes and so on. Nowadays, people are complaining that the kids are setting fire to their cars, shooting ball bearing guns at them, urinating onto their private property, and such.

There is certainly a difference between then and now. So, the complains may still have been valid back then, but things have most certainly got worse.
posted by wackybrit at 4:05 PM on May 16, 2001

MarkB: Good idea moving away from the South East.. but I've heard interesting stories from elsewhere.

In fact, in Lincolnshire (where I am now) policemen are often kicked to the ground on their night-time patrols in *small* country towns like Boston or Cleethorpes. Some are even requesting transfers back to the south east because it's safer! Sadly, there are just as many thugs cruising country towns at night than as anywhere else.
posted by wackybrit at 4:07 PM on May 16, 2001

Geez. Someone took that seriously? No, I don't really think it'd be a good idea for him to have actually shot at one of the "yobs." I merely found the contrast interesting and somewhat eerie. The way this man decided to handle his situation was no less disturbing than the guy who shot the "career larcenist" in New York.
posted by kindall at 4:14 PM on May 16, 2001

kindall: when I hear the "clip-clop" of the mounted policeman on a Friday night, nothing surprises me.

aaron: it pains me to say it (oh yes) but I think you're right. These kids are utter cowards. But the last thing you want is a repeat of the Tony Martin case, where an old man who regarded himself as threatened by -- yes, cowardly -- criminals knocked out the stairwell and retreated into a back-room with a shotgun, because to him that offered "protection". From my perspective, a security guaranteed by guns is desperately tenuous: it's a stand-off rather than a peace settlement.

What's needed, then? Call me John Ashcroft, but what's needed is fathers. And when you have generations of "Thatcher's children" spawning further generations, none of which have any sense of respect, or social responsibility, or discipline then I really wonder how that's to be countered. And despair.
posted by holgate at 4:34 PM on May 16, 2001

I want parents to be as responsible for all their childrens’ actions. If some kid throws a brick through a window the kid gets community service and the parent(s) pay for it. If a kid kills some teacher, the kid goes to juvi hall and the parent(s) go to jail.

If you can’t teach a child how to live in a society, then you can’t raise children.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 4:52 PM on May 16, 2001

Tony Martin
posted by thirteen at 4:55 PM on May 16, 2001

"..peer pressure is stronger than madness.."

Peer pressure is madness. It is the spark of mob mentality. I don't want parents responsible for the actions of their children. I want each individual responsible for their own actions. We should abolish the separation of juvenile law. If you murder someone, you are not tried as a juvenile or tried as an adult. You are tried as a person. Whether you're 16 or 61 shouldn't matter. Murder's murder. Theft is theft.

Yesterday morning I was driving home, taking the scenic route because the traffic in Dallas Texas has become a form of madness itself. I think I was on the intersection of Midway and Royal or somewhere near there. To my right was this tall wall which butted against the sidewalk. Apparently some rich residential plot of land was housed inside it. There was a metallic sign firmly studded into the stone wall which said quite clear and prominently that there were armed guards inside. I remember thinking not only do we have to put bars on our windows and wall in our yards, but we have to communicate with signs to criminals and trespassers. As if the locks and gates and security systems are not enough. As if a sign will matter to people who disregard the law. And this wealthy family owning that property.. were they walling up the world from getting into their precious little home, or were they imprisoning themselves from the world?

Are prison walls there to punish the prisoner, or protect the law abiding citizens?

This is not limited to the UK. Young people in America are also restless and bored. Just like in the UK, some young people use their spare time productively. Others are more destructive. Vandalism is commonplace where I live. Gang activity among juveniles is prevalent. It is a silent terror in my neighborhood. And the laws encourage younger people to be more violent than older people, because we are softer on juveniles than we should be. However we can't limit this to age. This is not a generation gap. It is a gap of communication between different parts of society. It is a clash of interpretations of theology. There are those who believe the rules of society exist for all people. There are those who believe rules are an option, and one can exist in society yet pick and choose which laws to abide by. There are people who believe the laws are for other people, and the only way to help oneself is to go against the grain and fight the system. How else to fight the system but to break the law? We tolerate this, because the alternative would be far worse, believe me.

If one were to look at society as a game, those who break the law are cheaters. They know the rules are there. They choose not to follow them. Maybe it's time to change the rules?
posted by ZachsMind at 12:33 AM on May 17, 2001

I think we can all agree that there's only one way to handle this situation.
posted by crunchland at 3:30 AM on May 17, 2001

I hesitantly agree with capt.crackpipe. Make parents legally responsible for what their kids do.

Try juveniles as juveniles -- kids don't even have fully formed brains, so you can't treat them as adults -- but try (and punish) their parents as adults. It would probably take just one night of Mom or Dad in jail to get her or him to take parenting much more seriously.

Or if jail is a bit much for many offenses, perhaps some useful child-and-parent community service program. For example, mother and son forced to go out cleaning grafitti and sweeping sidewalks together every week for a year because Junior has been breaking windows or spraying his name on walls. Or the kid going to extra classes (English or whatever he kid needs) and the parents having to sit through and pass the same course.

If parents worried right from the start that they might be punished for the actions of their little terrors, I'm sure many kids would get much more attention from their parents early on and would never become big terrors.

Why I'm hesitant about this: how much can you fairly punish one person for another's actions?

But it certainly beats neglecting or shooting kids.
posted by pracowity at 7:39 AM on May 17, 2001

feelinglistless: While things like that have never happened to me, it's because of incidents like that that I bought a car. I'd rather sit 60 minutes in a traffic jam, than risk public transport for 30 minutes.

Sadly, such juvenile behaviour is present to the 'affluent' suburbs too. In the place where I used to live, two 13 year old boys boarded a bus and were asked for ID (to prove they were young enough for the 'child' fare) but they didn't have any.

The bus driver said 'pay the adult fare or get off'. They got off, one stood in front of the bus, while the other picked up bricks from the side of the road and smashed every window in the bus -full of passengers-. It's a shame that many of our kids are now that retarded. It's like devolution.
posted by wackybrit at 8:28 AM on May 17, 2001

wackbrit: Unfortunately I don't have that option - I can't rarely afford to run a car - let alone pay for lessons (I pay for the net from a savings account - some luxuries need planning). So stuck getting using the public transport John 'Punchy' Prescott is so proud of, along with the dope smokers, strange old men and whiny school girls. Aaaaaah!
posted by feelinglistless at 3:36 PM on May 17, 2001

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