Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Did this judge know sweet Fanny Adams?

You may not be aware, but a stupid teenager has been locked up, for making stupid comments which were intended to shock. Comments on Facebook.

I know this isn't family law related, but it's something that's really bugged me. I'm not suggesting that making jokes at the expense of dead children is acceptable. I'm not even saying that the teen concerned shouldn't have received some punishment, but was prison really appropriate? Be prepared, oh tax payer, to financially support him for years to come, now that he won't get employment... and all because of a judge's 'moral outrage'. Should he have received a criminal record? No. No he shouldn't.

I'm as disgusted at the judge to be honest. Teens do stupid things. They say stupid things. They say things intended to shock. Whether joking with friends about going stealing when the riots were on, or climbing monuments during protests, or making a sick joke... is it right to criminalise them, and lock them up with hardened criminals? The sentences for these crimes were 3 months, 16 months (cut to 4), and 4 years. By heavens, we must have plenty of space in our prisons!

I suppose that's what happens when they run around, thinking they can do whatever they choose without repercussion, playing up toan audience and trying to look good infront of their peers... but am I talking about the kids or the judges? Hard to tell when they're both being irresponsible.

At the time of the riots, a friend joked "pick me up a fridge if you're in Enfield". Humour... we British are famed for our black humour. Should I have shopped her to old bill for attempts to incite me to rampage through the streets? I hope not, she's a solicitor. She has a sense of humour, and if a judge finds that 'morally wrong', well bugger off and mix with your own social circle!

I beat on occasionally about judicial discretion being too wide, but it is... and not only in the family courts. At the other end of the spectrum in our criminal court, we have liberal judges judges who applaud burglars as courageous, and then let them go free? We pay these people a small fortune too... give them healthy pensions, and long holidays!

When I grew up, there were plenty of inappropriate jokes in circulation. They'd be repeated for the same reason we took up smoking... a bit of peer pressure, and frankly, being silly. Jokes about the Zebrugge Ferry, Michael Jackson as a babysitter, and in more recent years, jokes have done the rounds of offices about Michael Barrymore and swimming pools. I don't really like seeing jokes poking fun at Abu Hamza's disability either... but for every tragedy, there are 100 sick jokes that do the rounds of football clubs, school playgrounds, college bars and business offices. Don't believe me... just google "sick joke" and you'll find more than 90,000 sites.

God help Clarkson. His joke about murdering prostitutes would see him imprisoned before some judges... and if not... I wonder if the main reason is because it's easier to punish a child than a celebrity. Isn't that bullying rather than justice? Where you publish someone because you can?

Maybe the answer is a new moral court. Where criminal records aren't handed down, but where moral outrage can be satisfied by a community service sentence which doesn't stay on a record. 

It's worth reminding ourselves that sadly, jokes about murdered children aren't a new thing in this country. If you've ever said 'Sweet FA' or 'Sweet Fanny Adams', well, you're continuing an old joke at a murdered child's expense. The child, Fanny Adams, was murdered by a solicitor's clerk, and chopped into pieces. Around the same time, the Royal Navy introduced tins of minced mutton... which the sailors would refer to as a tin of sweet Fanny Adams.

Is the world made better by having offensive comments? No. Is it made worse by having draconian judges, and inconsistent sentencing? Yes. Is it worth the cost to the public purse, prosecuting, imprisoning, and then financially supporting feckless youth? No.

In the family courts, there's a lower threshold of evidence required to determine guilt, so outcomes are even more of a lottery. Your family's future will be decided on the discretion of an individual whose concept of 'family life' may be influenced by being a modern parent... they may be someone with no parenting experience whatsoever... or someone whose experience of family life was sacrificed in the pursuit of a career at the bar.