“He’s just 14 and has admitted robbery and assault to pay off his drug debts; he has previous convictions for battery and criminal damage; but we can’t tell you who he is because… COURT REFUSES TO LIFT BAN ON NAMING THUG,” its front page thundered.
You could almost hear the steam coming from editor Fiona Phillips’ ears!
But this isn’t a story. In all but the most serious of cases young offenders are never publicly named; this is standard practice. But the Hereford Times decided to apply to the court for the right to name this young person.
Was this just a crass attempt to boost sales?
The 14-year-old admitted charges of robbery and assault and received a two-year detention and training order.
But the decision to maintain his anonymity was right.
Despite how you might feel, at 14 you’re still just a kid. You’ve got a lot of energy, you can leave the house without your parents and you start getting involved in new things, new hobbies. You start drinking and maybe using drugs. There’s nothing for you to do and sometimes you get caught up with the wrong people. You’re not yet mature enough to handle all these new things in your life but you’re learning fast.
At 14 in a small town getting ‘named and shamed’ in your local paper could fuck your whole life up (and even more so now these stories can be accessed on the internet indefinitely).
We do not condone the robbery, assault, battery and criminal damage this lad has committed, nor the harm he has done to the people of Hereford. But to receive convictions for all of these things by only the age of 14 you have to wonder what might be going on in his private life and whether some form of counselling may help the situation. Certainly a sentence of a series of meetings with his victims would help him realise the hurt he is causing better than locking him up for two years.
Community events like the recent clean-up and fun-day held in Westfields, and Tupsley’s Picnic in the Park, can help neighbours get to know each other and restore some pride their areas. Work like this, as well as heavy funding into youth services, would go a long way in preventing anti-social behaviour before it even becomes an issue.
Cheap attempts at ‘naming and shaming’ do nothing to help the situation.