Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Crime and Punishment

Letter to Wanstead & Woodford Guardian – January 2008

I, amongst many I am sure, was appalled to read of the sickening treatment meted out, by mindless thugs, to the poor nine week old puppy that was featured in your front page article last week under the headline 'Butchered' - Guardian, January 24.

Gandhi I believe it was who once said that the quality of a civilisation is measured by its treatment of its animals and its elderly. Unfortunately the standard of our society has fallen to an all time low given the horrific crimes, we now hear of daily, that are committed upon the most vulnerable members of our society of late.

No matter what figures the government put out to the contrary, the perception is that there is more violent crime now than ever before. Remember in this instance (and others of equally diabolic nature that we have heard of recently) we are not talking about crime carried out on a run down estate in some inner city ghetto here. We are talking about the leafy suburb of Wanstead, for goodness sake!

However, although the gut reaction of many is to punish the perpetrators of such sickening acts of violence in a fashion that mirrors their crimes, this would only serve as a short-term solution to the symptoms of a much more profound problem that afflicts our lives.

This dreadful situation has come about, in part, because of the short-sighted policies of successive councils everywhere that have stopped the funding of local youth clubs and community centres for better looking short-term cash-flows on their balance sheets. This has left the young disenfranchised and caused long-term damage to local communities where the cost has been paid in lives.

Yes, there should be a more visible police presence with real powers to act on our streets and yes, sentences for crimes of the horrific nature that is becoming more prevalent should be handed out. But this societal problem must be addressed by a radical, positive and comprehensive strategy that needs to be implemented as of now. This should involve terms of mandatory work for the reparation of damage caused to communities in which it is executed.

What is also needed is the courage to confront not only the perpetrators of these crimes, but also the parents of these so called 'feral youths'. The parents must be made to act to stop their children from committing these atrocities or, if they have let the situation get out of their hands, they must be forced to hand their wild offspring onto agencies that are better equipped to deal with these problems.

The worst part of all this is that not only are these youths losing respect for animals, their elders and even their own parents; they are also losing their self respect and are simply becoming statistics to remind us of a world that doesn’t care.

Ashley Gunstock

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