There was a very good interview on BBC Radio Manchester this morning with one of the two kids from Macclesfield jailed for vandalising trains with their graffiti. I've followed this with some interest. I have no doubt that our five boys will at some point get up to no good. I did. Whether it gets too serious will be a challenge for us as parents.
I think, on balance, two years in jail was an inappropriate sentence for them. But they should be made to suffer for the damage they did and hopefully the publicity serves to show that this is a crime that could lead to a custodial sentence. Teaching kids in the hood not to do it - which they are going to do - is just the start. Cleaning stations and trains for six months while wearing overalls saying - criminal - would do the job.
Eamon O'Neal, the interviewer, who I like, says the lad was genuinely contrite. The balance to strike in the administration of justice is a) fear of the consequences and b) shame. If the latter is genuine, then a much more appropriate sentence would be a very public community service. If there is no shame, if it is two fingers to society, then there is no alternative but to jail them. That jails are universities of crime is one of the biggest problem this society faces.
The messageboards at the Macclesfield Express (here) reflect the view that they are - to quote one - "spoilt mummies boys".
A messageboard at the BBC, here, on whether they are "artists" has just got silly. They're still criminals. The issue is over how you prosecute justice effectively.