Public shaming over looting appropriate
MANY teenagers do stupid things. Some drive too fast, drink too much, partake in drugs and make dumb and immature decisions that, with the great benefit of hindsight, they wouldn’t normally do. It’s part of growing up and making the transition from child to adult. Just about every adult can recall an incident in their youth that did not make them proud. But we live and learn from our mistakes and it serves as a lesson as we grow into adulthood. And so it was yesterday in the Townsville Magistrates Court where three teenagers fronted Magistrate Peter Smid on charges of looting during Cyclone Yasi. One of these young men expressed sincere remorse for his actions, saying he was ashamed and that he had undergone counselling for his lack of judgment. That was a brave thing to do. His lawyer remarked that the public shaming on the front page of this newspaper rammed home the seriousness of what he had done. Mr Smid spoke of how the crime of looting is so unAustralian, and at a time when neighbours were looking out for each other during the height of the cyclone, these young men were taking advantage of the situation. As people cowered inside their homes, and Townsville was declared to be in a state of emergency, these young men were out stealing lollies from shops damaged by the cyclone. We must pose the question, as we often do, about what were their parents thinking? How they could even allow their teenage sons outside during a cyclone beggars belief. A significant section of the community will not be happy that these young men were not jailed. An even greater percentage of people will be unhappy that they didn’t have a conviction recorded. Instead, they will be on a 12-month probation order and will have to do between 120 hours and 200 hours of community service, and hopefully it will be cyclone clean-up-related. For the young lad that expressed remorse after his public shaming, this is an adequate sentence and the right outcome. He may just have a chance of learning from his mistake and living a normal life, free of stupid decisions and criminal activity. For the others, we’re not quite sure. Juvenile delinquency starts with the parents. Maybe they are the ones who should have been named and shamed in this instance, not just the teenagers.