At Ran­dom

The Oban Times - - NEWS - MARTIN LAING mlaing@oban­

Court case masks a hu­man tragedy

THERE was a story last week that made me pause. It was, at its bot­tom line, a straight­for­ward ac­count of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem in ac­tion.

The story re­ported the jail­ing of two mid­dle-aged men, both fa­thers to Oban fam­i­lies rooted in their com­mu­ni­ties, for drug deal­ing. One man was sent away for eight months, while the other was jailed for seven months. For me, it was a tale of hu­man tragedy for all in­volved. Some will ac­cuse me of be­ing too lib­eral and they may be cor­rect. In some re­spects, this kind of court case is un­re­mark­able. But in this in­stance, the im­pris­on­ing of these two men will res­onate long into the fu­ture for those close to them. There may be fi­nan­cial hard­ship ahead while the fam­i­lies’ bread­win­ners are in prison – and per­haps long af­ter­wards. Their fam­i­lies wept as they were both led away from Oban Sher­iff Court. I paused to con­sider what would make hith­erto ap­par­ently de­cent cit­i­zens sink low enough to em­brace the shad­owy world of drugs, a scourge in our com­mu­ni­ties that should not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

Both men re­fused to iden­tify their con­tacts or sup­pli­ers. Sher­iff Ruth An­der­son QC thus had no al­ter­na­tive but to im­pose the cus­to­dial sen­tences and I of­fer no crit­i­cism of her.

Yet I found my­self spec­u­lat­ing at length as to what would im­pel these two men to risk their rep­u­ta­tions, their fam­i­lies’ well­be­ing and se­cu­rity, and the chance of a re­spectable fu­ture.

Was it sim­ple avarice, that base in­stinct to make what ap­pears to be easy money? Were there debt prob­lems that they thought could be re­solved quickly from crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity? Was it as pro­saic as want­ing a bit of ex­tra money to pro­vide fam­ily treats?

The only peo­ple who know, of course, are the two men. But their crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties have not only re­sulted in their im­pris­on­ment, they have blighted the lives of their loved ones.

I feel for the fam­i­lies, who are in­no­cent vic­tims of crime. They are the ones who will suf­fer and not solely in fi­nan­cial terms. If ever there was a salu­tary les­son about the con­se­quences of be­ing in­volved in drugs, it is this one. We can only hope the two men learn from the er­rors of their ways. And I hope their fam­i­lies en­dure.

Great re­sponse from Oban Times read­ers

IF EVER there was a good ex­am­ple of the hi-tech world in which we live, it oc­curred dur­ing the early hours of Friday morn­ing last week.

That was when the pub­lic re­sponded to an Oban Times mes­sage on so­cial me­dia for some­one to take pic­tures of the fire at the Mill­park coun­cil de­pot in the town.

Reader Hugh Wil­son, from Morvern Hill, cap­tured a strik­ing im­age of the de­pot in flames and emailed it in to us, as did pho­tog­ra­pher Kevin McG­lynn.

The re­sult­ing story and pic­tures were rapidly pub­lished on our web­site and drew a huge re­sponse from and en­gage­ment with our dig­i­tal au­di­ence. Many thanks to Hugh, Kevin and all the oth­ers who contributed.

And we all owe a debt of grat­i­tude to the emer­gency ser­vices, es­pe­cially the fire­fight­ers, who put them­selves in dan­ger to deal with the emer­gency.

Get in touch with your thoughts

Do you have some­thing you want to share? Let me know by writ­ing to me at The Oban Times, Crannog Lane, Oban, PA34 4 HB, or by email to mlaing@oban­

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