Today’s papers are running a story about police reprimanding three girls of 4, 6 and 10 for picking daffodils in Poole’s Whitecliff Park. The line being taken is that this was an over-reaction on the part of the police who according to some reports terrified one or more of the younger girls.
As critical as I am of the way that the police occasionally order their priorities and utilise their publicly-funded helicopters and other resources, I can’t quite believe that they would bully three small girls when their parents were present throughout, apparently unbothered by their children doing what free-spirited children have always done until corrected by a responsible adult.
Whatever the truth, it’s filled a bit of copy, provided pictures of a passably photogenic mother who’s managed to work in a free plug for her business and.. it will be forgotten by tomorrow. But it speaks volumes about media priorities.
Hidden away in Brighton’s Argus a few days ago, there was a story about the police recruiting young children as spies to report on criminal acts being committed by other pupils. Some might argue that this is no more than encouraging children to be socially responsible but it follows hot on the heels of other schemes requiring children to report on their parents’ ungreen activities and any anti-social habits of their neighbours. There’s no indication that parents have been consulted.
I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this slightly sinister and potentially dangerous to the children involved. Considering the implications, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to believe that the national media would have taken a concerned interest – but as far as I can tell, there’s been nothing. And harking back to today’s story (if you’ve been paying attention you will remember that this involved a child of 10 and her sisters picking daffodils in the park) it begs the question whether young children have sufficient ability to differentiate between what adults decree to be right and wrong – I certainly don’t think they have and believe it is to Britain’s shame that the last government reduced the age of criminal responsibility to 10.
Nevertheless, until today, it might have been possible to dismiss the Argus story as another one of those local puff pieces that die a natural death once everybody has had their 5 minutes in the local paper. But then I discovered that an almost identical scheme has already launched in Cleveland and Redcar… If you’re in any way concerned about these developments, you might want to encourage the press to take an interest.. especially if you’re a passably photogenic mum.
Incidentally, the last time that this idea was tried, all the kids had to dye their hair blonde and wear blue contact lenses; perversely, they were led by a dark-haired man with brown eyes and a dodgy moustache. As a public service, I thought I’d check out John Wright who the Argus credits as the instigator of the Sussex effort. Dear reader, I don’t want to trouble you unduly, but check this out!
*This is a pathetic link to the story but it honours the great Loudon Wainwright III whose song it is. His greatest achievement to date is a beautiful but bitter anti-feminist song titled “Man’s World”. You may know better but I think it might be the only song ever written to include the word ‘menstruation’.