Sunday, November 25, 2007


A surly-looking young man of about 20 is in front of us. Over six months ago a bench ordered reports on him with a view to imposing a community penalty. It took Probation two attempts to get him into their office for interview, and that only lasted half of the scheduled time as he became abusive and walked out, objecting to being asked questions about himself. He did not appear at court on the day the report was due, so an arrest warrant was issued. It took a while to pick him up, but picked up he was, and that's why he was in front of us. Unusually, the report suggested that there was little alternative to immediate custody, as no community penalty was likely to be effective. So that's what we did - four months. As I started my pronouncement the custody officers came into the courtroom, and that's when his mother and girlfriend gasped and burst into tears. As he was being led away he shouted across to me: "So I serve two months then, that right?" His solicitor waved for him to be quiet and said that she would see him downstairs, but that wasn't good enough and he yelled: "Well, what is it?". I watched in silence as he was hustled through the doorway to the cells.
This is probably the first time in his life that he has come up against a problem that he could not solve by shouting and bullying. So he will do his two months in a Young Offender Institution, will miss Christmas, and then be released. But I couldn't help wondering what the future holds for him. He is functionally illiterate and completely unqualified of course, but that's not what makes him unemployable. There is always work for a fit young man, often at decent money, but since he is constitutionally unable to accept orders he is no use to anyone. Heaven knows where he will end up, but I am not optimistic.

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