Monday, June 16, 2008

Column, September 11, 2007

IT’S a rum time to be a child.
Either you live a life of mollycoddled, barely-contained terror, the imminent victim of whatever predator your parents imagine to be lurking around the corner, or else you are the source of all society’s ills, to be hounded, corralled, CCTVed, ASBOed and generally blamed until you hit 18, at which time you can shift the blame onto your younger siblings.
I suppose behooded youth are responsible for their own tiny proportion of the crime that is committed in this country, although their constant presence on the front page of certain hysterical London-based tabloids might lead you to believe that little Johnny next door is a Ronnie Biggs in the making just because he cycles on the pavement.
However, I’m guessing that on North Wales Police’s ‘most wanted’ noticeboard, you don’t find too many four-year-old girl’s in purple knitted cardigans.
Alright, little Karen Lewis’s cardigan did have a hood, but as hoodlums go she’s about as threatening a presence as Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell.
So, maybe, just maybe, the staff at Les Harker’s amusement emporium could have exercised a modicum of discretion and let her keep her hood up.
I doubt somehow that little Karen’s plan was to empty the 2p machine of its coppery contents before making off safe in the knowledge that she had been hidden from the pervasive CCTV by her gran’s best impenetrable double-knit.
Thinking about it, perhaps the villains on Crimewatch marching into banks and building societies wearing a pair of 30-denier Pretty Pollies to disguise their mush are missing a trick. It’s purple-knits they should be wearing, after all who would suspect them if they look like an advert for Ladybird kidswear?
I’m sure Rhyl suffers its fair share at the hands of youths with nothing better to do than go visit its arcades, an I’m no expert in criminal profiling, bjt I’m guessing that it’s not four-year-old tots that the emporium owners want to worry about capturing on CCTV, but rather males some 10 years or so older.
Like I said, it’s a strange time to be a kid. In Denbighshire they’re planning to get them to eat healthy options by locking them into the school.
They’re fed up with kids voting with their feet and walking to the nearest chippy instead of eating a Jamie Olive healthy meal. So they’re considering a lunchtime lockdown to give them no option but to eat their greens.
They are of course reckoning without a child’s ability to go without a meal if it contains too much greenery and not enough sugar. I’ve a theory that they’ve got some little fat reserve somewhere so, like a camel, when sugary times are a bit lean they can just plod on, refusing food until mum and dad relent and buy them a pack of Smarties.
But this is the plan, deny them the burger bar in the hope that hunger will drive them into the arms of the salad bar.
But doesn’t this sort of defeat the whole ethos of Jamie’s healthy eating plan – that you should convince children of the virtues of healthy eating by gentle persuasion, not the sort of incarceration employed on Alcatraz?
But why should children follow by example when the example we set is so bad? If children don’t eat well in school it’s because they don’t eat well at home. Rather than suspecting hoodie-wearing teens of every ill imaginable, why not wait to see how they behave rather than demanding to catch them on film on the off-chance they turn out to be a criminal?
In fact, if you want them to behave like a human being, why not treat them like one?

THE disappearance of Madeleine McCann, see which theory you prefer.
Her parents, having accidentally killed her, cook up a plan in the couple of hours before they have to go to dinner with friends to conceal her death.
Then they hide her body.
Then they go to dinner as if nothing had happened.
Then they call the police and manage to convince them that their daughter had vanished, having somehow staged the scene in their apartment in the time they went to check the children during their meal.
Then, despite the near 24/7 media scrutiny, they manage to move her body, according to police, thus leaving behind a DNA trace of Madeleine’s blood (despite the fact that, having supposedly died at least 25 days earlier, any body would not be leaving behind much blood.) Furthermore, any parent’s clothing will be chock-full of their child’s DNA, because, well, they’re their parents and when they get any bump of scratch, who do they come running to?
Then, instead of doing a few press conference and fading into obscurity, which any guilty person would do, they embark on a PR campaign the like of which we have never seen, culminating in a meeting with the Pope. Low profile it certainly isn’t.
And all hatched in the frantic moments after the supposed accidental death of a child.
Or do you believe theory number 2.
An incompetent police service utterly cocks up the crime scene and fails to seal it off for proper forensic examination.
Then apartment is then let out again, even though it needs more forensic tests later.
Then, coming under increasing pressure to end this case because, well, the family holiday market is fickle and would you take your child somewhere where there a was a child abductor still at large… the police concoct a fanciful plan to throw suspicion on the parents and to take the heat off themselves, just before the parents are due to fly home.
Then, having successfully slung mud at the family, they quietly scale down their investigation, thus allowing their tourism industry to get back to normal.
I may have concerns at the way the middle classes circled the wagons to defend the McCanns’ actions, but, given what we know I don’t believe for a moment they had anhting to do with her disappearance and if that is the case the behaviour of the Portuguese police is an affront to justice and has allowed the true abductor of Madeleine to go free.

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