While there was nothing particularly new in David Warcup’s observation that it’s only a relatively small percentage of young people who grab the headlines and give the rest a bad name, the fact that just a dozen of them were responsible for over a third of all youth arrests will be news to most of the rest of us.
Indeed, the bare statistics – that the total number of youth arrests was 424 in the first six months of this year and just 12 individuals were arrested 121 times between them – are appalling.
As Mr Warcup said, some young people are undoubtedly treating the law with contempt and he rightly pointed out that it was unfair to tar all people in this age group with the same brush.
The fact that on average these 12 were arrested ten times each within a six- month period – that means that each of them had their collar felt every two and a half weeks – speaks volumes, not only for the difficult task facing Mr Warcup’s officers but also for what must amount to totally inadequate sentencing powers being available to the courts.
As to treating the law with contempt, I am bound to say that while their actions can never be either excused or condoned, their contempt can perhaps be explained to a degree when some adults – including a number in positions which in a bygone age might well have been deemed worthy of showing an example by those holding them – show similar contempt for the rule of law.
Perhaps this set of statistics will do what others have clearly failed to do and persuade that lot in the Big House that there are much more urgent matters which need their (in some cases) highly paid attention other than them getting back from their summer holidays with just one thing on their minds – how to hold all 57 varieties of debate on how many of them it really needs to govern this small place. As Don Filleul (and others) was so fond of saying – and perhaps there was merit in their arguments – the best committee is a committee of one.
In the meantime, perhaps those responsible for administering justice could give further consideration to repeated pleas from the public – including this bolshie little crapaud – to name and shame some of the worst offenders. I can see no reason at all why a start can’t be made with the dozen to whom Mr Warcup referred.
While on the subject of young people, I was chatting the other week with a neighbour of mine who, having seen me having one of my quiet ten minutes in The Shed, brought one of her brood in with a very minor query about his first fishing rod ‘not working’.
The problem was swiftly solved – he’d not been told that he had to put a bit of a matchstick on the line to stop it running through the float and losing his gear on rocks – and I asked her how she’d kept her three offspring amused during the summer holidays.
I asked because these days the constant gripe – from children and parents alike – is that ‘there’s never anything for kids to do over here’ and I wondered how she’d coped with three who are all of primary school age.
Her response was interesting, not least because the family returned to Jersey a couple of years ago after her husband (a Jerseyman who works in the finance industry) was transferred back here. The children had all been born in England and spent quite a few years there.
‘There’s not been a problem at all,’ she told me. ‘There’s the States summer holiday activity scheme and all three of mine have done various activities, some of them quite adventurous, so they’ve told me.
‘As a family we’ve been to the castles and the museums, we’ve seen shows at the Opera House with some very talented local performers, and we’ve had picnics on the beach and been low water fishing with someone from my husband’s family who really knows what he’s doing.
‘I have to say that when we were in England we would have had to drive quite a distance to get the sort of activities – both free and paid for – that we’ve enjoyed on our doorsteps here.’
She added that the cost – certainly of the Jersey Heritage places and the States-run schemes – had not been prohibitive and said that they were off to Mont Orgueil to see a falconry display before going to St Catherine’s breakwater for a spot of fishing with the ‘mended’ fishing rod.
I mention all that because although I am among the first to criticise that lot in the Big House and their hired help in respect of wasting resources, little credit is ever given for the services which are available and provided out of public finances, and not just for the young either.
Perhaps instead of employing a small army of spin doctors and nurses to provide ministers and their departments with advice on how to react to the cock-ups which seem to plague the public sector, Terry Le Sueur and his cohorts could shift the emphasis a little and seek to publicise some of the excellent things done by government here.
AND finally … My thanks to Gerard Baudains – nice to know he’s still reading the column – for explaining why the windsock on the end of the Elizabeth Harbour appeared to be stuck at half mast the other day. Had I not seen it while I was driving I might be tempted to say it was the Calvados which made me miss the second mast.