TWO related news items caught my eye yesterday. Most people will have seen or heard of the sentences passed by an Old Bailey judge in the case of three young men and a 14-year-old girl for a “happy-slapping” incident which resulted in the death of a 37year-old man, David Morley, on the South Bank of the Thames in London in October 2004. The men were given 12-year sentences and the girl eight years and although she was entitled to anonymity because of her age the judge chose to name her: Chelsea O'Mahoney, had been present during the “happy-slapping” that led to Mr Morley's death and had filmed the attack on her video phone. The second item I spotted was headlined, “British girls among most violent in world, survey shows.” In a survey of youngsters in 35 countries, English and Scottish girls were ranked fifth and sixth for violent behaviour behind those of Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania and Belgium. I was ready with the usual kneejerk reaction to these depressing news items when I read what the court had learnt about Chelsea O'Manoney, aged 16. She was born to parents addicted to heroin and at a young age would watch her mother injecting the drug. From the age of three she was left to wander the streets unsupervised until an aunt took her in; the arrangement did not work and she was taken into the care of the local authority and foster parents. Every Friday night she went out with the gang of boys on robbery sprees. One diary entry found by the police for October 2004, a few weeks before Mr Morley's death, was: “Them lot bang up some homeless man which I fink is bad even doe I woz laughen after doe.” Then I got to the last paragraph of the news report: “Police had to protect Mr Morley's parents as they left court after relatives of the defendants hurled abuse at them. One man drew a finger across his throat as a threat.” I can't pretend to make sense of any of this. But the idea that the parents of a murdered son should be threatened by the parents of those who murdered him seems totally incomprehensible.


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