Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Jail for Woollard - questions for the rest of us

Every parent’s nightmare – their child commits a spur of the moment act of complete stupidity which is likely to dog them the rest of their lives. Such is the predicament of Tania Garwood. Her son by a previous marriage Edward Woollard, an 18-year-old college student, was jailed for 2 years eight months today after pleading guilty to violent disorder when a protest against higher university fees turned into a riot in November.
Mrs Garwood encouraged her contrite son to come forward when she learned he was filmed pitching a heavy fire extinguisher from the roof of a seven storey building containing the Conservative Party’s HQ after it had been invaded by protesters.
The extinguisher landed feet from police and fellow-demonstrators. If it had hit anyone Woollard would likely have faced a manslaughter charge. As it is he will be serving at least half his 32 months in a young offender’s institution.
The online readers of newspaper websites responded in their thousands to the length of the sentence. There was a wide spectrum of opinion - Woollard isn’t the sole target of the anger. The only universal agreement is that the teenager is receiving a stiff punishment for his moment of madness.
There was one school of thought that complained too many lawbreakers were being let off more lightly than Woollard. There were others who felt instances where heavy-handed policing was under scrutiny were not being pursued as rigorously if at all.
Some believe the judge was politically motivated. Geoffrey Rivlin QC said he wanted to send out “a clear message” with the custodial term. He has a point.
More protests are expected this year as the Government’s spending squeeze tightens and students are joined by trade union members in likely strikes, marches and rallies. It is just as well that those prepared to step outside peaceful protest with acts of violence were reminded they will have a price to pay.

3 comments:

  1. Well GC, says Jaffa, many peaceful demonstrations the world over are hijacked or are partially hijacked by groups that are prepared to factor violence into the equation, especially as modern communications and the internet make it possible for large groups of people to assemble quickly. Also 'crowd psychology' is often differant from individual psycology. I think that if one is sincerely interested in attending a peaceful demo one should be as careful as possible to try and review beforehand who/what groups one might be demonstrating with/alongside.

    So how does a demonstration 'demonstrate' strongly enough peacefully to a democratic govenment, that it should review an unpopular policy?
    Would it take many demonstrations on he same subject? Would it take a huge turnout? Probably one of the biggest demos in the UK, in fairly recent years was that in London against the proposed war against Iraq, which nevertheless had no effect on govenment policy. On the other hand the violent skirmish between protestors and the police in Trafalgar Square etc against the 'poll tax' during Mrs Thatcher's government appeared to contribute to a change of tack on that matter by that government.

    A public peaceful march and or demonstration in a democracy on a general social/political issue is an 'understood' pact between the govenment and the people that the people's point of view should be visibly seen and heard. Part of that pact is also that the govenment listens and responds accordingly.

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  2. Civil disobedience - sit-ins and blockades - are an effective challenge to an unlistening authority without endangering life and property. But at the end of the day it is the ballot box that government's most fear and that's what did for Mrs. Thatcher. GC

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  3. Tell that to the Tunisians.

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What do you think? GC