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www.corpun.com   :  Archive   :  2004   :  UK Judicial Mar 2004

-- THE ARCHIVE --


UNITED KINGDOM

Judicial CP - March 2004



Corpun file 12977

Edinburgh Evening News, 15 March 2004

So what can we try next to tackle the problem of ned culture?

By Ian Johnston


FRUSTRATION: Cameron Glasgow has had enough of neds getting away with antisocial behaviour.
Picture: Gareth Easton

IN his darker moments, former Scottish rugby international Cameron Glasgow thinks about bringing back the birch to deal with ringleaders of teenage gangs or simply handing out "good hidings" himself.

Then he takes a deep breath as he accepts neither plan is a good idea. But it is a sign of his increasing frustration at the teenage reign of terror he sees all around him on the streets of Edinburgh that he is even contemplating such radical steps.

It is a frustration that has led him to consider emigrating to New Zealand, believing Scottish society has broken down to the extent that it is almost a lost cause. And, in his personal tirade against "ned culture" and the apparent lack of effective powers for the police to deal with the culprits, Glasgow has found he is not alone. He has received dozens of phone-calls and e-mails from friends, acquaintances and others who are equally frustrated.

Glasgow, 38, a member of the Scotland squad from 1989 to 1997, and friend Stephen McGoldrick recently witnessed a 13-year-old boy throw a brick through a car window near his home in the Trinity area. He grabbed the youth, who headbutted him in the face. Glasgow and McGoldrick were then confronted by an angry group of the boy’s friends.

The boys called the teenager’s father, who arrived with a well-built friend, while neighbours called the police. The officers arrived just as the situation looked to be turning nasty. The police calmed the situation down but told Glasgow there was little that could be done because of the youth’s age.

Glasgow, a father-of-two who works for an investment company, has also previously intervened to stop a racist attack by a group of neds on an Asian boy on Princes Street. When he did so, the gang turned on him and a fight ensued. Afterwards, Glasgow berated two "big guys" who stood back and did nothing, but they just said they didn’t want to get involved.

Glasgow is sure the older generation’s answer - corporal punishment - would prove an effective answer to youth crime, and says: "For every group of 20 people there will be maybe two ringleaders. If they were birched and seen by everybody greeting like wee kids then suddenly they wouldn’t be big tough guys." But while he sometimes finds such thoughts tempting, he does not actually support them.

"I don’t want to be some kind of fascist. I always have a gut reaction and then a more reasoned reaction. If I see somebody doing some mindless violence my first reaction is to give them a good hiding," he says. "That’s my initial reaction, but in quieter moments I try and sit back and look at the problem more rationally."

He does believe that the approach favoured by those he describes as "do-gooders" - helping delinquent children sort out the problems in their life - has a role. And he adds: "I don’t think all the neds are necessarily bad."

But in addition to the carrot of help from social workers and others, Glasgow believes there must be a stick - an effective sanction - to ensure the public are protected from violent neds.

"What do these people offer society? Nothing, so we should lock them away," Glasgow says. "I’m not blaming the police. They are completely hamstrung by legislation."

In fact he has become so fed up that he has even thought about emigrating to New Zealand, a country he believes has a greater sense of society than Scotland. "A few years ago, New Zealand had a big problem with litter. The government put out an advert saying: ‘This is a beautiful country, why spoil it?’ After a year they didn’t have a problem.

"You could run adverts like that all day in Scotland and it wouldn’t make a difference. Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities and it’s strewn with litter. I am very patriotic, but I just keep being slightly disappointed with my own country. We are the silent majority and the sooner people like politicians realise this is an overwhelming feeling the better."

One friend who contacted Glasgow after hearing about his headbutting incident says: "Even as a person of liberal leanings, I find myself more and more angry at what the neds are getting away with. There is a gang that congregates opposite Dean Gardens on the Water of Leith cycle path. They let off fireworks, kick over seats, etc. It is believed this gang managed to get into Dean Gardens where they broke certain items in the children’s play area, pulled down the fence and generally caused mindless destruction. These may also be the neds who have caused so many problems in the Colonies . . . cats and pensioners [are] particular targets."

Meanwhile, Viki Mendelssohn, 33, of the New Town, was in Victoria Park in Trinity while looking after some friends’ children just two days before a 33-year-old engineer was beaten and stabbed by members of a gang of about 30 youths while cycling home there last month. Two youngsters have since been charged.

Viki says: "These groups of youths can be quite intimidating. At the end of my road there’s a park and there have been quite a lot of bag snatches and general disturbances. We need a system whereby if you break the law, at whatever age, you are suitably punished with either an antisocial behaviour order or custodial sentence. Parents must also take more responsibility for their children’s actions and be fined should their child be persistently breaking the law."

A 70-YEAR-OLD man, who sympathises with Glasgow, told him in an e-mail: "I tend to view any approaching male/female group with suspicion and apprehension. I have no idea how to handle a drink or drug-induced situation and am too old to run."

Glasgow’s friend McGoldrick, who works for a leading bank, wrote to Lothian and Borders Police Chief Constable Paddy Tomkins to complain following the incident with the 13-year-old vandal in Trinity, and three others involving juvenile delinquents.

"Most men can understand why my friend [Glasgow] and I have now agreed that if we find ourselves in similar circumstances we either look the other way or abandon self-restraint, administer summary justice and hope that your officers are as ineffectual in dealing with our crimes as they are in handling those above," he wrote. "What would you have us do? Nothing?" A police officer is due to visit McGoldrick, who lives in the New Town, to discuss his complaint.

............................

It is a problem that has registered at the highest level in the Scottish Executive, with the police expected to be given controversial new powers to disperse groups of youths as a result of the proposed Antisocial Behaviour Bill. But whether this will prove enough to satisfy the likes of Glasgow and put an end to his thoughts of public birchings remains to be seen.




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