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  1. #1
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    Default Old Lady Gets Criminal Record For Hitting Swearing Teenager With Church Newsletter!

    A pensioner who hit a teenager with the rolled up minutes of a church meeting has been found guilty of assault.

    Alma Harding, 63, has criticised her conviction as "a black day for the community".

    She claims she thought the boy, who was with two friends, was about to vandalise church property so the retired postmistress approached them, striking the boy on the cheek when he swore at her.

    He and his mother later contacted the police and Mrs Harding was offered a caution which she rejected and instead took the matter to Newton Abbot Magistrates Court.

    After a two-day trial magistrates rejected the claim and sentenced her to an absolute discharge, meaning she would not be punished but does now have a criminal record and will have to pay 2,270 in legal fees.

    They awarded no compensation to the victim because there was "no distress or injury".

    Mrs Harding said: "It is a black day in the community when the police find it fit to prosecute a little old lady for defending herself and her property as well as public and church property."

    Her solicitor James Taghdissian said she had received messages of support from all over the country.

    He claimed the case was a "waste of money" and had sent a message to young people that "they can conduct themselves in this way knowing that anyone who takes a stand will end up in the dock".

    Superintendent Richard Baker said: "The bottom line is Mrs Harding went to court and has now been convicted of an offence.

    "In reality, she has hit someone on the head with papers.

    "Is that something we can be seen to condone? I don't think it is and I think we would be held in jeopardy if we decided not to investigate matters like this."
    Si.

  2. #2
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    I'm really just posting to congratulate Si on what must surely be the longest ever PS thread title.

    As regards the subject, I agree with the policeman that it should have been investigated as that is, after all, the job of the police - but I would have thought any sensible investigation would have quickly concluded there was no case to answer. Looking into a complaint is one thing, taking something all the way to court that should have been dismissed at the off is quite another.

  3. #3
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    The Police should have just given her the caution & been done with it. And the Mother should have slapped her son for swearing at someone in public & told him off, not supported him in criminal charges.

  4. #4
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    Yes, the swearing thing is what got me.

    Which thing, honestly, is more damaging and offensive? A young boy being slapped round the head with a few sheets of paper or an old woman being sworn at? I can hazard a guess who was most afraid and upset by that encounter. And yet SHE gets charged.

    Si.

  5. #5
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    This should never have got as far as court proceedings. Have we got so far into blame culture now that a case like this is taken seriously.

    I think something needs to be done to turn things round. This is quite clearly utterly ridiculous. Absurd and a worse reflection on the state of UK society than last weeks teenage pregnancy story.

    Si xx

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  6. #6
    Captain Tancredi Guest

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    On the other hand, if you look at things slightly differently (and add a few italics for emphasis:

    She claims she thought the boy, who was with two friends, was about to vandalise church property so the retired postmistress approached them, striking the boy on the cheek when he swore at her.
    So the boy in question hadn't actually done anything apart from looking like a potential vandal (which in the eyes of a 63-year-old retired postmistress probably means anybody under 25). Add to that the fact that a teenager of 2009 is likely to have a very different idea of acceptable language from somebody fifty years his senior. The trouble is, by today's standards there was very little provocation (there's no reference to any physical threat to the old woman) and if you allow somebody to use being sworn at as a defence for assault then you send out the message that it's OK to thump anybody who swears at you. And the next thing you know half the pub brawlers in Britain get released without charge.

  7. #7
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    I appreciate your point of view, and a similar thing struck me. The woman was wrong to treat a young person as a potential criminal for no reason (although my respect for him ended when I read that he had sworn at her and therefore has no manners or decoram whatsoever). However, I have two objections to your argument.

    is likely to have a very different idea of acceptable language from somebody fifty years his senior.
    I don't really buy that. Living in our society is about respecting other people, and by swearing at her this kid showed her no respect whatsoever. And swearing at someone is not "acceptable" however old you are. You can bet it wasn't "bloody" he said either.

    it's OK to thump anybody who swears at you. And the next thing you know half the pub brawlers in Britain get released without charge.
    She didn't thump him though did she? How hard is it physically possible for an old lady to hit someone with a bit of paper? How far back do you take it? She can only have brushed him, surely? At the very most clipped his ear.

    No, the sad fact is in all likelihood (and even by the admission of the report) she didn't hurt or distress him whatsoever. On the other hand, even if she did make something of an unfounded accusation (and the chances her she only asked him what his business was) she was obviously intimidated and then verbally abused.

    And yet, because justice in this country is so pathetic, the fact that there was some physical contact, means she gets a criminal record. There's a total lack of COMMON SENSE, that's the problem. Nobody comes along and says "well, he was intimidating and rude, she was scared and lightly touched him, he should be given a bit of a warning", no, they don't apply common sense to the situation, they try and extrapolate logic until it is logicless. "Ah, but she made CONTACT with him! It's assault!". Why, if we let her go for tapping him, football hooligans will be getting away with glassing people next! Sorry Ian, but you did it yourself. It's ridiculous. Common sense means applying the law in a sensible way to DISTINGUISH between a tap and a thump. Because locking people up for smashing peoples faces in does not have to mean prosecuting an ignorant and scared old vicar's wife for ticking off an obnoxious teenager.

    Except, in this loopy country it does. This is why when a teacher at my school TOUCHED a pupil accidentally, he was told his Dad would "get him". This is why the kids have no respect and think they can do what they like. That's why they grow up and join a society where no-one gives a toss about anyone else.

    Si.

  8. #8
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    To be fair, it wouldn't have gone to court if she hadn't insisted upon it.

    Mrs Harding was offered a caution which she rejected and instead took the matter to Newton Abbot Magistrates Court.
    Also, I think whatever language you use towards anyone, a physical reaction is never the right response.

    That all said, I do believe the whole thing is ridiculous, and as was mentioned above, I don't like the message it sends out about kids that they can get away with anything.
    "RIP Henchman No.24."

  9. #9
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    I was going to make the point that Alex did. It was the little old lady who took it to court. The police didn't prosecute her until she made a big deal of it. And I'm sorry, but little old lady or not, physical violence is not an acceptable response.

    Nobody comes along and says "well, he was intimidating and rude, she was scared and lightly touched him, he should be given a bit of a warning", no, they don't apply common sense to the situation, they try and extrapolate logic until it is logicless. "Ah, but she made CONTACT with him! It's assault!".
    Sorry, Si, but this simply isn't true. She was given a caution. She rejected it and escalated the matter, thus forcing time and money to be spent on deciding an outcome. She made a fuss and lost. Sorry love, it happens. Yes, he was rude, but 'don't you speak to me like that young man' would have been an acceptable response. Just because she was probably physically incapable of causing serious harm doesn't alter the fact that her response was a physical assault and was wrong.

  10. #10
    Pip Madeley Guest

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    Silly moo shouldn't have retaliated and even then should've just accepted the caution. Striking a child is never acceptable, even in those circumstances. If she saw them vandalising church property she should have just called for assistance or informed the Police. I'm not saying it was right for the kid to have swore of course but her reaction was wrong and simply served to set a bad example.

  11. #11
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    This report was published in another paper. Apparently he and his friends were playing football near the church's prize winning flower bed and this was the vandalism she was concerned about.

  12. #12
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    Silly moo shouldn't have retaliated and even then should've just accepted the caution. Striking a child is never acceptable, even in those circumstances. If she saw them vandalising church property she should have just called for assistance or informed the Police. I'm not saying it was right for the kid to have swore of course but her reaction was wrong and simply served to set a bad example.
    I pretty much couldn't agree less I'm afraid Pip. I know this thread has now turned to 'it was the woman's fault it went to court' but that's sort of missing the point - that happened because she did not accept a caution. Put another way, she didn't believe she'd done anything wrong, and therefore did not agree to accept something which said she had. In those circumstances, neither would I - suddenly you've got a criminal record listed against you, when you don't think you should have. The fact that rejecting a caution means it went all the way to court is, again, not the woman's fault.

    Granted, we don't know the exact situation because we weren't there - were the kids doing anything wrong in the first place, don't know. What did she say to them to start this all off, don't know. How hard did she hit him, don't know. What was the swearing, and how aggressive was it, again, don't know. But I still think even with all those uncertainties, this is a case where the police should have talked to both parties and sent them on their way. Turning your 'set a bad example' comment on its head, Pip, what has the youth learned from this now?

  13. #13
    Pip Madeley Guest

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    The fact that rejecting a caution means it went all the way to court is, again, not the woman's fault.
    Sorry but it was me I would rather accept a caution and bite my tongue than go to Court and face the rigmarole, stress and legal costs. What made her think she had the right to strike someone else's child anyway?

    Turning your 'set a bad example' comment on its head, Pip, what has the youth learned from this now?
    I can't speak for the youth of today but I'd like to think there's a lot of wise heads on young shoulders who would take the right lesson from this - in the same way Ant, myself, Martin etc were/are wise.

    this is a case where the police should have talked to both parties and sent them on their way.
    Perhaps but:

    The boy's mother complained to police that her son has been slapped across the face.

    "My child had been assaulted," she said. "It is not acceptable for a stranger to go up to a child and hit them. If he had hit her, he would have been in the cells. I swear on his life he didn't say anything rude to her and I would ground him forever if it were the case.
    The boy's mother is right, it is unacceptable. The fact is she complained to the Police about her son being struck by this woman and they simply cannot sweep it under the carpet; the Police would be forced to take some action because it meets the threshold criteria for child neglect/abuse - this whole Baby P case has put child abuse firmly in the public eye. They gave the woman a caution - the most lenient punishment they could - but she refused to hold her hands up and apologise for hitting a child. She made the bed, she can lie in it.



    She looks like she could give you a bloody good whack, IMO.

  14. #14
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    One thing that isn't made clear is how old the boy is. The intimidation factor of being sworn at by a 13 year old is somewhat different to being sworn at by a 17 yr old.

    Si xx

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  15. #15
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    He and his mother later contacted the police
    For me, this is the bizarre moment. They didn't talk to the vicar of the church, they didn't talk to the woman, they didn't do any of the hundreds of things they could have done to clear it up without stupidity, they went to the POLICE.

    I don't know how overstretched the Newton Abbot Police are, but Police officers are renowned for saying 'I've got better things to do with my time.'

    Not knowing any of the people involved makes it hard to decide either way, but looking at the facts of the case, this should never have gone to court.
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  16. #16
    Wayne Guest

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    I agree with Si Hart.
    Today's mollycoddly culture is worse than pathetic.
    And i agree with Si Hunt about the common sense aspect in determining what is actually abuse. Even if he's 13, so what?! Anybody would think she's cracked him over the head with her walking stick, not some paper!
    The whole thing is ridiculous. If she'd done him any actual harm then i could understand it, but this is just another example how bad things have got in this country.
    Maybe my values are outdated now, but when i was a kid, if this had happened to me, i wouldn't even have dreamed of going to tell my Mum & Dad, let alone the police!
    I can remember being dragged home by the collar by the watchman of a building site for playing on there, & when i got home my Mum & Dad didn't phone the police because the watchman had been a bit rough with me, i got a bloody good telling off from my Mum & Dad!
    With today's mentality it would've been in the courts quicker than you could say Jack Robinson, & the parents would be sueing the watchman for assault.
    Last edited by Wayne; 26th Feb 2009 at 11:07 AM.

  17. #17
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    Why don't we only charge people with physical assault if the victim has been harmed?

    Si.

  18. #18

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    Old people are too aggressive by far these days - she should have been given an ASBO

  19. #19
    Wayne Guest

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    Must admit, she does look like she's been beamed in from the 1950's.

  20. #20

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    Wrinkly stockings included no doubt....

  21. #21
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    This was entirely justified. What if it wasn't papers she used, eh? What if it was a baseball bat or even an axe.
    The quicker this menace of an old lady is locked away the better!

  22. #22

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    I couldn't agree more!

  23. #23
    Wayne Guest

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    Surely Paul is being ironic?

  24. #24
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    Ralph wasn't!





  25. #25
    Captain Tancredi Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by Si Hunt View Post
    And swearing at someone is not "acceptable" however old you are.
    You haven't been to a football match for a while, have you? Although to be fair, I think youngsters these days (and for a while) have been given mixed messages about swearing because singers get away with it in pop songs and the boundaries as to what's acceptable on television keep changing.

    She didn't thump him though did she? How hard is it physically possible for an old lady to hit someone with a bit of paper? How far back do you take it? She can only have brushed him, surely?
    You could probably blind somebody with a few sheets of rolled up paper if you were particularly unlucky.

    I probably overstated my points because nobody else had put an opposite point of view at that stage, but lay people do need to have it drummed into them that if you're charged with something and you know that you did it- regardless of the provocation- then the chances are that if you want your day in court, you're going to have to pay for it.

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