Thursday 8 November 2007

Its OK....he comes from a broken home.

From time to time, the local newspaper finds its way into our newspaper rack. It sits there in a little pile with The Sunday Tribune, an Irish Times or two, Village magazine and the Irish Mail on Sunday's TV guide. It has become something of a Sunday morning ritual for me to stop outside the local shop, with the Tribune and the Mail on Sunday under my arm, extract the MOS TV guide and bin the rest of the paper without a second glance. Sometimes I feel a brief pang of guilt that the people who publish such sensationalist tripe are getting my hard-earned cash but that feeling soon passes - mainly because I would happily shell out €2 each week for the TV guide if they published it without the rest of the paper. I look on the main part of the Mail on Sunday the way most people look on the ALDI and DELL flyers that find their way into everything.

Like most local papers, ours contains a healthy mix of articles covering local news & sport and community events. The most entertaining section each week are the 2 pages of coverage devoted to the goings on at the local district courts. There are the usual range of cases from minor things like calling a garda a bollox to the more serious offences like assault, burglary, theft and fraud.

Lately though it has served as more of an irritatant because each individual case seems to mention a plea for leniency made by the defendant's counsel before sentencing. I'm not a student of law but from what I can gather each individual plea must comprise 2 constituent parts - there's the excuse and then the (apparent) mitigating circumstances.

Valid excuses appear to include (but are probably not limited to) he comes from a broken home, he is struggling to cope with the recent death of his best friend/mother/budgie, he had "drink taken" and the voices made him do it. The appropriate mitigating circumstances may include facts like he has 2 young children, he has given up drink, he comes from a good family, he has a good character, he is seeking counselling or he makes a nice cup of tea.

What a crock of shit! They are not valid excuses in my book. If your parents aren't on speaking terms its not a valid reason for you to mug a granny. It might however be a valid reason to have the social skills of a mountain goat or to have a string of failed relationships behind you. A fondness for a few pints is not a license to attack non nationals - but you can slur your words a little and stumble along, weaving from side to side if you like. The death of your best friend means people will put up with you if you are a bit of a grumpy fucker - but you can't steal cars or break into houses with impunity. Equally, having a "good character" doesn't make everything square with the world. If it did Mother Theresa would have had a criminal record as long as your arm.

That said however, no matter how much I may believe that your home life is no excuse for any of the offences above, I will still, upon seeing a very young child with two wasters for parents, think "poor thing doesn't stand a chance". I'm not sure how I can reconcile these 2 opinions or if they can be reconciled at all. Maybe its just one of life's great mysteries.