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Friday, April 07, 2006 

Mail-watch: Politicial racism gone mad!

You can almost picture Paul Dacre's heart soaring as he saw this story go across his desk. Political correctness? Check! Judge speaking out? Check! Getting the opportunity to print the insults they'd like to use when discussing asylum seekers? Check! It is nice however to see that the Mail isn't freaking out about bird flu, although that might well happen tomorrow.

As you might have guessed, the headline doesn't really tell the full story. The boy who is being prosecuted is accused of abusing the boy in the school playground between 1st of July and the 30th of January this year. In other words, it seems that the boy's victim was being bullied, and over quite a lengthy period. This doesn't seem to have been a one-off exchanging of insults. (Although one of the posters on Comment is Free suggests the two kids are now best of friends.)

Then we have the judge, who rather curiously seems to consider that being called fat and being called racially offensive names is comparable. You can lose weight, but you can't change the colour of your skin. I agree with him that the CPS should reconsider the prosecution, but his attitude towards the case seems to suggest that he doesn't consider schoolyard racism a problem. He is also right in that the child doesn't seem to understand the words he was using; you can't exactly be both a "paki" and a "nigger". It seems difficult to believe that the school could not have dealt with this in-house. Referring schoolyard problems to the police really should be the absolute last resort, if anything it shows that the school can't seem to impose discipline itself.

Nonetheless, as Chris Keates of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers says:

"The judge had every right to question whether there were other ways of dealing with the incident. He was wrong to do so in a manner which trivialised racist taunts and abuse.

"Judges have a responsibility to consider the potential impact of their comments. Relegating an incident of what appears to have been repeated abuse to the level of a playground spat is unacceptable.

"The timing of his remarks is particularly unfortunate. The local elections are imminent. Candidates from the extreme right are being fielded in many cities. Comments, which dismiss racial abuse as 'political correctness gone mad' simply feed the pernicious agenda of extremists."

And of course, the attitude of both the Daily Mail in printing it on their front page, and the Daily Express, not being able to make-up a Diana story, today splashing on "migrant skivers" does absolutely nothing to help matters. Then there's the child who was the victim of all this: having what most likely caused major hurt belittled by the judge and the mid-market tabloids is not going to help his self-esteem. Still, it probably helps sell papers, and after all, that's what matters.

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