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Saturday, July 01, 2006 

The truth will out.

Remember Shanni Taylor? She was the twelve-year-old who was viciously slashed across the face by another girl with a razor blade, requiring at least 30 stitches to her face. She will additionally be scarred for life. At the time the reporting was that Shanni had intervened when her assailant had been bullying another boy. It now appears that the opposite was the case.

A girl who slashed a classmate's face with a razor blade has avoided a custodial sentence after being cleared of wounding with intent, but convicted of unlawful wounding.

Yesterday the girl, who cannot be named, received a two-year supervision order for attacking Shanni Naylor during an English lesson at Myrtle Springs secondary school in Sheffield last October. Both girls were 12 at the time.

Judge Goldsack added that current legislation did not give him the power to hand down a custodial sentence. After the trial, the Naylor family expressed their disappointment that the jury had cleared the girl of the more serious charge and their solicitor said they had already started civil proceedings against the school, alleging breach of its duty of care towards their daughter.
An outrage then, you would imagine. A revenge attack for intervening to help another pupil, and only a supervision order? Is this a case for Tony Blair's vaunted rebalancing of the criminal justice system in favour of the victim? Err, no. Read on:

During the three-day trial, jurors heard that Shanni assaulted the girl the day before the classroom attack, punching her and banging her head against a wall as more than 100 pupils looked on. Nobody came to the girl's aid.

The jury was told that the defendant was the only Somali girl in her year and had few friends. She lived in Somalia for the first 10 years of her life, without any formal education, and was orphaned when she was young.

Her isolation at school led to bullying - some of it racially motivated - at the hands of her peers. Teachers were aware of this problem and they also knew the girl had learning difficulties.

The judge heard evidence from two psychologists and two psychiatrists, with all four saying she was not fit to plead due to her extremely low intelligence and difficult background. One psychologist put her IQ at 45.
It appears that none of this has been denied by Shanni or her family. Rather than Shanni stopping bullying, she was the bully, a bully of a girl of extremely low intelligence, with possible racial connotations. As the Ministry of Truth notes, it appears that there was no action taken against Shanni, despite the original attack being seen by a teacher, as well as the 100 pupils that had gathered as often happens when there are fights at school.

Not that this mitigates in any way what the Somalian girl did. It was an horrendous attack, but it appears to have come only after a sustained period of bullying of which there seems to have been little done to stop. In the circumstances, it appears quite appropriate that a custodial sentence was not passed, and just what benefit would have been brought from such a sentence also seems uncertain. That Shanni's parents are now considering suing the school for breach of duty seems highly ironic. Rather than failing to protect Shanni, it seems to have failed to protect a highly vulnerable girl who fled to this country.

How did the biggest selling tabloid in this country report the outcome of the case?
THE girl who slashed classmate Shanni Naylor with a razor blade escaped a jail term yesterday.

The 13-year-old, originally from Somalia, was given a two-year supervision order by Judge Alan Goldsack QC at Sheffield Crown Court.

He told her: “Parliament has not given courts the powers to pass custodial sentences for this offence for a person of your age, without previous convictions.”

Shanni, also 13, needed 30 stitches in her face after the attack during an English lesson. She said yesterday: “I am just glad the whole thing is she is done and dusted.”

Her attacker was found guilty on Thursday of unlawful wounding.
No mention of what Shanni's assailant had to deal with then, except for the fact she was Somalian, and an obvious dig masquerading as news that there needs to a tightening of the law so that such assaults do result in custodial sentences. There's bad reporting, there's distorted reporting, and then there's the Sun.

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