Friday, 14 September 2007

INVERNESS: Vandals' parents should be called to account

Vandals' parents should be called to account

A CRACKDOWN on the parents of children committing vandalism is being called for after a seven-year-old was reported to the Children's Panel for allegedly leaving a trail of damage in Inverness.

The primary school pupil — suspected being involved in smashing windows in the Hilton area — is one of the youngest ever referred to the local Panel for this type of incident and the case has prompted the chairman of the city's crime prevention panel to claim that existing punishments do not go far enough.

"One of the things I think this is demonstrating is that the various methods of tackling this problem are not working," said Jim Ferguson, who is also managing director of the Castle Security Group.

"I would like to see more responsibility from parents. I would go as far as to say I want to see new legislation from the Scottish Parliament so that fines and other penalties could be levied at parents and teenagers. I would like to see the parents of children taken to court if that's what is necessary,"

Mr Ferguson believed a lack of discipline in schools was another contributory factor.

"We as a society need to stand up to it," he stated. "We must make sure we don't tolerate this sort of behaviour."

Parts of Hilton have been persistently tageted by vandals and last month a consortium of public bodies announced a new drive to transform the Hilton area with a refurbishment around the community centre. Planned measures include fitting shutters to the centre's glass doors which are regularly smashed by vandals and repainting the building.

However, the latest crime figures for Inverness show that city-wide the number of cases of vandalism fell by 86 to 392 from 1st April to 30th June compared to the same period a year ago.

Police inspector Mike Coats, who has operational responsibility for Hilton, said vandalism was one aspect of anti-social behaviour which had a profound effect on those who are subjected to it.

"Communities are now reacting to this and working with us to stamp it out," he added.

Vandals leave a trail of damage after another weekend spree. Alasdair Allen

Highlands and Islands regional MSP Mary Scanlon felt acceptable behaviour contracts, which are available under existing anti-social behaviour laws and force parents to work with police and social workers, should be tried in Inverness.

"I understand there is an ultimate sanction once all options have been exhausted that parents can face imprisonment if they fail to co-operate over their child's behaviour," she said.

"If one seven-year-old boy is causing so much havoc it may be time for social work, the police and education authorities to pursue this type of response. We don't need new legislation to make parents better parents," the Conservative politician added. "But the parents need to know that they have to accept responsibility for their children and this is not an option."

Lib-Dem MP Danny Alexander, who represents Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, felt overly simple solutions such as discipline in schools should not be sought to tackle complicated and difficult situations.

"If a child of seven is behaving like that then clearly there is a whole range of issues involved to do with parents and the family situation, potentially to do with the child himself and I don't think it is as simple as saying it is a lack of discipline in schools," he commented.

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