Daily Archives: 26 November, 2009

Urinating student avoids jail

Phil Laing, the student who urinated on Sheffield’s war memorial, avoided a jail sentence in court today. The Sheffield Hallam University student, who had been drinking heavily, had been warned he faced jail. He was told to complete 250 hours’ community service when he appeared at the city’s magistrates’ court.

District Judge Anthony Browne said “I have never seen anyone more contrite for what has happened nor one who regrets more the hurt and distress he has caused. You have understandably had the wrath and indignation of the public heaped upon you and your family”.

The sports technology student said he had no recollection of the events of the night until he was contacted by the university press office and shown the photograph which later appeared on the newspaper’s website.

The judge said: “No-one forced you to take all this drink, or forced it down you, or persuaded you to commit a criminal offence. You did that all by yourself and you must take responsibility. But all this is set against a backdrop, as your solicitor has said, of a culture of drinking far too much. In my view something does need to be done to change this culture. What you have done has outraged and offended many and has saddened most.”

Tim Hughes, defending, told the court of his client’s utter remorse. The court heard Laing had no recollection of the night’s events “Philip Laing has paid an extremely high price for one evening of complete and utter foolishness.” He said Laing had no idea where he was when he was urinating. “He could have been standing in the middle of Hillsborough football ground, frankly.” Mr Hughes said Laing had never been in trouble with the police and that prison would “utterly destroy what could otherwise be a good, hard-working, tax-paying life.” He added: “In terms of remorse – absolutely, it’s from every pore.”

A spokesman for Sheffield Hallam University said: “The university has already initiated disciplinary proceedings against this student. Now that the judicial process has been completed we will arrange a disciplinary hearing to decide appropriate sanctions.”

Now, I dont know what planet the judge lives on – answer that and you could probably find the meaning of life – but if thats contrition and remorse, then the Dictionary definition of both of those emotions needs to be changed to ‘a temporary state of mind, designed to dig ones self out of a hole for ones one sake’. It looks like the Defence team did a very good job. I would be very interested to know what exactly his community service will be doing, but whatever it is he got off pretty lightly.

To say that jailing him would ruin his future is slightly ridiculous. What future a sports science student has is open to debate anyway. Also, I personally disagree that because he didnt know what he was doing, then it is not so bad. If you let yourself get into that state, then you deserve to suffer the consequences as much as if you were stone cold sober. If you cant handle your drink, dont go out playing the big hard man.

But the judge is right to condemn companies that promote drinking to excess. This is just one case, there must be thousands of incidents that take place caused by cheep alcohol and kids who cant handle their drink. Laws need to be put in place that punish companies that ply students with cheap drink and then wash their hands of the consequences.

But what saddens me even more is that to a lot of young people, behaving like Phil Laing seems to be cool.

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Genealogist requests release of 1939 ‘census’

A Genealogist and Freedom of Information campaigner has requested that the 1939 National Identification Survey be released under Freedom of Information laws, reports the BBC Website.

In September 1939 the Government conducted a an emergency, census-like survey of the country at the beginning of the war. This would provide invaluable help to researchers, historians and family history enthusiasts in unlocking the past.

Until recently each census was released 100 years later. However, Guy Etchells succesfully campaigned for the early release of the 1911 census, which became available online earlier this year. Professionals and enthusiasts alike will be hoping that the 1911 challenge proves to be a test case.

There is another census due for release, the 1921 census in 2022. The 1931 census was destroyed in a fire and there was no survey taken in 1941 because of the war. It may be more than 40 years until the 1951 details become public. This effectively leaves family historians with a dead end for some years to come.

None of the legislation forbids access to the records,” says Mr Etchells. “The records have been kept so that people can access them. They are not archived so that they can be hidden away. There’s no point in charging people thousands of pounds a year to keep them if you are not allowed to access them.”

The Information Commissioner has told the NHS Information Centre – which holds the 1939 details – that it should grant Mr Etchells’ request for access to a record, previously withheld on data protection grounds, where the circumstances relate to people now dead – a stipulation Mr Etchells may yet challenge further.

The National Registration survey led to the issuing of 46 milliona National Identity cards, Households were asked to provide information about the names, ages, sex, marital situation and jobs of those living there. During the war, and until 1952, every civilian had to carry their card as proof of identity and address. The registration was also used as the basis for the issue of ration books for food and clothing.

The 1939 survey would be a goldmine for researchers. In particular, it would help us unlock the secrets of most of the generation who fought in the second world war. For example, I could use the survey to cross reference against the list of portsmouth war dead, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s roll of honour. It would make it so much easier for their stories to be told.

Personally, I think there is no sound reason for witholding such information for so long. There is surely no need for the NHS to keep such data locked away, there is nothing sensitive contained in the records. Even with the regular census, 50 year closure periods would be more appropriate. Lets hope that the authorities see sense and make the 1939 survey available.

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Filed under debate, Family History, Local History, News, social history, World War Two