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Well, we've heard it all now. A 47-year-old Salford teacher, after suffering a campaign of vandalism, abuse and intimidation from gangs of youths, fired airgun pellets into the ground during an argument with the 18-year-old convicted burglar who she believed to be the ring-leader - after first phoning the police. She has been convicted of "possessing a firearm with intent to produce fear of violence" and may go to prison for ten years.
Linda Walker has been a teacher in Salford for 25 years and holds a senior post at her comprehensive school. Her neighbours describe her as "a lovely lady" and bear witness to the dreadful behaviour of the youths.
So let's see. Presumably these youths hung around outside her house, shouted at her, abused her, damaged her property - you know, the usual thing. Just high spirits, of course. Should they have done this? Well, no, they shouldn't.
The police were called. They failed to protect the lady and give her the peace and security any citizen has a right to expect. Should they have failed in this duty? No, they shouldn't.
The lady finally snapped and rushed out of her house to confront the youths. Should she have done this? Well, actually, why not?
Finding she was getting nowhere, she went back into the house, phoned the police again, came back with an air-pistol and fired it into the ground. Should she have done this? Well, again - why not? Air-pistols aren't illegal, are they?
The police finally arrived, and arrested her. Her crime? Trying to frighten some young thug who wouldn't leave her alone and didn't give a damn about the police. Frankly, she should get a medal, not a prison sentence. And make no mistake, she is no Tony Martin, the farmer who shot and killed with a real firearm one of the burglars who had broken into his house. She's an ordinary member of society who became so frightened and angry that she tried to turn the tables on her attackers and scare them back.
What will happen to her abusers, I wonder? Nothing, probably. What will happen to the police who failed to protect her? Nothing. What will happen to the jury who convicted her, or the Recorder of Minshull Street Crown Court who directed them? Nothing.
And what will happen to Linda Walker? Well, not only will she have to go to prison, leaving her older partner at the mercy of the now-triumphant yobs, but she will also lose her job; it's highly unlikely that with a conviction and a prison term behind her she will be able to find employment with any local education authority again.
And that's justice, is it? I suppose it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that she was the easy target for both police and courts? After all, it's pretty difficult and takes a lot of manpower to watch a gang of thugs, gather the evidence and then successfully prosecute them. Whereas one middle-aged lady, that's a piece of cake. She was even nice enough to call the police and tell them what she was doing. One car, a couple of bobbies, a few hours in court and bingo - result!
Finally, I am intrigued by the wording of the crime of which she was convicted. "Possessing a firearm with intent to produce fear of violence"? All this poor lady had was a piddling little airgun, not a Kalashnikov. On the other hand there are quite a few police officers carrying firearms these days - big, serious guns that can kill lots of people. They're not always obvious - except at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports where they are paraded around very ostentatiously. I wonder what the policeman would say if you asked him why he was carrying one? To deter criminals or terrorists, perhaps?
In other words, the criminals or terrorists are supposed to see the guns and be afraid they might be used against them, is that it? And what is that, if not "possessing a firearm with intent to produce fear of violence"?
It seems to me we have one rule for the police, quite another one for harmless middle-aged lady teachers, and none at all for the mindless thugs on the street corner.
P.S. Announced in Sunday's paper (15th May 2005) that Mrs.Walker has, as expected, been sacked. That's the way we do things nowadays: pester a middle-aged woman until she can't think or act rationally, arrest her, humiliate her, imprison her and then rub salt into the wound by taking away her livelihood. Makes you proud, doesn't it?
P.P.S. Announced today (9th August 2005) that the youth Mrs.Walker confronted has just been sentenced for harassing another couple. Make of that what you will: I just don't know what to think, except that the whole thing stinks.

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