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At the end of this module you should be able to:
• Understand how criminal
behaviour affects our social environment
Let's look at a few more laws we might not really understand - that is, we might not understand why the laws exist at all. And when we don't understand, we find it very easy to call it "unnecessary" or "stupid," and, if it's a law, that can be when we start getting into trouble.
There are laws against what is called "offensive behaviour." Tossing books around a bus, for example, may seem like fun. But since the book could hit someone on the head or put an eye out, it's certainly using bad judgment to toss the book in the first place. Logical? Of course it is. Making a racket outside a building at night is also offensive behaviour. Some of the "other people in this world" have the right to a good night's sleep - and so have their small children. Throwing stones is a crime - and so is injuring people with them.
Have you ever seen a rude youngster running along a footpath shoving and pushing other people out of his way - as if he were the only citizen who had the right to use the public footpaths? If you were among the pushed, you'd probably wish there were a law against such Disgusting behaviour. You'll be pleased to know there is.
The Law says that offensive behaviour is an offence because it interferes with the rights of others. Our rights, your rights. Right! Just pointing a gun at someone - even if the gun is unloaded - is a crime. Two little boys were reported by their postman just for pretending to be snipers with the .22 rifle an older brother had received as a birthday gift. They had to go to the Children's Court and have the law explained to them.
Was the postman just being mean? Or had he read in the newspaper about two other boys, David and Glen, who were playing with the "unloaded" hunting rifle that belonged to David's father. David knew it was unloaded; he had checked it. So he pointed the gun at Glen and said "Stick 'em up," and when his friend pre tended to defy him, he pulled the trigger as part of the game. But the rifle went off! Glen clutched at his chest and fell to the floor dead.
It's using bad judgment to leave a loaded firearm lying about, so David's father was to blame. There's a law against pointing any firearm, loaded or not, at anyone, so the boy was to blame. The court called Glen's death manslaughter, but no penalty a court could inflict could equal the agony David suffered after he had killed his school friend. How he might have wished that a Court had explained the law to him long before he picked up his dad's rifle.
"Can't we even yak together on a street corner without getting hauled down to the police station?" you might ask as several boys did one evening. Even a couple of boys who had just joined them and didn't even know what they were talking about had to go along. Well, it all depends on what you're yakking about. Those particular fellows were annoyed because they hadn't been invited to a party and were talking about crashing it and beating up some of the boys who had been! The law says that when three or more people get together and threaten to disturb the peace or to injure someone, everyone present is guilty of a misdemeanour. In some circumstances they could be charged with unlawful assembly. So we'd better choose our friends very carefully! Of course, it is obvious that it's far better to punish a group for planning to molest other people than to have to charge them with the actual act of assault or offensive behaviour. The offence is lighter, and so is the punishment. Furthermore, they might learn something.
Online Discussion Activity 4.1 - More on Justice
What you have just read should
have given you some more ideas regarding issues of justice.
You will need to complete the
above activity. You will also be placed into groups so you can create
a scenario and interview the court house lawyer or Police to get answers
based on what you have learnt.
The last time Bill was late for school he had been sternly lectured by the headmaster. And yet there he was again running along the footpath knowing perfectly well that he had slept too late, picked at his breakfast, and wasted time getting started. Now he'd have to go through it all again. He slowed down and, barely thinking, cut off in the direction of the shopping centre.
He felt miserable until he ran into a boy he knew from another school. "Wagging school, Fred?" he asked, hoping to find an ally. "No, it's fair dinkum," Fred replied, "Our school is closed for today. But, c'mon, let's go over there. I have to get some things out of my desk."
Bill went along, glad of the companionship. But when they got to the school, he discovered that Fred had really led him there to help him get back some comics his teacher had taken from him.
It was easy to get into the building through a ground-floor window, and once in the classroom alone, they started racing up and down the aisles between the desks. Pretty soon the fun got out of hand, and they were throwing books about, breaking globes, and overturning desks. When a book missed its target and broke a window, Bill became frightened that they might be seen from the street. He ran into the corridor and was hunting for a way out when he was caught by the caretaker and taken to the police station.
Meantime Fred had found an envelope containing $52 in the teacher's desk. He had stuffed it into his pocket just as he heard the caretaker shouting in pursuit of Bill. He escaped through the broken window, but he had been seen and recognized by the caretaker.
Fearful of being caught with the money, he took it to another friend. He explained what had happened and asked this friend, Joe, to keep the money for him for a few days. Joe, of course, had nothing to do with stealing the money, but he could have got into serious trouble because he had helped the real thief.
Bill had no idea that truancy would get him involved in schoolhouse-breaking, vandalism and larceny. Not that any time a student wags it he gets into that much trouble, but, again, it's a matter of making and keeping law-abiding habits. Trouble invites more trouble! Fortunately, Bill came under the jurisdiction of Children's Court which had a staff to help him profit by his experience. Had he been older, he probably would have gone to jail.
Online Discussion Activity 4.2 - What is Fairness?
Resources: Early Intervention, Youth Crime & Families Strategy, Law and Legal Studies and Size, accessibility and crime in regional Australia
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