A mother who joined a revenge attack on a man responsible for a vile campaign of internet abuse against her disabled daughter has been spared prison.I should be cheering, right?
Sylvia Hooper, 52, was described as a ‘decent and law-abiding’ woman…Funny. Looking at the facts of the case, I find it hard to match that description to the woman's actions:
She faced a jail sentence after identifying Christopher Berwick and confronting him outside his home in Chatham, Kent.Whatever happened to ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’..?
But a judge – who labelled the messages ‘disgraceful and shameful’ – took pity on Mrs Hooper after hearing they were part of a long-term campaign.
Particularly words that someone has to make a conscious decision to hear?
Mrs Hooper realised the culprit was Berwick, who lived nearby, and joined her son Robert and his friend Soloman Taylor outside his home.Maybe it’s me, but is this not assault, kidnapping and torture (or the modern definition of it, at least)?
Mr Hooper, 19, punched the bully after his mother said ‘hit him’ and Berwick was then taken back to the family home by car.
He was forced to crawl inside and make a ‘grovelling apology’ to his victim while on all fours. At one point he was hit on the chin with a rolled up newspaper.
Mrs Hooper’s solicitor Catharine Donnelly said the comments were ‘beyond the pale’ and told the court ‘none of us would be here today’ without his actions.Well, maybe. But certainly, none of you would have been there without the Hooper’s retaliatory actions, either.
And they go much, much further than a few mean and spiteful comments on a website that no-one is forcing anyone to read…
Speaking about Mrs Hooper, she said: ‘She is a decent woman who has devoted herself to her daughter. She has led a decent and law-abiding life.Hey, judge, if you are going to make that distinction, why not make it for all these people too?
‘It is clear she is a woman who will never trouble these courts again. She was an encourager, rather than a hitter.’
All three admitted assault but denied false imprisonment and the judge ruled that not guilty verdicts should be entered.Now, this is indeed the sort of vigilante justice that people can expect when the police fail to do their job, or when the police are just not recognised by a significant minority as representatives of law and order.
Judge Richard Polden said it ‘troubled him’ that Mrs Hooper had said, ‘hit him’, but accepted that Mr Hooper was acting out of a ‘protective instinct’ to his sister.
He said: ‘I sentence you on the basis that Mr Berwick sent messages that were wholly disgraceful and shameful but then tried to put the blame on his girlfriend.’
Mrs Hooper was given a conditional discharge. The two men were given community orders which included voluntary work.
And yes, the vile comments he made - said out loud in the pub or street, for instance – could well have been what the Americans term ‘fightin’ words’ and earned him a richly-deserved smack in the mouth.
But they weren’t. They were in the form of comments on the web that no-one has no choice but to read. Facebook and the like are open forums, and if you decide not to avail yourself of the inbuilt protections designed into the system and allow comments from just anybody, then you’ll just have to deal with these sort of people.
Deal with them by deleting, banning, blocking or reporting to the police, as the situation warrants. Not by arranging your own mob justice.
Or we are all surely doomed.