26.11.06
19:46
By: Neil Fawcett
A District Judge in Salford Youth Court has been criticised for halting a prosecution against a schoolboy from Irlam, Manchester, who had been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.

The boy had been charged with calling an 11-year-old boy racist names in the playground, including "Paki, nigger and Bin Laden". He denied the offence, saying that he was now friends with the pupil in question.

District Judge Jonathan Finestein called the prosecution of the ten-year-old boy "political correctness gone mad" and stopped the case at Salford Youth Court, claiming that it should never have been taken so far.

On adjourning the case until 20 April, he asked the Crown Prosecution Service to reconsider whether the case was in the public interest, saying he thought the decision to prosecute the boy was "crazy".

The judge said when he was at school he was repeatedly called "fat", but in those days the headmaster would have just given the children a "good clouting" and sent them on their way.

"Have we really got to the stage where we are prosecuting 10-year-old boys because of political correctness?" he said in court.

"Nobody is more against racist abuse than me but these are boys in a playground; this is nonsense."

"I think somebody should consider reversing the decision to prosecute."

The National Union of Teachers has accused Judge Finestein of being out of date and trivialising the case, insisting that it should have gone ahead.

Judith Elderkin, national executive member of the National Union of Teachers, said: "What the judge is saying is that the two children should have just had their heads knocked together. He needs telling that itÂ’s no longer within the control of the school to handle incidents of racial bullying."

With the playgrounds open to the police and the criminal justice system, perhaps it is time that teachers' decisions, as officers of public bodies, became subject to Judicial Review. Afterall, who wouldn't agree that the High Court should intervene to extend playtime and cancel detention?

Fawcett & Pattni Solicitors at http://fp-law.com Links