Buried deep down under Blair’s headlong rush to ‘rebalance’ the criminal justice system in favour of the ‘rights of the victim, one finds this salutory reminder that things aren’t always quite so simple and clear cut as them may appear.
Even if you don’t remember the name, you’ll remember the image of Shanni Naylor – she’s the South yorkshire schoolgirl who, last year, had her face slashed by a fellow pupil during an English lesson, leaving her with wounds that required 30 stitches.
Now as things do in the criminal justice system, this case has come to trial and her unnamed attacker has been found guilty of unlawful wounding and is, tonight, awaiting sentence.
However, as things also do in the criminal jsutice system, the evidence presented to the court gave rather a different account of the circumstances leading to the attack than was printed, at the time, in media, and so it is that we now learn the following:
A teacher, who has worked at the school for more than 30 years, said more than 100 children were watching the first incident between the two girls when the accused was attacked by Shanni.
She described the incident as "horrendous" and "vicious" and said Shanni was repeatedly punching the defendant’s head so it was banging against a wall.
This first incident took place the day before the attack in which Naylor was wounded by her classmate, and yet it would seem that not only did the teacher witness the first incident, but it would also appear than no action was taken as a rresult of it – Naylor was back in class on the following day, on which she was wounded, after perpetrating the kind of attack – from the teacher’s description of the incident – that the vast majority of parents would consider merited an immediate suspension, if not serious consideration of exclusion.
Reporting on the outcome of the trial, we also learn from the Beeb that not only had Shanni’s assailant:
...been beaten up by Shanni the day before and "chronically bullied" during her time at the school.
But also that the girl is:
of Somalian origin
Call me suspicious but one cannot help but wonder just to what extent these two piece of information are related – of course it could be simple coincidence and of no relevance at all, but at the very least the circumstances of this case dictate that the question has to be asked and an answer found.But there’s yet more to consider…
Later, educational psychologist Stuart Taylor told the court he tested the defendant’s intelligence and found it be at a level of 45. Mr Taylor said this figure put her at the lower end of the lowest one per cent of the population.
An IQ test score of 45, which I presume to be test referred to here – puts the assialant firmly in the category of having a learning disability.
Not unsurprisingly given this new information about the case:
Shanni was not in court to hear the verdicts and her father Lee and grandmother Kathleen refused to comment as they left the building.
Which one would expect might just have something to do with this report in the Yorkshire Post shortly after the attack…
The attack happened at 11.45am on Wednesday – a day after Shanni, of Arbourthorne, Sheffield, had intervened to stop her attacker bullying a vulnerable 12-year-old boy.
Her father, Lee Naylor, said: "The girl turned on Shanni, and they ended up fighting by the school buildings. She told me what had happened and I went to school the following day, to see one of her teachers about the incident.
"I had told Shanni to apologise to the bully, even though she was trying to do the right thing. The teacher told me not to worry, and that he would sort it out with the two girls. I thought it would be ok."
Funny how, when the matter hits court, there’s appears to have been no mention at all of this alleged bullying, by the assailant, of a ‘vulnerable 12-year old boy’ who Shanni had supposed intervened to help on the previous day, nor does it mention whether this boy was called to give evidence, which rather suggests that this part of the story may be somewhat lacking in veracity, and even at the age of 12 one wonder quite whether someone would protect such a boy by repeatedly punching the girl’s head in such a way that it was banging against a wall, particularly when reports describe the girl’s physical stature as ‘slight’.
Of course, no one in their right mind would condone the attack in which Shanni Naylor was slashed across the face with a razor blade – revenge may, by repute, be both sweet and a dish best served cold, but its also morally wrong and, ultimately, counterproductive.
But let me ask you another question – how would you ‘rebalance’ this case in favour of the ‘victim’ when it appears for all the world that both girls are victims.
The Naylor family, having had access to the due process of law, look set to get their share of justice as their daughter’s assailant has been found guility adn will shortly be sentenced – although one suspects, and even hopes to some extent, that this new information about the events that triggered the attack will be taken into account in passing sentence.
But does that mean that justice actually been done here?
The police seem to be satisfied…
Speaking after the hearing, Det Insp Andrew Thompson, of South Yorkshire Police said they were pleased with the decision.
"It was a very serious assault on school premises during a lesson," he said. "We feel it is a fair verdict."
But having heard the evidence given in court as to the earlier, and potentially, racially aggravated incident which preceded the attack, one has to wonder quite what action the Police intend to take in relation to that attack, and equally what action the LEA will be taking to investigate what appears, from the Beeb’s report to be the failure of the school to address this first incident, about which nothing was publicly known until today.
But perhaps the pertinant question we should be asking is whether either Tony Blair or the editoral writers f the red top tabloids will be asking those same questions tomorrow – sadly I suspect not.