First Youth Police Commissioner Steps Down after Twitter Row

First Youth Police Commissioner Steps Down after Twitter Row

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There has been a mixed reaction to the resignation of Britain’s first youth police and crime commissioner, Paris Brown.  The seventeen year old was the first young person to take on the job in Kent.  The job was created to bridge the gap between the police force and young people and paid £15,000 a year.  Her position had the potential to engage young people and get us more involved in how the police force is run.

Paris hit headlines at the beginning of April with the emergence of racist, homophobic and violent comments on her twitter page.  The tweets were posted when she was between the ages of 14 and 16.

SHE WAS YOUNG... girl play with apples

People questioned whether she should be let off because of her young age. The fact is that she is still young today and was appointed to represent young people and their views.  The views that were reflected in her tweets are not a reflection of the majority of young people.   In her defence, Paris said that she was guilty of exaggerating and that what she said in her tweets was not a true reflection of her views.

Ann Barnes, the Kent police commissioner defended Paris’ character saying that the tweets were not an accurate reflection of her personality.Her age played a big part in the debates about whether she should be allowed to stay in the job.

After 6 days of deliberation, Paris Brown made the decision to step down from the post.  She still stands by her statement that she is neither a homophobe nor a racist but was simply a victim of boasting on social networking sites. 

WHAT CAN WE LEARN? girl reading books in a library

Paris Brown had a really great opportunity to make a difference and carve a new career for herself. All this was destroyed by things she had written on a social networking site, some of which were over two years ago.

We should never forget that things we write online can be seen by anyone and everyone and can be dragged up again in years to come. What we write online could have an impact on our lives in the short or long term.  It isn’t just young people who write things they shouldn’t on twitter.  It seems that anyone can forget that what they’re writing can be seen by the world. 

Sitting behind your laptop or on your mobile it sometimes doesn’t feel like what you’re posting could potentially be seen by millions of people you don’t know.  It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security that our online lives are private and that as long as we aren’t directly attacking a single person we aren’t doing anything wrong. This was the case with the tweets of Paris Brown.  She did not directly attack one person but used offensive words to describe large groups of people. 

I’m pretty sure all of us can look back a couple of years and realise how much we’ve changed.  You can probably remember some things you said then that you would never dream of saying now.  We can look back on some of these things and laugh about how silly we were, they become lost in history. The risk is that if we choose to express these things online we can never know how they will interpreted in the future. 

WHAT ABOUT MY FREEDOM OF SPEECH? girl looking at books

Most people feel like they should have the right to express their opinion without it being censored or facing punishment.Speech in this case refers to any form of expression; therefore it includes things that we write.  Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, freedom of expression, states that we have the right to hold and express our own views, either by ourselves or in a group.  In some specified circumstances this right can be restricted, such as using threatening or insulting words or acting in a way that will cause alarm or harassment.  Saying things that would ‘Breach the Peace’ are also not allowed, this has been used to prohibit racist speech.

THE INTERNET IS PERMANANT

Nothing that we say online is private and we don’t want something that we say in the heat of the moment, or as a joke, to come back and haunt us later in life.  The effects of things we’ve said before has the potential to have a devastating effect on our lives.  In the case of Paris Brown, if she’d said the things she tweeted to a mate, it wouldn’t be right but no one would be any the wiser and she would probably still have her job.  When writing something online try to think whether you’d really be comfortable saying it to your mum, or your teacher seeing.  Obviously you aren’t going to act the same way with them as you are your mates, but it could be useful in stopping you posting something that could come back and haunt you in years to come.