Worrying times

I wish I could write that I am horrified by your front page report (2 January) of a woman being assaulted in Canongate Kirkyard, but I am not – merely a little depressed.

Such events are so commonplace that – apart from to the victim and those close to her – they have lost their ability to shock. It is interesting, however, to note that the police are reviewing CCTV footage from a neighbouring premises where a shop window was smashed around the same time.

How did it happen that someone grows up feeling entitled to smash a shop window for their entertainment?

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What is the educational and social mechanism (or lack of it) that entitles someone to smash a shop window?

Do children who smash shop windows at 16 with comparative impunity go on to assault girls in kirkyards in their 20s?

And if that goes unchecked? I suspect that we are developing an urban society with “talent” show-driven and something-for-nothing values – in which instant gratification of every whim and emotion is regarded as a universal entitlement.

“Spare the rod,” my grand-parents would have sermonised, “and spoil the child.” I hate that eye-for-an-eye concept of crime and punishment, but we have to come up with a solution to the problems caused by those disaffected by the cultural values we implant in them, or live with the consequences – the epidemic of broken shop windows and assaults that will follow.

We have a decent minister for justice at Holyrood. I hope he can make 2014 the year when a once-and-for-all study in criminal cause and effect is launched, funded and acted upon – a five-year plan, say, to reduce anti-social crime (from the trivial to the most serious of assaults) by 50 per cent.

This is not rocket science: we can do it; we can even afford to do it.

David Fiddimore

Calton Road

Edinburgh