You may have heard news of a Sheffield Hallam student being ordered to carry out 250 hours of community service after urinating on a war memorial.
The first year, Philip Laing, had been drinking large quantities of alcohol both before and during an organised pub crawl.
District judge Anthony Browne did not give Laing a jail sentence because he had “never seen anyone more contrite” before him.
I’m not surprised. After just a couple of months away at university, he wouldn’t have imagined all this. There are plenty students who get carried away and do ridiculous things due to a mixture of cheap drink, excitement, a sense of new freedom, and a want to fit in. Enjoying freedom and wanting to fit in do contradict each other, but we’re contradictory people in many ways. It’s complicated…
As well as getting carried away, there’s the matter of cost. Students on a budget (i.e. the majority) often find that soft drinks can cost a lot more than an alcoholic drink. A quid for a pint of beer, or three quid for a pint of Coke? Make that three pints, please.
Over at the Times website, someone commented on Laing’s actions, suggesting, “The guy chose war wreaths, not lamp post, not kerb, he knew the value of what he was de-facing”.
I disagree. If he was truly making a statement by choosing a war wreath, I very much doubt he would be so contrite and devastated at what unfolded after the event took place. Even if he did have some thought about where he wanted to pee, I bet it was pretty nonsensical, drunken gibberish. Alcohol does that, especially in large quantities.
As the judge said, the behaviour, and the drinking which preceded it, is the responsibility of Philip Laing and no other person. But to imagine he had an agenda is almost certainly misguided. He was out on a bender. The organised pub crawl, by Carnage UK, gave students the opportunity to buy alcoholic drinks for £1. Unsurprisingly, Laing became ridiculously drunk and cannot remember the evening.
Scarier still, Laing had been drinking whisky BEFORE going out that night. But some people do drink before they go out (I’ve known plenty). And they get very drunk. And they do stupid things.
Pretty much everyone I know who drinks to get drunk agrees it’s daft and can be dangerous, but that’s not enough (at first, at least) to stop some of them. With events companies promoting cheap nights of partying, it’s clear that we won’t see the end of drunken antics any time soon.
If Laing’s act had been deliberate and out of hate, that would be deeply shocking. However, a moment of drunken stupidity is more careless and irresponsible than anything else. While the actions were not accidental, I’m sure they were not deliberate either. He deserves his punishment, he seems to acknowledge that, and hopefully he’ll think twice before getting too drunk in future.
Next week, I’ll post on enjoying yourself without getting drunk.