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Fire Extinguisher Student goes down – and rightly so – protesters should learn from this

Edward Woollard did a stupid thing in a moment of madness. That decision has cost him a couple of years of his life. It is a sad day that it came to this but he has no-one to blame but himself and the courts did the right thing.

As I am sure most of you know Edward Woollard is the 18 year-old who dropped a fire extinguisher off the roof of Tory Party HQ during the first set of student protests in November. It was an instinctive thing that in the end resulted in no real damage done. However that was totally by luck and not by judgement. that fire extinguisher hauled towards a crowd of both policemen and women as well as at fellow protesters would have in all likelihood killed whoever it struck below.

I think this sad tale shows us that peaceful protests are all well and good but when it turns violent and ugly lives can be changed. The only way to not put yourself in that situation is to keep a calm head and know your plan. If you want to be safe then protest peacefully. If you are willing to let your adrenaline get to you then you risk troubles down the road. This kid had every right to protest about tuition fee rises but I suspect as he sits in a prison van on his way to a Young Offenders Institute for a couple of years he wishes that he hadn’t been so bone-headed and probably wishes he’d just gone to college that day instead.

This story should be a warning to protestors that when the adrenaline gets flowing you can make bad decisions that can impact on the rest of your lives. Protest but know your plan of action and stick to it. If the mob goes one way then you have to make the decision on whether you want to deviate from your plan and put yourself in a bad position. Protesting isn’t just about getting your point across but doing so in a safe and peaceful way. Not just for others but for yourself.

This kid didn’t and it has cost him big time and it will probably cost others as well. These young people have brains and want to go to university for free but it is sad that a small minority didn’t use said brains when it came to protesting on that front. The actions of his mother were first-rate. This wasn’t throwing a stone at a window this was just dumb luck it wasn’t murder. It must have been the hardest thing she has ever had to do but she did the right thing and whatever happens I hope the kid realises that and doesn’t blame her for what has happened.

Edward Woollard made his bed and now he has to lie in it. For everyone protesting in the future please learn from this. Have a protesting plan and stick to it otherwise you are leaving things more to chance and to the adrenaline – and that isn’t a safe place to be in a mob.

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  1. I understand your point, but I wonder if what is clearly a political sanction, deterrence is appropriate in this case fixed. It was only a matter of luck that no one has touched the extinguisher, but it does not mean that 32m penalty is appropriate. It was an act stupid, irresponsible, but there are other phrases that have achieved the objectives of the sentence – a sentence in the community, for example, allowed Edward to contribute to the community, and would pursue a serious requirements-level exams. It would have been more appropriate for him to take high school for juvenile delinquents. The focus of the criminal justice system in this case makes me sad. I fear that even if the ruling is appealed, a strategy also political. My heart goes out to Edward and his family Woolen

  2. Sarah Sarah

    I understand your point, but I do question whether what is clearly a political, deterrence-aimed sentence is appropriate here. It was purely a matter of luck that nobody was hit by the extinguisher, but that doesn’t mean that a 32m sentence is suitable. It was a stupid, reckless action, but there are other sentences which would have fulfilled the aims of punishment – a community sentence for example would have allowed Edward to contribute to the community, be subjected to stringent requriements and would have enabled him to continue his A-level studies. This would have been more appropriate than banging him up in a Young Offender insitute. The approach of the criminal justice system in this case saddens me. I fear even if the sentence is appealed, an equally political approach will be taken. My heart goes out to Edward Woollad and his family.

    • I don’t see it as political I must admit. It was a stupid wreckless action but so is answering a mobile phone whilst driving. 99 times out of 100 no harm is done but one time it’ll lead to a crash that may seriously injure or kill someone. It is just bad luck for that one time and good luck the other 99 times. 99 times if caught it’s a slap on the wrist and 3 points on the license. The other one time its a few years inside. Should someone get punished more for bad luck?

      He put himself in a bad situation and did a very stupid thing and it was only luck that no-one got seriously hurt or worse.

      32 months is harsh but would a community sentence really deter others from similar action? Sometimes (certainly in high profile cases) the courts have to lay down a strong sentence to hopefully deter others from doing the same crime. It may not be 100% fair but if he didn’t do the crime then this wouldn’t be an issue.

  3. Tony – Got to agree. The kid in most likelihood just got carried away in the heat of the moment. However his actions could have very easily have caused real damage to an innocent bystander. I, like you, hope he does his time and he’ll probably be out within two years and gets on with his life.

    NGC – It is more of a deterant to others. He has probably learned his lesson pretty quick sharpish. However I disagree that he could argue it wasn’t Violent Disorder. The CPS could have pushed for a Attempted Murder conviction and they would have had a case. All it was was pure dumb luck that no-one died that day due to his actions.

    I agree that the sentence may be a little harsh but he is lucky on the one hand that 32 months is it. Life could’ve been very different that day if it wasn’t for a couple of yards. Had he killed a police officer or a fellow protester he would never have forgiven himself.

  4. NGC NGC

    I undeerstand what you are saying about Woollard having to take responsibility for his idiotic actions. But is a sentence of 32 months going to result in a positive outcome? Is it really going to make Woollard a more responsible citizen or is it simply going to destroy his life? The sentence is excessive and politically motivated. It does not reflect the fact that crime was a moment of madness and goes beyond any sentence that would make him think in the future, into the realm of destroying his wholelife and giving himno hope of being able to successfully rejoin the community.

    In my opinion it is extremely questionable that Woollard was actually guilty of violent disorder, as opposed to another lesser public order offence which would carry a more appropriate sentence. Unfortunately, in his haste at facing up to his mistake, he pleaded guilty to Violent Disorder, rather than haveing his counsel argue this in court. He has now been hung out to dry for political reasons and the moment of idiocy might possibly do irreparable damge to his life.

  5. tonyhill tonyhill

    I come from the ’68 generation. The first demo I was involved with was a violent one against Harold Wilson, and a policeman was seriously injured. That was a steep learning curve and I very quickly became aware of the tactics used by those who use violence at demonstrations and made sure to keep out of their way. I also went to non-violent direct action workshops, usually led by American Quakers who had far more experience of protest than we did. I saw people I knew, not hardcore violent activists, get carried away in the heat of the moment and suffering serious consequences. I’m sure Edward Woollard is like them, and I hope that he comes through this experience and is able to make a positive contribution to society.

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