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Was this justified?

Posted: Jan 22nd 2004, 5:40 am
by starbug
We've been hearing a lot recently about a british student who joked that she had a bomb in her handluggage before placing it onto the belt into the x-ray machine at an airport.

Article here: ... 417433.stm

There's no doubt she did a stupid thing. She should have known better. I'm not in any way advocating behaviour like that.

BUT she went to prison for 4 days, even though no bomb was found. She was only released on bail following the intervention of British officials.

Is this sort of punishment justified? I understand the need to follow through on the law here, but surely this is getting slightly ridiculous. A hefty fine plus a big slap on the wrist, a good talking to, (and if you were feeling particularly uncharitable, maybe a night in jail) and that would probably be enough to make headlines, to discourage her and others from being flippant in airports about bombs.

But to put this girl in jail for days is surely yet another show of power and intimidation from the US authorities.

Posted: Jan 22nd 2004, 10:44 am
by TomSpeed
Authorities are trying to deter other people from acting this way. They are also trying to maximize safety. Spending several days in jail sends a very strong message. It also generates a lot of press coverage that carries that message. I know I would be less likely to joke about having a bomb in my luggage if I knew I could face a few days in jail. Also, could any real terrorists slip through the cracks while authorities are distracted by jokesters? I don't have much sympathy for this young woman. Finally, did her treatment scare her straight? I'm sure that it did. Was she beaten or tortured? I'm sure that she wasn't.

Posted: Jan 23rd 2004, 10:03 pm
by grim4746
surprise, surprise I agree with Starbug. I think your points are valid as well tomspeed, the treatment she received was probably an effective deterrent both for her and other potential jokesters but I think Starbug's argument that "A hefty fine plus a big slap on the wrist, a good talking to, (and if you were feeling particularly uncharitable, maybe a night in jail)" would have been just as effective a deterrent. I think the punishment as given was overkill.
I think that the infringements on freedom of speech (and an array of other freedoms is out of hand). I'm curious about what would happen if someone mentioned bombs in a serious manner but not in reference to having them. We all know that one of the things they are looking for are bombs but are we allowed to talk about it or is it the proverbial elephant in the room? Could one for instance ask the person checking your luggage if they have ever personally found a bomb or how often they have false alarms thinking something might be a bomb? Is the word and related language completely off limits? If so perhaps there should be signs posted in the airports with a list of words not to be uttered lest you be jailed for up to 15 years.
The girl was stupid and presented a danger but having a law that allows the government to jail someone for 15 years for a speaking a single sentence that had little to no direct ramifications is also stupid and dangerous.