THE dangers of bullying were highlighted this week through a mock court trial organised by local police.
The event, staged at Peebles Sheriff Court on Tuesday, allowed primary seven pupils from the town’s Kingsland Primary School to see how electronic bullying can be prosecuted and which agencies are involved.
A fictitious case was devised where two youngsters had been charged under the Communications Act 2003 after sending a threatening text message to a peer.
All members of the class participated in the trial, playing the role of victims, witnesses, police officers, security personnel, jury members, solicitors and even court reporters.
The youngsters had two sittings in front of a real sheriff and Borders procurator fiscal Morag McLintock provided a briefing, along with defence solicitor Sally Swinney, on the legal proceedings involved in an electronic bullying case.
Local police were aiming to use this unique educational experience to reduce the number of youths affected by threatening or abusive emails, texts and posts on social networking sites.
Police constable Barry Taylor, the locality officer for Tweeddale, told TheSouthern that bullying takes many forms, but always has a detrimental effect on the victims.
“Lothian and Borders Police are committed to building safer communities by tackling bullying wherever it arises and will robustly deal with anyone found to be responsible,” he explained.
“This fake trial, which centred on an electronic bullying case, showed the participating youngsters how police respond to crimes of this nature and the consequences of sending intimidating or offensive messages to one another.
“Equally important, however, the trial also highlighted the impact bullying has on the victim and I am confident that the Kingsland Primary pupils treated this issue with the seriousness it requires.”
Ms McLintock added: “The ways in which we communicate have evolved rapidly over the last decade, and police and prosecutors work tirelessly to keep pace with these developments.
“An offence committed electronically is no less of an offence. This is a fantastic opportunity to educate the young people of our communities, and engage them in thinking about their behaviour in a fun and interesting way.”
Ms Swinney was part of the mock defence team and said the schoolchildren learnt a valuable lesson during the trial exercise. She added: “I don’t think for one minute that children think about the consequences of a text message, but hopefully through the mock trial they will understand what the impact can be.”