Trinity Bates needs justice, not the law of the Facebook mob. By Sarrah Le Marquand From: The Daily Telegraph February 27, 2010.
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TO stay relevant, you must move with the times. And it seems the vigilantes among us have done just that as community outrage to the man suspected of murdering eight-year-old Trinity Bates spilled on to social networking websites this week.
Fuelled by vitriol and a thirst for vengeance, the proliferation of so-called "hate pages" on sites such as Face book confirmed vigilantism is alive and well.
The pitchfork-wielding march may have been replaced with more technologically sophisticated tactics but the underlying sentiment remains the same.
Within hours of a family friend being charged over the young girl's murder, various pages and online groups were clamouring for the execution of the suspect.
One of the sites reportedly alerted fellow users to the street address of people bearing the same surname as the accused. One can only imagine the motivation behind disclosing that information.
With the mood in pockets of Bundaberg threatening to lurch from saddened and confused to angry and vengeful, police urged people to keep emotions in check.
"The community has been greatly impacted," acknowledged Queensland Detective Superintendent Maurice Carless. "But in terms of taking action on that, I think it's prudent to let the course of justice take its course."
The hijacking of online memorials initially set up for Trinity, only to become overrun with mob rage, even prompted Queensland Premier Anna Bligh to call Face book management to account over their monitoring of such material.
Ironically, the existence of these hate sites can in fact impede the wheels of justice from turning as efficiently as they might.
It is these very Face book pages which may jeopardise future criminal proceedings if and when Trinity's killer goes to trial.
Experts claim a social networking onslaught of this nature could give a defendant grounds to argue they have been denied a fair trial due to the disclosure of personal information.
Beyond the knowledge that vigilante activity might damage future legal proceedings is the less tangible but no less important debate over how we respond in the face of evil.
The abduction and murder of Trinity was an unforgivable, callous crime.
To take the life of a defenceless child is as shocking to us as it is senseless and the anguish her family is enduring must be beyond words.
But how we as a society choose to express our outrage over this cowardly act has nothing to do with the person who took her life and everything to do with us.
As understandable as it is to want to vent our anger over such a crime, public outpourings of rage simply make for an ugly spectacle of another kind.
At its worst it creates a cycle of attack and counter-attack, teaching our children that the darkest side of human nature is sometimes acceptable so long as you're chasing down the "bad guys".
But the line between heroes and villains isn't always clearly defined.
Unleashing anger on those who we perceive to have wronged us can all too easily corrupt even the best of the "good guys".
Things are never as clear as in the take-the-law-into-their-own-hands movies, no matter what the likes of Dirty Harry and The Dark Knight would have us believe.
Even for the most conciliatory of souls, it's not always easy to leave matters in the hands of the powers that be.
I'd hazard a guess it gets pretty lonely on the high road. Maybe they should make a few movies about the heroes who have ventured down that particular highway.
It's in the face of crimes such as Trinity's murder that we are faced with a choice.
Do we sink to the level of the perpetrator in baying for blood and hurling abuse, or do we allow the police and judicial system to operate without obstruction?
Do we somehow make this senseless murder all about us and our anger, or do we step back and allow the family to grieve in private and with dignity?
Do we use this brutal crime as an excuse to whip up hatred and incite more violence? Or do we refuse to take the bait and decide to respect the victim and her family by refusing to give in to rage?
It might not have the instant feel-good appeal of vigilantism and it is certainly a much less popular option but it could just be that showing some restraint and refusing to be consumed with hate in the wake of this horrific crime is the most effective way of honouring the memory of Trinity Bates.
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