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I had not been to Doncaster ice-rink until the BBC asked me to film a new discussion programme there on issues of relevance to youth. So, inevitably, Owen Jones and I discuss crime, sex and class with a singer called Sway, a "glamour-model" who wants to hang paedophiles and an audience of Doncaster's young.  While we are discussing sex education it emerges that Doncaster has the highest rate of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) in the UK. Nevertheless, a council STI worker talks of the success of her work. I turn down an offer to hit the town afterwards.

Not for the first time I wonder what consistent ideas people born in the age of Twitter actually have. They seem driven primarily by the search for consensus. If enough people clap one way, they clap too. And if someone pokes their head above the parapet and makes a point against the consensus which gets shot down then they appear to change their minds.


Whether that will happen with the drunken student from Swansea remains to be seen. Liam Stacey was arrested, tried and sent to prison for tweeting horrible comments about Fabrice Muamba, the black footballer who had a cardiac arrest during a match.

The holes the story exposes in our justice system are a far greater threat than a nasty racist spat which had already been dealt with by the awful man's peers. The police were at the culprit's door within hours; and District Judge John Charles was clearly out of order when, during sentencing, he claimed that Stacey's comments had "aggravated this situation". 

Another thing that went unaddressed was any explanation for this upsurge in virtual crime. I think it is simple. For the police, as for journalists, wicked and idiotic tweeters are a gift. Just as there are newspapers which find it easier to write about Twitter "gaffes" and "spats" than to report actual news, so the British police simply find it more restful to pursue offensive comments on Twitter than to go after real-life violent criminals.

A few years back we saw the introduction of pretend policing in the form of Community Support Officers. Now we have the policing of pretend crime. As last summer's disturbances showed, a police force which has become expert at going after virtual crime is out of practice when it comes to pursuing — let alone stopping — the real thing.

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