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Parents say jail the wrong place for Barlow

Music student William McCover, who started the online petition. Photo Shetnews

THE PARENTS of the teenager who was jailed for three years on Wednesday for pointing an air rifle and threatening to fire at armed police officers may appeal the verdict.

Speaking from his home in Wester Skeld, Shetland, Paul Barlow said on Thursday that he and his wife Ruth had been heartened by the public support they were receiving.

An online petition calling on Lerwick Sheriff Court to reconsider the case against Sam Barlow has attracted almost 500 signatures in less than 24 hours.

The court heard on Wednesday that 16 year old caused ” the utmost fear and alarm” in the Westerloch and Murrayston areas of Lerwick on the afternoon of 23 September, threatening to shoot at armed police officers and local people trapped in their houses.

His father said he was in no doubt that Sam deserved to be punished, but more than anything else he needed help.

Barlow said the family had hoped for a more lenient sentence that would allow him to stay in the community and deal with his mental difficulties.

In court, defence solicitor Tommy Allan quoted a detailed psychological assessment that said his client had engaged with everyone who had tried to help him while he has been in custody.

The teenager would be better able to address problems, including anger and anxiety if he was not behind bars, he said.

Paul Barlow said that while he did not agree with some of the criticism on social media leveled at sheriff Philip Mann, he was encouraged by the public support.

“I am very pleased that most of Shetland people think that Sam should be getting treatment rather than being locked up for a long time,” he said.

“I think we have grounds for appeal because Sam did not get a third off for the early plea, and obviously the sheriff has not taken Samuel’s emotional and psychological problems into account.

“The sheriff said it himself; he was locking him up to keep Shetland safe from Samuel, which I thought was a bit harsh.

“He was also more concerned about the cost of the operation than why it happened.

“So I think we have a number of areas where we could appeal, but obviously it is too early to say.”

The online petition was lodged by Shetland College student William McCover just hours after news of Barlow’s jail term broke early on Wednesday afternoon.

McCover said: “The people of Shetland need to challenge this. I am really happy to see that there is such a strong following of the petition already.

“Getting him the help he needs and giving him a hand trying to get rehabilitated to society is going to be far more beneficial than sending the boy to jail.”

Writing on the petition page, Sam Barlow’s mother Ruth said: “Sam is a child with both learning difficulties and mental heath issues who has been pushed beyond the limits he was able to cope with.

“He has been isolated from his family through the internet and isolated further through the judicial system.

“He needs family support and proper help and assessment so that he can learn to cope with society. A prison cannot do this and will make his problems ten times worse.

 

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