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Toy Story

Jonathan Schofield and the hunting of two Salford girls

Written by . Published on September 5th 2007.


Toy Story

It was the crime of the century.
Two fifteen year old girls drank alcohol on a city centre bench and messed about with toy guns. Masked by plant beds from the main road, they giggled and laughed, they probably even made joke gun noises, ‘bang’. They then put the drink and the toy guns in a carrier bag and left. It was over in minutes. They approached nobody, they threatened nobody, nobody saw, nobody knew, nobody cared, nothing happened at all. There were no consequences and no victims.

Faced with a problem such as gun-crime it’s best not to lose our heads. Gut reactions are almost always wrong. The story of Natalie Smith and Corry-Lea Walsh was a ludicrous and pointless criminalisation of two girls.

Except in Natalie Smith and Corry-Lea Walsh’s case somebody did see. One Mr Arathoon, a shopkeeper with a CCTV camera, filmed it and phoned the Police. And then he did the next obvious thing and phoned the press.

The images made the front page locally and then went national. Editors in the broadcast media couldn’t resist either and the story appeared on Five Live and elsewhere.

Then the ‘Gun girls hunt’ began. They were identified, locked in cells, interviewed at Pendleton police station (a seven hour experience) and released with a caution. Meanwhile their houses were searched for weapons and, of course, none were found.

"Are they going to charge five-year-olds for playing outside with toys?” said John Smith, Natalie’s dad. “I was annoyed about what Natalie and her friend did, particularly about the booze. But if this was something serious it should have got an immediate response from police - not three weeks after." He also said it was “blown a bit out of proportion.”

Actually, Mr Smith, it was completely blown out of proportion.

And it’s here we get to the half truths

What’s that Mr Smith said about ‘three weeks later’? The first report on Friday 31 August gave the impression that the non-incident had happened in the previous 24 hours, not weeks ago.

Manchester Confidential had a word with the police. The 999 call arrived in mid-August, officers were sent round immediately. At the same time the duty sergeant had checked the city’s CCTV system and deemed the incident didn’t amount to a hill of beans.

Not that this satisfied Mr Arathoon. It’s unclear when exactly he told journalists about the VT footage but when he did he laid it on thick, especially the fact that the police hadn’t arrived until 16 hours later to take away the tapes.

"I thought the situation was serious and was surprised at the response. If these had been real guns somebody could have died." Yea, and if that earthquake in the city the other day had measured 9 on the Richter Scale the city might have been ruined. Mr Arathoon might have thought it serious but the police didn’t and presumably that’s the sort of judgement call they have to make every day. It should have stopped right there, but the images, not the story, were too good. It became a media imperative to exploit them when the opportunity came along.

And here’s a curious fact. In all the reports across the country Mr Arathoon was tagged a ‘shopkeeper’ or a ‘businessman’. Guess what type of shop? Well, our picture gives it away. It’s a CCTV and surveillance specialist shop. Isn’t it odd that journalists failed to mention the nature of the business? Well, not really, they knew it would compromise the story. Was the release of the CCTV tape like one of those emails from McAfee Anti-Spyware saying ‘100% of all computers are infected with viruses’?

The only possible excuse for putting two girls through this ‘hunt’ was the sensitivity surrounding guns. This follows the horror of Rhys Jones’ death in Liverpool and the recent coverage of gun murder and crime around the country. But on examination that excuse doesn’t wash. It doesn’t wash because nothing happened here and nobody witnessed nothing happening, so to speak - except Inspector Gadget. Nor can we say that it’s symptomatic of a general lapse in society’s standards because the girls obviously knew their behaviour wasn't in the best taste hence they were hiding behind the plant beds not on the street flaunting it. It was a prank and they quickly came to their senses, which is presumably why the police thought it wasn't worth pursuing, until the media coverage forced them to react.

What did occur was a huge waste of police time and money. What also occurred was vicious comment about Natalie Smith and Corry-Lea Walsh in articles and on web rant boards. This is one such posting in all it’s unedited misspelt glory: ‘lets not forget these uneducated me me me females are breeding, producing even more of the same...but worse. Over time they will evolve into completley out of control people with no RESPECT for others, I'm sure if their kids were gun toting gangsters they would be proud.’ And that’s a relatively polite posting.

Faced with a problem such as gun-crime it’s best not to lose our heads. Gut reactions are almost always wrong. The story of Natalie Smith and Corry-Lea Walsh was a ludicrous and pointless criminalisation of two girls. It might even have been counter-productive, the sort of thing that some kids wear as a badge of honour. This seedy little drama didn’t say anything about society but it told us a lot about how incautious and blasé the media on a mission has become. Shakespeare always has the best lines. As Macbeth says, this was a tale ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’. It would have been better if it had stayed like that.

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79 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

NatalieSeptember 5th 2007.

I have just witnessed an armed robbery on the United Bank in Tibb Street whilst getting my lunch from Rustica. Men running down the street with guns and then bundling into a car and speeding off. But it may be ok because they may be toy guns? I think that if anyone has seen anyone brandishing a gun fake or not (some of us don't know the difference) during the day today in and around the city center then maybe that information could be of some use? The fact that these girls got a slap on the wrist to me is appaling. They should be very well aware of the dangers or brandishing such 'Toys' in public. It was quite obviously ''cool'' to them glamourising gun culture. What about carrying an imitation weapon? Ok they had no intent to harm anyone however how do we know this? We live in a culture where five teenagers can beat to death a 20yr old girl and her 22yr old boyfriend unconscious because they're wearing eyeliner. Surley anything is possible?

K to the MSeptember 5th 2007.

Andy P, you c0ck, who do you think you are you big punk, im glad your unsubscribing as you are the ultimate kn0b!! Goodbye to you. Back onto the subject, these birds were stupid, drinking, showing guns etc, they got questioned for 7 hours big deal, they deserved it. Was that it, nothing else was said to them, despite the fact that they were under age drinking in the streets (nice i know), is that not 2 offences? Get people like that in the chair and burn them to a crisp!!

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

i think the above comments made in this article are astonishingly shocking. this in many ways is why the youth of today are used to getting away with so much and seem to have an attitude of thinking it doesnt matter. Thinking that youths drinking on the streets and waving aorund what may seem to be harmless toys is not ok if you give an inch a mile is taken. Also the fact of hand gun has been missed by the authorities to as ithis also extends to imitations/replicas and the fact of offences of underage drinking o the streets. But nevermind lets get two of the young mothers of todays world in the right mindset that you can do what you want,when you want.

Karen the realistSeptember 5th 2007.

Just what planet is your "journalist" on? This wasnt not a harmless prank at all, it was a very serious one and should be viewed as such. Respect to the shopkeeper for calling the police and being vigilant. If we all did this every time we saw something wrong or challenged people and took control back of our city then Manchester would be a better place to live. We need to gang up on the gangsters and stop being so scared of them. The guns did look real and they looked heavy enough to be real from the way they were being held. Id have been scared walking past them and im sure im not alone. I definitely wouldve challenged them though myself as im getting sick and tired of the scum in this city. We have a drug dealer (black lad on mountain bike wearing baseball cap, the usual)visiting our "luxury" apartment block in the centre, but no one seems to give a damn but me surely this apathy is wrong? you pay good money to rent and your safety is still compromised! C'mon Pat Karney and others sort this out.....

DistraughtSeptember 5th 2007.

Yes, I agree. The camera could also catch the constant pissing, pooing (yes pooing by humans) and shagging that also take place in that lovely spot!!

KellySeptember 5th 2007.

Susan, I've heard the 'media blame' theory enough times to make me sick. Long before violent films, music, telly etc, there were plays featuring realistic deaths (see Grand Guignol), children's entertainment (Punch and Judy) and bawdy drinking songs. Entertainment isn't to blame, it's how these kids were and are being raised. I grew up in the Rambo/Predator/Robocop-obsessed 80's in the States, my brother had a collection of Karate-kid style martial arts paraphenalia, but neither of us would ever have dreamed of doing what these girls did, as we were just raised to know better. It's time for parents to take some bloody responsibility for their kids, and I'd reckon this isn't the first time their daughters have behaved inappropriately, however they seem rather reluctant to even acknowledge that they've done anything wrong, while anyone with half a braincell can and has expressed that this is, in the current climate, irresponsible and unacceptable behaviour. We need to stop blaming a media system we realistically have no control over, and bring things down to manageable, grassroots level -- i.e., parents need to do some parenting! Btw, I'm in full support of anyone who does their bit and dials 999 to highlight such antisocial behaviour.

Andy PSeptember 5th 2007.

Usually i wouldn't bother putting something down on this website by way of comment but feel i need to. MC is the most up itself publication I bother reading, you guys take yourselves so seriously on everything Manchester and think you are the dogs nuts with opinions that matter above anyone else’s! Then when two stupid girls do something like this you say the world has gone mad and we all overreact! They were in the wrong and the media did what the media does but then all high and mighty MC decide that they are over the top and everyone should stop being so sensitive. Your guys are a bunch of bloody whoppers, can't even believe you bothered wasting your time writing the article. For that i am going to cancel my subscription of what is really only junk email in inbox and a sodding annoyance at that. When you start sending useful emails with decent promotions I will start looking at your website again. Go F yourself MC, thats if you have time to pull yourself away from the mirror you bloody love yourself so much! Oh and Gordo you’re a t**t and a nearly pissed myself from laughing so hard the day you fell down the stairs in Panacea!

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

15 year old drunk girls playing with a gun? Bless em !!!! they need a damn good slap like a lot of kids today.

NeilSeptember 5th 2007.

Whilst I agree with many of the comments - that this was a serious issue which should have been dealt with more seriously by the police in the first place - my worry is the way in which these girls were identified and named in all the press (including this article, surely that's wrong given its tone?). These girls are/were 15 and given a caution. I live locally to them (I'm not a Salford 'neanderthal' thank you very much) and have lost count of the number of people who have pointed them out to me or told me which school they go to. If I'd been in trouble at 15 I wouldn't want the whole neighbourhood knowing, let alone the country.

Andy PSeptember 5th 2007.

Gordo old boy, thanks for getting back! I have seen you a couple of time Establishment with two lovely ladies at your table, Hard Rock Cafe where you rattled on for far too long!! (although fair play on a decent gig for a good charity, hands up on that one me china) and of course doing your acrobatics in Panacea (I would give you an 8.4, more height next time). Will be sure to rub your big ol tum tum next time I see you about fella, wouldn't want to miss that chance. Oh and as for non entity.....your a ****ing food critic mate, do me a favour! Ta ta

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

I can't believe I've read this article on ManCcon. Here we have 2 girls, drinking during the day waving what appears to be a gun around. Toy or no toy, I can't see anything about their behaviour that's acceptable and should be tolerated. The fact people are prepared to stick up for these girls is crazy. What's hapening to our world at the moment? We have become fogiving to a fault and so politcally correct that few are prepared to tackle issues head on for fear of appearing narrow minded. If only our criminal justice system had the capacity and ability to deal with crime appropriately and a dose of common sense to keep things in check.

Stu SSeptember 5th 2007.

We know the media will jump on any story to exploit events in society in order to sell papers/gain a bigger audience, this has been happening for a long long time. But what it does NOT excuse is the fact that two teenege girls were sat drinking alcohol in the street and waving around, what people would have instantly thought, were real guns. It was an idiotic thing to do, whatever time it took place, and the girls deserved what happened.I think maybe you would be writing with a completely different attitude if it was a couple of Salford lads,for example doing the same thing. Or if this incident had happened in one of the areas were shootings have taken place. The fact that they were young girls makes no difference. The fact that only one person saw this incident, luckily, makes no difference. It was stupid!

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

pLEASE GET YOUR FACTS THESE GIRLS WERE NOT HIDDEN BY SHRUBERY BUT IN FULL VIEW OF THE PUBLIC LETS HOPE IF THERE IS AN INCIDENT WE ASK THE GUN PERSON IS YOUR GUN REAL OR FAKE.

Sir James AndertonSeptember 5th 2007.

Hang them - all of them, whoever they are.

GordoSeptember 5th 2007.

Andy P, what a guy! I love falling down those stairs, I try to do it all the time. I am really sorry if you are unsubscribing, it's people like you that make my job worthwhile. I need non-entities to grin about. If we didn't have people like you on the site we wouldn't appreciate the people with fair comment. Make yourself known next time you see me, i have a great mental imagine of you already, snivelling and no balls spring to mind. Please stay! lets have banter. You are so good at it. But lets stick to the topic eh? we don't want to go boring the backsides off readers now do we?

S HaySeptember 5th 2007.

I read this and then read some of the sites and the girls haven't been given playstations but they have really been given some serious s**t, hope their dad doesn't read it.

SpawnMeister666September 5th 2007.

What kind of idiots brandish toy guns across the road from a CCTV shop?Could it be that this location was deliberately chosen by the girls in order to ensure their 15 minutes of fame, that kids these days are so desperate for...Spawny

VictorSeptember 5th 2007.

Well said Mrs Trellis. The girls would have had to live in a total social and media vacuum not to realise that their actions were deliberately provocative and insensitive. Had the police not acted when the media spotlight was put on this it could have encouraged more of the utterly irresponsible behaviour irresponsibly condoned by the author of this piece and would doubtless have resulted in even more unwarrented criticism of the police for not taking any action. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Suggest Jonathan Schoefield comes into the real world where 'playing with toys' in this way fosters a culture that results in young people getting killed. It's clear from the rants that the bulk of people think he's lost the plot on this one.

meSeptember 5th 2007.

What infuriates me the most is that the press inflame this situation and then the press criticise the reaction! You can't sit on both sides of the fence and the press includes this article. The way it was broadcast may have been over the top but what these girls did was wrong. I would not want to come across them waving a gun around - real or fake, I wouldnt know the difference. Their parents should have been brought to task on this as well - when are parents going to realise that children need discipline and rules? Parents should rule the house and not children. How many of us reading this article would have brandished toy guns around in a public park whilst drinking, aged 15 when we're hearing about a fatal shooting of an innocent 11 year old?

OSeptember 5th 2007.

girls with guns are sexy!!

downsizerSeptember 5th 2007.

This board is getting too personal. First sign of sloppy editorial methods. I'm not interested in people falling down stairs or calling each other names. If you want to retain your readers you should refrain from slanging matches.

markSeptember 5th 2007.

I don't understand why this article was even written, but I guess that's something of a sidebar. The fact remains that people acting out or spoofing potentially criminal scenarios (as in the case of a witnessed 'kidnapping' reported to police in Leeds a few years ago, where the 'victim' turned out, after a lengthy police chase, to be a woman acting out a sexual fantasy in what she thought was a secluded street), or equipping themselves semi-publically with fake or toy versions of illegal weapons or goods (two more Leeds cases from around the same time saw armed police swoop on a team of students who were making a coursework film involving a staged 'robbery'), should expect to arouse public suspicion. It's refreshing, in fact, to hear that some people DO still give enough of a toss to report things, rather than crossing the street as most of us do. The witness was selfish and possibly dollar-eyed in going to the press, of course - but he has an absolute right to report things like this, even if it is happening out of view of the majority of passers-by, and the fact that he owned a nearby CCTV store makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. If I work in a binoculars store, should I be discouraged from reporting dubious activities taking place quite far away just because you can't actually see it?

JohnSeptember 5th 2007.

I'm amazed by this article and the lack of thought put behind it, I was mugged at knifepoint just near that area years ago and it wasn't a pleasant experience! any weapon be it immatation or real should'nt be carried in the city centre, why the hell would you be carrying two replica guns with you? sure the girls were harmless but lurking behind some bushes in the Norther Quarter with some replica guns isnt the brightest of ideas! I'm glad an example has been made of them as it sends out a clear message that law breaking shouldnt be tollerated

LSeptember 5th 2007.

The guy is always getting stories in the MEN catching people doing this and that, wasn't the last one about people driving into the back of their cars for insurance claims....? Its just to put his shop on the map... but hey with all that crime going on round there (across the street in fact), who'd dare go? AND If CCTV was so good surely they wouldn't be there in the first place?

Mrs.TrellisSeptember 5th 2007.

Oh for pity's sake! These girls knew exactly what the impact of their behaviour would be. Live by the fake plastic gun, die by it.

BertieSeptember 5th 2007.

You nicked my line about McAfee you bugger...Good article, good spot, typical panic response.

VibeSeptember 5th 2007.

Just reading the comments in response to this article, it makes me wonder if Jonathan Schofield is truly sympathetic with the 2 girls or has he written a fantastic controversial article? The backlash is obvious. Even if I did have an ounce of sympathy for these 2 girls, I would quickly come to my senses. Whatever the circumstances, what these 2 girls did was clearly wrong and in very bad taste. But I doubt they’ll ever forget their punishment. They are going through a public lynching. And it’s not just the two girls. Their families have to suffer the embarrassment too. In fact, Jonathan may have worsened their punishment by bringing more people to speak out in response to his article. It’s my first time commenting too. And with these comments, I’m sure at least 10 more people are thinking the same thing.

Al MackSeptember 5th 2007.

"Colin"Perhaps in your liberal world crimes should go unpunished, not in mine.In general I think many people would love a lynch mob for criminals in this city, since the police can't do the job and it's them against us right now (and 'them' is winning, and has been for a long time). Articles like this are a slap in the face for everyone in the Manchester who's had to put up with crime, aggression and violence. You can't condone a crime because it's been committed by girls, they're 15 and you have a vendetta against a CCTV shop owner.

LSeptember 5th 2007.

The guy is always getting stories in the MEN catching people doing this and that, wasn't the last one about people driving into the back of their cars for insurance claims....? Its just to put his shop on the map... but hey with all that crime going on round there (across the street in fact), who'd dare go? AND If CCTV was so good surely they wouldn't be there in the first place?

yankunianSeptember 5th 2007.

Talk about a storm in a sodding teacup. Jonathan, I agree with you on this one. I don't find two girls playing with plastic guns on Dale Street half as frightening as the knee-jerk reactionary attitudes in evidence here. Lighten up, folks.

K to the MSeptember 5th 2007.

Wait a minute, why shouldn't this article have been written? These are 2 underage girls, drinking alcohol and brandishing guns. Is that normal and acceptable behaviour in society? Obviously not. These 2 girls should be shot themselves, see if they want to hold guns now!! I bet they don't. This is the problem with society, they will be arrested and then let off, why not make a point of them and prosecute them, lock them up and do the same to all others who go againsy society, bring back stronger punishments, prison isn't as bad as what it used to be. Make people not want to commit crimes, bcus at the mo the punishments are nothing!!

SusanSeptember 5th 2007.

Actually I live in Salford myself. But that's beside the point. The very newspapers that brand these girls and other youngsters like them want to look more closely at their advertising campaigns and the films showing at the cinema. The billboard that proudly advertises the film "Shoot em up" with a picture of a man holding a mobile phone and brandishing a gun with the slogan "Just another family man making a living". The whole thing looks so cool, never mind that he's protraying a hitman just about to take someone out. And then society wonders at the behaviour of it's youth and brands them as despicable. It is literally encouraging this behaviour.

Captain ManwaringSeptember 5th 2007.

young people today. bring back national service so that they can learn to respect guns and use them properly

RichardSeptember 5th 2007.

Whatever next? How about "it was just a pit-bull savaging somebody's leg. Dogs will be dogs so give it some slack!"

bruceSeptember 5th 2007.

You have to go back to the beginning, we're not hard enough or disciplined enough when kids are growing up. They have to learn respect for authority right from the off, from the first day at school at the latest, they've got to know how far they can push things. The girls might have been well-brought up in which case they must have known they were doing wrong which is presumably why they didn't push their luck - or thought they hadn't until they got put in cells. As I understand it they've expressed remorse, let's hope they mean it and that's a result. Shame that they got put on the front cover when there are so many terrible crimes to go and solve out there.

katSeptember 5th 2007.

It's totally irrelevant that it was only 'Inspector Gadget' who witnessed the girls. Behaviour such as this doesn't need an audience to be condemned - the fact that there was potential for people to walk past and to be alarmed is enough. The girls are 15, not 5, it's ridiculous that they thought this was acceptable in the light of current affairs. I'm glad they were shown up, perhaps more youngsters will now think before they swig alcohol and swing around replica weaspons in the street.

AdamSeptember 5th 2007.

Apologies for my poor grammar, and edit button would be nice, as would some paragraph formatting. What I meant to say was: "All you whiners saying toy guns should be banned are just making it more appealing, more forbidden to be seen with a gun, with the result that those little idiots on YouTube will feel good about themselves for their petty rebelliousness."

On the fenceSeptember 5th 2007.

Are we talking illuminous water pistols here or realistic guns?

eddySeptember 5th 2007.

Absoloute disgrace, How many times do we hear about things like policemen being called out to deal with scrotes from salford. They should be charged a "scally tax" for entering the city not unlike the congestion charge that is imminent.Salford is a big brown stain on the city and anyone who has come across one of the neanderthals will know what I mean"neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrr, im from dutchy" - CLOWNS!

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

Last year a colleague witnessed a group of teenaged girls in Market Street rowdily abusing passers by and in one case (happy?) slapping a chap who walked past them. SO far as he could make out, they were abl to do this with impunity.As a result of this recent heavily reported sequence of events, maybe youths of that ilk - or their parents - will think twice before inflicting their boorish behaviour on "right-thinking" people. We have all read of the many cases where kids are deemed to be too young to be charged for quite serious offences.I think that serving as apologists for unacceptable behaviour and trying to turn this back on the person who did his duty and reported it is somewhat disingenuous. Some might even say that writing iconoclastic articles is itself a deliberate act to attract attention/comment.It wasn't so long ago that I was reading here about a campaign to clean up Castlefields. Taking into accountthe comments made explaining why some folk no longer patronise Castlefield establishments - do you think that encouraging such behaviour -underaged drinking and "playing" publicly with replica weapons - in THAT particular locality be within or outside the spirit of cleaning it up? And if it IS seen as no good for Castlefield why would it be acceptable anywhere else?

DeanoSeptember 5th 2007.

This is complete rubbish. Fair enough the 3 week delay was stupid, but 2 drunk kids playing in the street with a 'real looking' gun is a big deal and they should be arrested for it. Would the article be as understanding if an under pressure firearms officer had 'mistakenly' shot the girls dead because he thought the guns were real? These are not 5 year old kids, they are old enough to buy and drink alcohol and should have a better idea of what they are doing. As far as criminalizing people for no good reason (Chris), I think this is a bloody good reason. If more kids had some discipline and parental control rather than understanding from people like you we would have a lot less crime in general.As a final point, would you be quite so forthright with your comments if faced with the parents of Rhys Jones? There are 2 very brave people for whom gun crime in this country is not 'So Low'

SasSeptember 5th 2007.

Gun-toting aside, these girls were drinking, clearly underage and clearly without their parents knowledge. The sooner you try to desensitise people from these allegedly minor offences the sooner society will be able to get a grip on the problem at large. It's called 'nipping it in the bud' Mr Schofield, and these girls are on the rocky road to ruin if they think their behaviour is acceptable and you think it's something to be ignored.

twinkleSeptember 5th 2007.

Isn't the MEN into being commercial and making money then? I saw this story on North West Tonight and immediately couldn't believe their kneejerk reaction on a slow news day. Obviously had that one in the bag for a few days. Like Yankunian says, a total media storm in a teacup.

ColinSeptember 5th 2007.

This is an incredibly brave article. It probably won't get much sympathy though. I've been reading Manchester Confidential for a good while but not commented before and it's been interesting to see the site develop and get more ambitious. Somebody said a while ago that you have an opportunity to be a third way for the city offering a different voice from the big boys of the Evning News and BBC, which will mean you'll get a lot of stick and people will resent it. Bring t on as far as I'm concerned. Shame that people don't read things properly - the guy above says replica guns when it appears that in the articles I've been reading, and in yours, that they were toy guns which is very different. The best line here is about not losing our heads over gun crime. This is exactly what the original Evening news article and other ones I've seen in the Sun, of course with the latter that's the only journalism they know, exactly did. Newspapers aren't the law and they shouldn't try girls before the judicial process - that's called mob rule. I expect Al Mack would love a lynch mob for these girls - he doesn't care about the circumstances in which the video was taken or fact that nothing happened. Actually the most naughty bit here, as someone else has put, was the girls drinking although who never tried to do that when they were fifteen. Given the web-postings we've already had on other sites an internet version of a tarring and feathering over a caution and a victimless crime has already happened. That is 'ludicrous' especially when the newspapers are full of much worse stories. Of course they don't always come with some great images from a cctv guy.

OSeptember 5th 2007.

kids have been playing with guns for decades, when two girls get nicked for it , it shows what a sad state of our society is in that the police have to take such precautions. ps ANDY P - awesome rant. only thing that surprises me is that people consider Manchester Confidential a serious publication that only a handful of people knew existed. wish i had seen the guy fall down the stairs in panacea. food critics are walleys. what kind of a job is that? telling me what food tastes nice and what doesn't. how do you know what i'll like? do we share a tongue?

ColinSeptember 5th 2007.

We live in a western LIBERAL democracy which through the rule of law and equality before the law has reached unequalled levels of wealth. Part of the reason for this is that we got rid of lynch mobs. We've all had to put up with crime and I should know as I live in the so-called inner city and had a beating and been robbed. But I'd still rather let the police and the judiciary decide when to take things forward rather than the press. When are you forming the posse by the way?

JimmySeptember 5th 2007.

no we think too much sometimes its best to react, thats the truer feeling, if you live in an area rife with antisocial behwvour then you just get sick of the thing and why should we move because of yobs

GoodshawSeptember 5th 2007.

I posted earlier on this subject. I can't believe what's happened now I've looked up the site again. What I find astonishing is the fact that some people here don't even think the writer's got a right to put his thoughts down. I see a good article which is not sensationalist, which attempts to look behind the obvious and does point out the shocking and cynical delay in releasing the story and that odd thing about nobody mentioning it was a CCTV shop. Calm down, think round the subject and then post your thoughts?

Al MackSeptember 5th 2007.

What a load of leftie tosh! Why don't you have a whip around in the office J-scho, buy these poor girls a Playstation. The media may be guilty of overhyping but at least they ride with public opinion, not against it.

KellySeptember 5th 2007.

Somebody needs to throw the book at these two I see the situation as kittens playing with string, practising to kill mice when they grow up. Imagine what these girls will be doing in five years if they're getting up to stuff like this at 15! My parents would have killed me if I'd done something like this, yet their parents obviously come from the 'we're the victims' school of thought, and undoubtedly these girls' progeny will assume the same behaviours. I live in Manc city centre and I am sick to the back teeth of kids (and adults!) like that coming into the centre to cause trouble. Lock 'em up in their houses and throw away the key! Yours politically incorrectly, Kelly.

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

Whatever stupid thing they did - don't blame the parents. I taught one of the girls in primary school and her parents are lovely - in fact they are the ones that marched her down to the police station. It has no bearing whatsoever on how 'great' your parents are - teenagers do bloody stupid things ( I know i did!)

MatSeptember 5th 2007.

I don't think this article paints the girls as victims in a woolly liberal way, but maybe it does ask if they were treated unreasonably. And it does make you wonder about thhat three week delay, why not release the picturs asap

TrishSeptember 5th 2007.

The 2 girls should do with a good kick up the arse

LesleySeptember 5th 2007.

At the end of the day, the girls were acting in an immature and silly way. And yes they had been drinking. But, who can honestly say that as a teenager they didn't have a drink or thought out the consequences of every action and Yes, they behaved irresponsibly but, to question them for 7 hours etc. and all the media hype that has surrounded this, is totally excessive and over the top. Perspective please

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

Just goes to show why we need police officers on foot and on patrol in the City Centre. A half chance that the girls would been seen by on duty police officers might have avoided the whole incident. Hands up anyone who has seen a police officer patrolling the streets except for when the footie is on.

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

The media DOES NOT 'ride with public opinion' - public opinion is largely reliant on the media and what it might/might not choose to tell them. To even suppose that the media represents us is completely missing the point.

RedFredSeptember 5th 2007.

I'm sure they are twinkle. The difference is you know what is journalism and what is an advert in the MEN, you don't on manc conf half the time.

BrightsideSeptember 5th 2007.

Isn't it important for people to learn that ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES? Part of the problem with our society is that this is not what is being learnt at school, home or anywhere else. Yes silly girls for messing about with alcohol and with what I can only describe as replica guns. There have been incidents where people have been shot by the police for brandishing such guns as it's so hard to tell the difference.The media coverage and hype is over the top but yes it's right that the girls were taken in for questioning and faced the consequence of their actions. Rhys Jones, poor little lad and family is one reason to be sensitive at this time but don't forget we had Jesse James in Manchester not so long ago too. I can't imagine how his family felt seeing this in Manchester.

ColinSeptember 5th 2007.

By the way the full quote is 'a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing'. You should have kept that idiot bit - that was the press, which God we usually need, in this case. And it's a few of the people on these postings who only see things on a surface level and condemn without thinking issues through. Have they never done anything stupid?

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

I cannot believe what I'm reading here...These girls were drinking in the street and brandishing guns that looked pretty real (as was confirmed by an interview with the Police about the footage). Had I had the misfortune to walk past them both, I would have felt very intimidating. Yes the shopkeeper had no need to go to the press with this, but don't paint these reckless girls who should know better as victims. The way they are holding the guns is mimicking shooting people and this is agressive. It was right that they were arrested and they should learn that their actions may affect how safe others feel, even if this might not have been their intention

MaggieSeptember 5th 2007.

The stupid cows deserve what they got. 'Childish prank'? I think not. The silly moo's thought they were being big and clever, swigging vodka in the afternoon, in a public area (how classy) pointing the 'gun' at folk passing. I know that I had have walked by and seen that I would have been straight on the phone to the police and I'm glad the shopkeeper did just that. How was anyone to know they were not real guns? The fact it only came to public attention a few weeks later is neither here nor there. There are too many idiots on our streets, on our buses/trains these days doing whatever the hell they like with no regard for anyone. If I had done something as moronic as that my parents would have given me a right clattering and made sure I didn't do anything like that again. I wonder what punishment these were given?

Red FredSeptember 5th 2007.

Many comments have asked why was this article was written. The answer is easy. While, for once, Schofield hasn't laid it on thick about how rubbish the MEN is, it's yet another chance for some implicit criticism as they carried the first big story. Remember. He was their food and drink person. He no longer is. Never doubt the bitterness of ex-employees, especially when they used to work somewhere practising journalism and been forced to work at a commercial website where making money comes first. I just don't understand why no one asks him to just get on with his job rather than whining about being told to sling his hook by the MEN. Get over it Schofield and stick to the good stuff, being a viable alternative to the MEN.

MaggieSeptember 5th 2007.

Why do people think that they were unseen? I know the area they were sitting. If you're walking down Lever Street out of town you can plainly see the area behind the bushes. It may be hidden from view if you're walking down Church Street towards Piccadilly station but not otherwise. What does the location matter? If it had been in Piccadilly Gardens would you softies have taken a different stance?AND yes, kids have been playing with toy weapons for years. But are you seriously telling me that the two imbeciles were playing cowboy and indians? Don't make me laugh. They may be only 15 but they aren't kids and they definitely weren't playing like kids. Drunken idiots yes.

SharonSeptember 5th 2007.

Let me get this straight. If you weild a gun (fake or not is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned as I can't tell the difference) around Manchester City Centre it's deemed not to be punishable by the police. But if you dare put your feet on a train seat you'll end up in court!! What is this country coming to?

confusedSeptember 5th 2007.

Mr.Arathoon, why don't you ever angle your beloved CCTV cameras at the smack heads shooting up in those gardens? Doesn't that "cause concern to the point of dialling 999, then to give a detailed descripion wilst they where still in the location, and wait for police responce?"

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

If nothing else they should be prosecuted for their gross and crass insensitivity towards the families who have all lost young members through unfortunate gang based gun crime in this city.

GoodshawSeptember 5th 2007.

Al, what's leftie about this, do you know what leftwing means? Anyway there's going to have to be a lot more police if we jump on every silly child who plays a prank. As Stu says it was an idiotic thing to do and maybe if it had been Salford lads then maybe it would be different. Context is everything and this just didn't feel that bad.Thing is too that this is a product of a country with too much cctv. If there's a real crime then then let's get on it, not spend dosh on picking up girls. Silly girls, crazy reaction if you ask me.

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

the girls are old enough to know they should be acting in that way in this climate.toy guns should be banned anyway, id never let my kids aspire to use one later in life so why give them one as a kid, its morally wrong.parents get a grip if you do condone this yourselves

A. SchweizerSeptember 5th 2007.

Yes the media jumps on anything that will get a headline and there's probably journalistic merit in you revealing the facts here. But much as this seems a storm in a teacup, it wasn't long ago that Manchester Confidential was telling us that the Gunchester years were back (in an article headed "Out of Control") and worse than ever. So, having read your article, would the public not be justified in being scared witless if they came across kids brandishing guns in the city centre - you've told them they should be, haven't you? And why on earth would two girls have replica guns with them in a carrier bag, if it weren't to exploit people's current fear? It's a childish prank gone wrong, but they're not entirely innocent are they? And maybe you're not as detached from 'the media' that you're rubbishing as you'd like to think you are.

AdamSeptember 5th 2007.

The media played it up and a lot of stupid people made a lot of noise, so the police had to waste time and money getting those stupid people some gratification. Anyone remember the paedophile witch-hunts? When the general public is stupid enough to trash paediatricians' surgeries I think that the general public should be ignored by the police, whose job it is to make these kinds of calls with some intelligence.They were messing about with toy guns, winding up some jumpy shopkeeper. Big deal. All you whiners saying toy guns should be banned are just making it more appealing, more forbidden to be seen with a gun, resulting in those little idiots on YouTube will feel good about themselves.Personally I don't think the "incident" warranted any attention (I agree with the police in the first place), further I think we should be working to make the idea of owning a real gun less appealing, not bleating like crazed authoritarians. We're just shooting ourselves in the foot right now (do excuse the pun - I wouldn't want the police knocking at my door for it...)

KarenSeptember 5th 2007.

i've worked in the media and the writer says 'it became a media imperative to use them' about the pictures. too right, they were just too juicy in the current climate and that's just the way it is. whether you liked the way the girls were treated or not doesn't matter, the pictures would still have been shown,even if the camera guy was using this as a cheap method of getting publicity, it still wouldn't have changed a thing

David ArathoonSeptember 5th 2007.

Well I have had to read all the comments regarding the cctv footage that was released to the press, and yes my business is CCTV, but can you tell me hand on heart, if you had seen anyone with a gun in the city centre pointing them at pasers by could you tell real or replica? I certainly could not!I was concerned to the point of dialing 999,then to give a detailed descripion wilst they where still in the location, and wait for police responce?There are lots of comments about, we all played with guns in the street when we where young, yes that is correct, but in 2007 when you have children of 11 & 12 years old with real guns that is the real reason for not tolerating toy guns on the street.It is the collective responibliy of the government, parents and the so called do-gooders of Britain that have robbed our children of there inocence, I for one would wellcome a return to old valuesDavid R Arathoon Owner CCTV Surveillance Solutions

ChrisSeptember 5th 2007.

I'm a little shocked at how people have reacted to this article as I feel it is quite accurate. These were two girls in view of NOBODY messing around with a toy gun. They were not threatening to anyone else or intending to be threatening to anyone else. This should never have been a news story or of concern for the police. It was a story because a snoopy guy was filming these girls (nothing dodgy there then) and gun crime has been in the news recently.One of the worst things that can happen is that young people are further harassed and criminalized for no good reason. There is not a rise in gun crime. Because gun crime is so low in this country when you have the unfortunate situation of a few people being murdered in a short space of time it makes a big impact. Gun crime has not actually got any worse in recent times, but fear of crime certainly has.The murder of Rhys Jones was a senseless waste of life and was justifiably shocking. But that does not mean that all young people are suddenly gun-totting gangstas or that you are in any more danger of being killed.This is knee jerk reaction because people are scared. Although if we want to push people in deprived areas into gangs that have no respect for anyone else then having no respect for them and treating them all like pariahs is the way to go about it.

Hazel RSeptember 5th 2007.

Why don't we clamp down on the irresponsible tradesmen and manufacturers of replica guns? Many of us would not know the difference between a fake and a real weapon if threatened with one. While I agree this incident has been blown out of all proportion, we live in a climate of apprehension in this city due to the shocking and highly publicised deaths of young people in gang land feuds. When this is fuelled by media hysteria to the extent that people believe they are likely to be mugged or shot round every corner - and of course in a few unfortunate cases that does happen - allowing the sale of replica firearms to silly kids who probably meant no harm, is as daft as making jokes about bombs in your luggage at an airport - and you would soon find yourself in custody if you did the latter.

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

Wow..surprising its from the home of self styled "click-bang."I think a lot stems from sheer boredom and hopelessness indirectly or directly experienced by today’s youth. Why not enjoy your 15 mins of TV and web based fame before you drop out, have kids and sign on? Perhaps this is best when you remember the fact that most of the younger generation can’t write a sentence and their name with either a palm print or an X. Its amazing...the less you plan for life the more money you get. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that having a few kids and watching Trisha all day is better than working a low skilled job.Lack of direction and ambition.Infact why not run a new reality show where the more pathetic items you can steal from super drug the closer you get to your very own housing allowance...winner! As an after thought ASBOS could also be issued to get extra points - and as we all know from hours of ****e day time TV points mean prizes. The top prize could have a flat complete with dangerous illegal dog, 2 pints of lambrini and 10 spliffs thrown in for good measure. In short I don’t blame the media just lay about no hopers that see serious or petty crime as the best they can hope for to make them in the least bit interesting.....plastic guns indeed.

PigeonSeptember 5th 2007.

I think we should encourage drunken-replica-gun-wielding-scally-action outside the author's home since it is afterall, only harmless fun.

secret squirrelSeptember 5th 2007.

The photo on the mancon front page looks posed, both girls looking into the camera, hardly cctv footage.Hmmmmm.To those that think it's all an overeaction, how close would you like to get to check whether they were toys or real? Yes, I thought not. As has been stated, context is all, and in the current climate even waving toy guns around is a f******* stupid thing to do and was rightly acted on. Teenage peer groups generally have far more influence than parents or teachers.

AnonymousSeptember 5th 2007.

When somebody points a gun at you the last thing you start looking for is the "Made in China" or "Pat Pending" stamp. For those of us who unfortunatly have and still have nightmares, not about the media hype surrounding gun crime (believe me, it's real enough - and most of it ISN'T reported and has been happening for over a decade and in most places, not just the so-called 'ghettos')but about the experience of not knowing whether or not the person holding the gun willpull the trigger, we'd all have very different attitudes towards guns as 'playthings'.Guns were invented to harm and kill and as a society we either fail, or choose to remember this at our peril. Unless we start to sober up and get to grips with what's happening in the UK (yes, I know that gun crime is down over the past year but up from where we were 10 years ago), we'll find ourselves in the unenviable position of being more dangerous than certain parts of the US where carrying guns is legal. Oops, sorry - it's already the case.

MSeptember 5th 2007.

Colin, do you think a scared old lady or a protective young mother with a baby would - in a split second, and from a distance - know the difference between a toy and a replica gun? There are certain laws and societal norms that we ought to enforce to avoid people being frightened as they go about their peaceful business. Yes the girls were just probably being silly and immature, but the effect on others would be the same. And I think it's rather naive to suggest that they weren't aware of what they were doing. They did it becausue of the climate of fear the media - including ManCon is reporting/creating. As for nobody seeing them - how does anyone know? What were they doing before and after the filmed sequence? And where were they? What would they have done with them if they hadn't been reported? Of course they need to be punished - I'm sure most of us were when we did stupid things as teenagers. That's how you learn lessons from your mistakes.

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