Editorial: Accountable birthday boy

It was a pretty gutsy thing Jonny Hughes did yesterday.

Fronting up to the local newspaper, and thus to the community, in the wake of a report about his 19th birthday party getting out of hand. Especially with the disorder that eventuated being described by a neighbour as "like World War III".

But being prepared to speak was a good idea on Mr Hughes' part. It showed a degree of maturity and accountability not always present in those his age. Particularly as he chose to apologise to the local community for a nasty situation that seems to have been largely out of his control.

Plainly, he didn't want his special night to descend into the kind of chaos that saw eight people arrested and cyclists getting punctures on Beaconsfield Rd due to the amount of broken glass around after a spate of bottle-throwing.

By his own account, Mr Hughes took reasonable steps to ensure the night wouldn't end that way; hiring four bouncers to check those arriving at the Otipua Hall were on the guest list, and even stamp the hands of legitimate guests.

The fault seems to lie with the group of around 20 people not invited to the party who arrived around 11.30pm and reportedly began causing trouble.

Timaru police have suggested the party's location exacerbated the problems, being relatively isolated from town so those who wanted to walk home or get rides when the trouble started would have found it difficult. But it could just as easily be argued that an isolated venue made it less likely that people looking for trouble would end up there than at a central city location.

Mr Hughes invited his guests using Facebook and "other channels" but he had a list that arrivals were checked off against, so it clearly wasn't a case of a blanket Facebook invitation, which some in Timaru have issued in the past.

Perhaps an invitee mentioned the party to a friend and the disruption originated from there. That sometimes happened 40 or 50 years ago, though obviously it's easier these days for unwanted "guests" to get wind of parties through social media.

The biggest factor in parties getting out of control these days seems to be a lack of respect for authority, as evidenced by the throwing of bottles at police on Saturday night - an alarming trend featuring at more and more events and plainly connected to the degree of inebriation of the culprits.

Hopefully the court system will dish out some penalties following this incident that serve as an effective deterrent to such behaviour in future.

The Timaru Herald