Man fined for slapping child prankster

KATIE CARLIN
Last updated 05:00 21/08/2012
The Slap
TENSE TALE: The Australian novel and TV series The Slap brought the issue of disciplining other people's children to the fore.

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Would you slap an eight-year-old boy across the face for repeatedly ringing your doorbell?

That is exactly what a retired Perth man did after months of enduring the prank but it seems many in his community would have taken the same action.

After being the subject of four to five knock and runs a day for two months 62-year-old Derek Graham Roach decided to take matters into his own hands and when the doorbell rang for the second time at 5:45pm on December 11 he ran out to catch the neighbourhood kids responsible.

He found the eight-year-old boy in a laneway near his house, grabbed him by the shoulder and slapped him across the face four to five times before returning him to his mother, the court was told.

The boy had apparently been put up to the prank by a group of older boys.

The court found Roach guilty of common assault and fined him $1000 (NZ$1292) for his actions but the verdict has outraged many people in his Perth community with Roach receiving over 60 emails of support and even offers to pay his fine.

Roach’s defence lawyer, Richard Lawson, told Perth Now that his client is feeling overwhelmed by the support he has received.

''He’s feeling much better about the support because he’s realised that people are of the same sort of school as him,” said Lawson.

But while his lawyer is adamant Roach had no intention of harming the boy was it really appropriate to take such a drastic course of action?

A similar incident was explored in the award winning novel The Slap by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas. Where a friendly barbeque spiralled out of control after one of the guests slapped a three-year-old boy across the face for his intolerable behaviour.

The novel, and eight-part television series that followed the books’ success, divided the Australian public. On one side of the fence many felt that the child deserved what he got while those on the opposing side felt just as strongly that a child should never be disciplined in such a way, especially by a man who is not his father.

Apart from the eight-year-old boy's mother, it seems very few people have voiced their disapproval of Roach's actions, with only a minute number expressing their opposition in emails.

But what do you think? Was Roach right to take such a course of action in this instance or did he deserve the punishment he received? Leave your comment below.

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-Fairfax Australia

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