USA

Pranksters sentenced to apologise on YouTube

3 min

Two Florida teenagers who threw a drink in a drive-thru worker's face have been forced by a judge to post an apology on YouTube. But will the punishment work? See the apology and read more...

Advertising

Two Florida teenagers who threw a drink in a drive-thru worker's face have been forced by a judge to post an apology on YouTube. But will the punishment work?

The 15 and 16-year-olds drove up to a Taco Bell fast-food restaurant last summer and threw a cold drink onto their drive-thru waitress. They then posted a video of the assault on YouTube, which became a massive hit online, adding to a collection of similar clips. Last October they were charged for battery and criminal mischief, and sentenced to 100 hours of community service and a fine of $30 (€20) each. But the judge also asked them to post an apology on YouTube, which they did, along with a reconstruction of the event. While their original video received millions of hits, the apology has so far only been watched 24,000, in over a month. Our Observer assesses the new-fangled punishment.

The "fire in the hole" prank

The activity of dousing drive-thru staff with fizzy drinks, milkshakes and spicy cocktails and shouting "fire in the hole!" before driving away became popular last summer when people started to post videos of themselves doing it online.

 

CCTV footage of an attack. Originally released by police and posted on ThePittsburghChannel.com, 6 August 07.

 

An example of the prank going wrong. Posted 10 June 08.

"This is an innovative way of using technology"

Dominic Bascombe is the editor of childRIGHT at The Children's Legal Centre in the UK.

This is an innovative way of using technology. Of course some children who see the apology video may laugh, but others will take it to heart. Yes it's got the potential to become a badge of honour, as Anti Social Behaviour Orders [ASBOs] have in the UK. But it's difficult to say we can't use the method just because of that. What other options are you looking at? Do we want to lock them up or fine them? What's the end result of those penalties? This apology approach is normally used only for fairly minor offences anyway.

What's important is getting the apology from the offender to the victim. Here in the UK we get them face to face to talk about their feelings. The offender then spends some time with the victim, helping them with something. It's a matter of humanising people, making them think "this is a real person".

We have to look at alternative means - which both make a difference to the offender and send a signal to others that this behaviour is unacceptable. Restorative justice [offenders making apologies to their victims] principles are becoming much more popular. The idea will take time. And it may not work everywhere. Judges in the US have far more discretion than over here."

The apology: "We thought it would be funny"

The boys' apology and reconstruction of the event. Posted 3 May 08