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Jailed guard is the victim of a society that ranks freedom of teenagers to drink excessively above social responsibility

Your story about the English train guard imprisoned for causing the death of a teenager ("Guard jailed for starting train that killed drunk girl", The Herald, November 16) at first made me incredulous and then angry as yet another example of our seeming willingness not just to tolerate but to encourage and protect the anarchy that now reigns in the evening in many towns and cities.

The individual case is obviously tragic for those involved, and no doubt the circumstances are complex. But for Christopher McGee to be entirely blamed for the teenager's death and jailed seems both harsh and distorted. There seems to be not just a passive acceptance that town and city centres in the evening are no-go areas for anyone over 30 who is not paralytically drunk but an active encouragement of such a view. The young, it seems, must be free to impose on the public realm any level of cost in terms of society, the environment and law and order without any consequence to them. For 16-year-olds to be out drunk in a city centre can have all sorts of dire results, but there is a view that they exist in a kind of bubble and it is always the other party's fault when accidents arise.

Mr McGee will have seen this sort of behaviour regularly, and I suspect felt a certain worldweariness at crowds of teens barely able to stand on trains every week. Few of us in his place would have been able to avoid an attitude of bored resignation.

The writer Bill Bryson commented recently that he used to enjoy walking around British cities in the relative calm of a Sunday morning. That was, he added, no longer the case because he had to pick his way through the dross of the previous night's anarchy.

Nightclubs and the "quick-fix" drinking culture they encourage impose a huge cost on the communities in which they operate, and the mayhem they generate puts unnecessary and untold pressures on the police and ambulance services, besides increasing social exclusion by effectively locking the over-30s out of city centres in the evening. By contrast, in any continental city, multi-generational groups still feel at ease in city centres of an evening, enjoying a range of social and cultural activities. Here, the centres of towns and cities have become war zones of blue lights, noise and destruction.

It is time young people understood that the public realm is not a playground for them to trash at will every week, and that they cannot rely on others to put both them and the city back together.

Georgia Varley's death is an appalling tragedy; she was in so many ways the victim of the destructive peer culture of which she had become a part.

R West,

Inch Park,

Kelso.

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