Excuses such as “my dog ate it” never quite cut the mustard when it came to homework.
You would quite rightly be chastised or even punished with what we used to term a “greeny” or a “yelly” – an affectionate term for the coloured sheets issued by Kirkcaldy High School for misbehaviour.
The threat of lines, or detention made an effective deterrent and my disciplinary record at KHS was unblemished.
This column isn’t about classroom behaviour though, this is about real offending and real punishments in the adult world.
At court in Kirkcaldy the other day, I was amazed to see the throng of people quite content to saunter into the dock before a sheriff, having previously been issued with fines, whose excuse for not paying said penalty was “I forgot about it” or “I thought I had set up a direct debit”.
These aren’t small sums. Typically they ranged from £100 to £1400, and in most cases the perpetrators had not bothered to pay a penny.
Yet case after case was simply continued, with every excuse accepted with a ticking off and the person given more time to pay.
One or two seemed to have valid reasons — rent arrears or Universal Credit delays. That’s a whole other story entirely, and I’ve touched on that before.
But surely it’s a waste of everyone’s time for this rigmarole to continue.
A fine is imposed for a reason — you’ve done something wrong.
Fines are, by some margin, the most commonly used disposal in Scottish Courts, with nearly two thirds of all disposals involving a financial penalty.
Often they can be considered alongside other measures as a direct alternative to custody.
Sentencing courts have the power, when a fine is first imposed, to impose an alternative of custody in the event of payment being defaulted.
Perhaps it’s time to follow through on that threat, just as the teachers at Kirkcaldy High School followed through with their greenies and yellies.
I fully understand that resources are tight and we can’t send every offender to prison for not paying a financial penalty.
But if we’re to avoid the tiresome allegations that we are becoming a soft touch society, we need to send a stronger signal that fines have to be paid — or else.