Ant under fire as he begs for forgiveness

Guilty pleasure: Yesterday’s papers splashed McPartlin’s sentencing across their front pages.

Should we forgive Ant McPartlin? The presenter has pleaded guilty to drink driving. In an emotional statement, he apologised and promised to change his ways. But not everyone is sympathetic.

For a man who is usually all smiles, Ant McPartlin wore a devastating expression on Monday. On his way to court, McPartlin — one half of the celebrity presenting duo Ant and Dec — looked gaunt and gloomy. After pleading guilty to drink driving, he was fined £86,000 and given a 20-month driving ban.

On March 18, McPartlin lost control of his Mini and crashed into two cars. While nobody was badly hurt, the other drivers got a huge shock; one said that her nine-year-old son was left screaming “I’m dying, mummy.” McPartlin, who has struggled with alcoholism, had drunk more than twice the legal limit.

“I’m truly sorry for what happened,” he told reporters after his sentencing. Through his lawyer, he said that he hoped he could be “forgiven”. While some fans tweeted their support, the headlines offered little sympathy: “Shamefaced”; “Guilt”; “A picture of self pity.”

Forgiveness is an important concept in ethics. The ability to stop feeling negatively toward someone over an offence can help everyone involved to move on, and is often seen as proof of moral strength. It is taught by most religions, from Hinduism to Christianity.

These factors can inspire people to forgive the most horrific crimes. This week the father of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager killed by a racist gang in 1993, said that he forgives the murderers. Neville Lawrence credited his faith for empowering him to do so. It was a “heavy load to carry around,” he said.

People can feel betrayed when a public figure behaves in a way they consider improper, even if they have not been wronged directly. Whether they forgive the person depends on many things: their offence, their reputation, how much regret they show, and perhaps luck.

Thus sex scandals end some political careers but not others. Some celebrities accused of sexual misconduct under the #MeToo banner are shunned by society, while the former boxer Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist, continues to enjoy success as a stage performer and entrepreneur.

Should we forgive McPartlin?

He’s a celebrity…

Yes, say some. McPartlin is just a troubled guy who made a mistake. He has repented and promised to deal with his issues. If we hold his offence against him, we will make it that much harder for him to turn his life around — and it will weigh on us too. If Neville Lawrence can forgive, so can we.

Hang on, reply others. McPartlin committed a serious crime, and almost killed people. If an ordinary person had done this, rather than a popular celebrity, we would not let them off the hook so easily. If anything, public figures are role models, and should be held to a higher standard. Forget what religions say: forgiveness is not always right.

You Decide

  1. Should celebrities and ordinary people be held to different ethical standards?
  2. Is there such thing as an unforgivable act?

Activities

  1. Think of a time when somebody wronged you. Have you forgiven them? Why (not)? Write down your thoughts in a letter to that person.
  2. Without looking them up, write definitions for the following words: “forgiveness”, “acceptance”, “sympathy”, “reconciliation”, “pardon”.

Some People Say...

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

Alexander Pope

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly met in 1989, as child actors on the set of the BBC children’s show Byker Grove. They became best friends, and began to record pop songs as PJ & Duncan. Presenting their first TV show (as Ant and Dec) in 1994, they grew into one of the nation’s most recognisable comic acts. They are still very close.
What do we not know?
If this spells the end of Ant and Dec. McPartlin has pulled out of all presenting duties “for the foreseeable future” as he seeks treatment for his addiction problems. Donnelly presented the last two episodes of their variety show Saturday Night Takeaway alone, amid rumours that it will be cancelled. The pair are hugely popular, but it remains to be seen whether their image as “cheeky chappies” can survive this crisis.

Word Watch

£86,000
This is thought to be the highest fine ever handed out for drink driving in the UK. The judge factored in McPartlin’s huge income: £130,000 per week.
Legal limit
In England, the limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath. The amount that one can drink before reaching this limit depends on the person.
Ethics
A set of moral principles which lead people to act for the greater good, as well as in their own interest. Ethics form the basis of laws.
Hinduism
Hindu scripture refers to the concept of kshama, generally translated as forgiveness.
Christianity
The Bible teaches that those who forgive others for their sins will in turn be forgiven by God. Jesus also tells Peter that he must forgive a sinner “seventy-seven times”, emphasising that forgiveness is a process, not a one-off decision.
Stephen Lawrence
Lawrence was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack in South London. The investigation into the murder was seriously flawed; an official report labelled the police “institutionally racist”. Five killers were suspected, but only two have been convicted.

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