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Thursday 23 November 2017

Phoebe's father calls on bullies to say sorry for torment

Colin Gleeson

THE father of Phoebe Prince, who died by suicide after a cruel campaign of bullying against her, has called for her alleged tormentors to apologise and be shown leniency.

The 15-year-old Irish schoolgirl took her own life in January after being tormented by a gang of bullies in her US school -- South Hadley High School -- in Massachusetts.

Six youngsters at Phoebe's school have been charged over a campaign of harassment, which prosecutors say drove her to take her own life.

Her father, Jeremy Prince, from Co Clare, has responded to recent allegations in a report leaked to the US media that his daughter had previously attempted suicide in the months leading up to her death and that she had a history of mental instability.

He told a US magazine that while an overdose on prescription medication last November was "a call for help", he doesn't think of it as a suicide attempt. "Though that's open to interpretation," he admitted.

Mr Prince said Phoebe was not taking medication in the weeks before she died. "She hadn't had any Seroquel for over a month," he said.

She was seeing a therapist, he explained, who gave him and his wife a written report saying she was at no risk of suicide.

"This was when she went back to school in January. But we all know what happened."

Phoebe's suicide took place about two weeks after Mr Prince had to leave South Hadley to return to Ireland, where he is a gardener in Co Clare.

"What I didn't see was Phoebe in school," he said.

"Perhaps if I had, that would have made a big difference. It is the great tragedy of my life that I was not there."

Mr Prince said he and his daughter talked often, about "sex and drugs and everything under the sun". But there was one thing they couldn't talk about -- "that was the bullying".


Regarding the pending charges, Mr Prince said: "That's the district attorney's department." But he distanced himself from any effort to "make an example" of the students who have been charged.

"If someone is punished disproportionately to what they've done, that would be wrong," he said.

"You want to see the law acknowledged, and reasonable penalties, but without making an example of them. You want to take their ages into account.

"There will always be younger ones who go with the flow and join in.

"I'd dearly like to see admission and contrition, so that I could forgive," he added.

"If they confessed to the court and said they were sorry, I'd appeal to the court for total leniency. You can go two ways.

"You can look to the court for revenge or you can look for leniency. The latter path is mine," Mr Prince said.

Irish Independent

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