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Feature: Lottery sparks UK social debate

By
PETER ALMOND

LONDON, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- It's a bet that when 19-year-old Mickey Carroll bought his first lottery ticket last week, he didn't dream that if he won the $15 million top prize he would have the whole ideological weight of conservatism vs. liberalism riding on his future.

But that's what some in Britain are suggesting now that he has, indeed, beaten odds of 14 million-to-one and scooped the jackpot. For Carroll isn't just any winner.

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He's what in the 1960s would have been labelled an angry young man -- a social misfit with a criminal record, a court-imposed 6 p.m. curfew, and an electronic bracelet round his ankle to help the police enforce it.

On one side of his neck is a tattoo of the Glasgow Rangers football club: on the other is a Mandarin character. Unemployed, a terror of his local Norfolk community, he lives with his aunt and uncle and has a pregnant 19-year-old girlfriend.

And while some declare that he shouldn't be allowed to keep any of his tax-exempt winnings, or should be made to pay much of it back to the community, others say this national lottery win is one to celebrate -- if only to prove some old and controversial theories about human society.

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The Times newspaper, for one, believes this may be the first big chance to prove conservative vs. liberal ideological scriptures.

"The conservative view of human nature puts criminality down to defective character," said the paper in an editorial. "The liberal view of human nature puts delinquency down to circumstance. Now that Carroll's material circumstances have been transformed immeasurably for the better there is no longer any liberal excuse for delinquent behavior on his part.

"Should he prove refractory, and slip back into bad behavior, conservatives will be vindicated. If, however, he now behaves in exemplary fashion, liberals will be encouraged in their contention that improving individual circumstances is the route to a safer society. A central question of human nature with huge ramifications for social policy can now be resolved by reference to Carroll's future conduct."

It isn't known what Carroll thinks of this heavy weight on his shoulders. He's keeping away from the press at his home in the village of Wiggenhall St. Mary Magdalen, near the town of Downham Market.

On Monday, when he received a check for £9,736.131 ($14,896,280), he said in a brief press conference: "I was like any normal teenager and made a few mistakes. But that's all changed now -- it won't happen again."

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However, what he dismissed as "drunken antics" were revealed to be a little more when reporters checked his record: broken home in Scotland, expelled from school at 14, a series of thefts, driving while disqualified, speeding and driving without insurance, drunk and disorderly, throwing stones at a school bus. He was tagged by a court in August after being drunk and brawling with police.

A number of people want Carroll to make it up to the community before he does anything else, starting with Mervyn Emmett, co-owner of one of the buses that had to have $1,400 spent on replacing its windshield after Carroll threw a stone at it.

A request for compensation went unanswered, he reportedly said. At The Cock, a local pub, a woman who described herself only as "the landlady" told United Press International that while some of her customers didn't think he should be allowed to keep any of the money, she believed Carroll ought to keep it but should contribute something substantial to the community.

The Rev. Richard Bending, pastor of St. Mary's church in the village, agreed there wasn't much in Magdalen, population 600 in a centuries-old farming area, to attract young people.

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"There isn't a strong sense of community," he told UPI. "I'd be surprised if he stays here."

He didn't know Carroll, but said he thought this lottery win could be the break the man needed. "It would be a completely new experience for any of us to have more money than we know what to do with. If I was to do a sermon on this I'd talk about playing the hand we are dealt with compassion and with responsibility."

Kelly Muncaster, the aunt with whom he and his girlfriend now live, believes Carroll has already changed, and will keep on changing for the better.

"He was OK before he won the lottery," she told UPI. "He changed when he moved in here with me and our family in August. His girlfriend's here too, and he's going to be a good father."

The baby, she added, is due to be born on Christmas Day.

"Don't tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor," one skeptical police officer, who has known him for years, reportedly said.

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