Lisa Markwell: I feel only compassion when I see Lohan's sad face

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Does it matter that Hollywood starlet Lindsay Lohan appears to be going downhill faster than a Swiss ski pro?

I realise that the child star of The Parent Trap, Herbie, and Mean Girls may not be top of the hard news agenda, but hers is a cautionary tale.

She became a star thanks to the aforementioned films, and quickly got the trappings of success – and independence from her parents before being old enough to vote.

Now she's on her fifth police mugshot and has so many hours of community service to serve, for drugs, and driving misdemeanours, that she won't have time to make another film till about 2014 (that's if any director would hire her).

At 25, her face tells its own story: puffy and pale, with stained, crumbling teeth. The inference from the coverage is that the young actress is addicted to illicit substances of some sort. Certainly from looking at the five police photographs in date order, she has diminished in youth and vitality quicker than her peers.

I find it particularly heartbreaking because the line between allowing a young person to try independence and standing back while they make terrible mistakes is a fine one.

Lindsay Lohan's parents have – in my opinion – positioned themselves on the wrong side. Where were they when it became clear their daughter was in trouble? Her first arrest for driving under the influence might have given them a clue.

In fact, Mr and Mrs Lohan have both spoken to the press at length about Lindsay's travails. They might have been better off speaking to her – although, of course, they may well have done so and not told anyone about the hours of counselling and pleading they might have spent with their daughter. But I get the feeling they would have told us if they had...

After breaking the terms of her probation repeatedly, Lindsay is running out of childlike "one more chance" pleas. But rather than dismiss her as just another spoilt showbusiness brat who didn't know when to stop, I feel only compassion when I see her crumpled face, trying to tough it out in the courthouse.

It must be difficult – universally – for adolescents today to not give in to the pressure to take up "grown-up" activities before they're ready to cope with them. In my day (and I'm aware that I sound but one step from the bath chair by saying that), getting booze was difficult, and everyone was too scared of their parents to try class-As.

Lohan's now been ordered to work as a cleaner in a morgue as community service. What a horrible way to punish a girl who was promised the world and got everything except a steadying influence.;