I just ran into this question on the Academia Stack Exchange: I was caught cheating on an exam, how can I minimize the damage?
The user admitted to the incident and asked for advice. However, there are several highly-upvoted comments to the question which, in my view, are ad hominem personal attacks on the OP. As morally bad as the original conduct was, I don't think it's ever justified to insult another person for that conduct. I responded by making several comments in an attempt to give an objective explanation for the disciplinary actions for the incident and what should be done about it. (Note that I didn't want to write a full answer.) I also wrote the following comment, directed at several of the commenters:
[...] While there probably was a voluntary choice as to whether or not to cheat, humans aren't perfect and it's not easy to accept the alternative options in this situation, chief of which is taking the exam honestly and failing it. You should focus on giving positive advice, not insulting the OP with ad hominem attacks which fail to advance any solution to the problem described in the question.
So the question is: how do we best respond to OPs who admit serious wrongdoing in a real-life situation and seek help on Stack Exchange?