If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Justice: what the police feel up to on the day

There's a very sad story in the Torygraph:

Police officers will not recover a victim’s stolen van believed to be at a “volatile” travellers’ site because it could “put officers’ lives at risk”, it has been claimed.

A market trader called Christopher Sims was approached by some shady characters asking if he would sell his Mercedes van for spares. He refused, but took a note of their registration numbers. A few days later, his van was stolen. He passed all the details to police, who confirmed that they knew the numbers he gave them, and that they knew where his van was (on a local travellers' site), but that they were not willing to go there because it might put officers at risk.

Impressed by the public service ethos, clear championing of the innocent victim, and sheer guts of our boys in blue? I am. It reminded me of an incident close to where I live a few years ago. I live near to the A40, on the route to the Fishguard ferry to Ireland. There is a small petrol station and convenience store there, where I often pop in for a newspaper. One day, the forecourt filled up with old vans and lorries, and the people in them got out and started swarming about the place. They filled up the vehicles, while their children went into the shop and started filling their pockets. They emptied the shop, and then advised the lone attendant that he would be well advised not to demand payment for the goods or the fuel, and left.

Shaken, he called the police with descriptions of the vehicles and their registration numbers. It wouldn't be hard to track them down - they were very distinctive, and heading for Fishguard, and there's only one road. All the police had to do was follow them, pull them over, and sort it out. In fact, the police did respond, although not quickly enough to apprehend the criminals near the scene, and met them instead at the ferryport. Did they stop them getting on the ferry, arrest them, and bring charges for, at the least, theft and threatening behaviour? Did they impound and then search the vehicles? No. They negotiated with the travellers' leaders, and suggested that they had a whip-round. The travellers collected £250, which they gave to the police, and then were free to go. The police then gave the money to the petrol station and told them that, as far as they were concerned, the matter had been dealt with as well as possible and the case was closed.

The loss to the garage (a small, locally-owned concern) was possibly ten times what they eventually received, and the poor lad who was serving on that day was so shaken that he didn't work there again.

There was a time when there was right, and there was wrong. The police supported those who were right, and pursued and arrested those who were wrong. There was no calculation of cost and benefit - if someone had broken the law, then it was imperative to make every effort to catch them, whatever they had done. Pour encourager les autres, if nothing else. Now, it seems that right and wrong are contingent concepts.

If someone burgles your house, it's partly your fault for not having better locks.

If someone robs you, it's partly your fault for using an expensive mobile phone in the sight of others.

If someone steals your savings, well, you shouldn't have been so rich, should you?

And if there is a crime that is going to be difficult or (God forbid) dangerous to investigate, then the police can refuse to do so, on the grounds that it was only an old van, and those travellers can be violent if provoked, and less said the better, eh son?

And so the police can sit on their fat arses eating doughnuts, and going after soft targets like speeding motorists, Christian hotel-keepers and people who have the foolish temerity to take photographs in public places. While the real criminals - the violent, the anti-social - get treated with kid gloves.

Ask anyone, ask anyone, whether they would prefer a country where dangerous and violent people were brought to justice, whatever the cost, or one where everyone kept to the speed limits.

Who do the police actually serve?


  1. Pretty scary stuff your describing. When those who are paid to "protect and serve" are unwilling and or unable to provide security then society is doomed to failure.

  2. Hi Rob, and thanks for dropping by and commenting. It's not as bad as it sounds, I suppose. This kind of thing is pretty rare. But it's happening, and I'm sure that this was not the case 20-30 years ago. We seem to have lost a clear sense of right and wrong, where wrong is excused far too often and right is often seen as dull, conventional or even a little suspicious.

    I'll pop over and have a look at yours in a while. All the best.


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