We are all against crime. It is the Government’s job to stop crime. We are all for that, aren’t we. So we can all feel very reassured that the criminals who dropped a piece of pie crust ( immediately eaten by the birds), the child who chalked a hopscotch pattern on the pavement, a boy who threw a chip at another boy, where immediately attended to by the police with appropriate legal proceedings. (Did you ever drop a scrap of food in a public place? Play hopscotch? When a child, throw food at another child? If the answer is yes, and if you say no, I don’t believe you, then you, by the standards of the law today are a criminal. Expect a call from the police any day now. A crime is a crime after all).
Alongwith this admirable and courageous application of the police to criminal behaviour we have the alternative situation of two community police standing by while a child drowned in a shallow pond. They were expressly ordered by their superiors NOT to go into the water, as they were not trained for that procedure. Or the case of the woman who fell down a concealed mineshaft and the firemen again were expressly ordered NOT to use the equipment which they had with them to rescue her as that equipment was designated for use for firemen only. In both cases they were told after the event that they had done the right thing. Both people died when there were people on hand to help them but no crime took place.
But stepping aside from these extreme examples from our Alice in Wonderland world – have you ever done any of the following? Made a phone call from work; used office stationery for personal use; went home with an office pen or paper clip; used recycled paper from work for personal use or took it home; used someone else’s milk at work; used the internet at work for personal purposes; left a shop without paying for an item; not been strictly honest on your CV; shouted at anyone at any time for any reason; had a drink while underage; smoked a bit of dope OR been in the presence of someone smoking dope; engaged in sex with another person when you were below the age of consent; had a tv without a licence; fed the ducks/pigeons. If so, you are a criminal.
What is wrong with this picture?
We are now in a situation where if you have a genuine problem in which the police should take an interest, such as if you are burgled, mugged, or having street yobs permanently parked outside your house night after night making noise, dropping litter, vandalising your property, intimidating you and your family – sorry, the police are too busy, they do not have the resources. (One relishes the story of the householder who when he called the police to tell them his garden shed was being broken into and was told, sorry we don’t have the resources, called back 5 minutes later and said, don’t bother coming out, I have a gun, I’ll sort it out myself. And within minutes panda cars were screeching to his door and a helicopter was circling overhead. The police apprehended the burglar and then asked the householder about the gun. Sorry, he said, I don’t have one). (Not recommended for American readers).
And as often as not when they do come after a lot of nagging, it will only be when you have tried to defend yourself, and they arrest you. On the one hand our authorities ignore crime, and on the other evidently feel free to crimninalise anyone they please for the most trivial of reasons. People increasingly feel even if they have a real problem, don’t call the police as you run the risk of getting arrested yourself.
Now this is all hunky dory and business as usual for a third world dictatorship, but it is not supposed to be happening here.
Furthermore police like powers have been extended to large categories of people who are even less accountable than the police and that is saying something. Social workers, and any number of bureaucrats. As the experiece of Jane Clift shows, you can find yourself blacklisted and subjected to extra-judicial vigilanteism from the community if a bureaucrat didn’t like the way you talked to them on the phone (or was it because she dared to talk to them at all?)
The messge is clear. Whoever is setting priorities, and bearing in mind that nothing in politics happens by accident, law and order and protecting the public are not the priorities of those setting the agenda. But micro–management and total control over every citizens life, down to the smallest action is.
Freedom has been quietly suffocated. We are all criminals now.