The first thing I was told as a trainee reporter was to write in the inverted pyramid, putting the most important part of the story on top. This story about today's British policing, political correctness and crime-control has several parts, but I am unsure which is the most (or least) important. They occurred within a short time of each other and are typical of the bizarre combination of Draconian punishments for minor offenses against political correctness and permissive or weak treatment of serious criminality characteristic of Britain today.
The first was brought to public attention by Ann Widdecombe, a former Conservative Home Office Minister in charge of Prisons and a Privy Councillor.
A former North Wales police officer of 22 years standing, John Atkinson, referred to a senior police officer as a "dyke." He had apparently been upset by the officer refusing to commiserate with him at a funeral over the death of his son. It was, as Miss Widdecombe said, a vulgar expression, but vulgarity is not normally a crime.
He might have been told to mind his language and go home. Instead, he claims, six officers arrested him, handcuffed him, and bundled him into a van.
According to Mr. Atkinson, he was then locked in a cell, stripped naked, and left all night with only a blanket. There were no sanitary arrangements and he was forced to urinate in a corner of the cell, nor was he given any water, though prisoners are legally entitled to these things. While he was still naked the police proposed to interview him. When he protested he was handed back his clothes soaked in urine, which he was told had leaked under the cell door.
This was not, it seems a matter of unofficial horseplay among police getting out of hand, or of police settling some sort of grudge or quarrel among themselves by rough but informal methods. He was formally charged with threatening, abusive and insulting behavior and taken to court, though when the matter was brought before a magistrate the charges were thrown out.
A few days after this it was reported that a Bedfordshire farmer and former churchwarden, Frank Cook, fired a shotgun, not to kill, but to frighten, a dog threatening his lambs. He was standing on his lawn with his two grandchildren aged 3 and 5 shortly after when six police cars roared up and dozens of police poured out, five of them armed.
Mr. Cook, 77 years old and suffering from high blood pressure, claims he was forced into an armlock in front of his family, handcuffed, sworn at, and bundled into a police car. He was then locked in a cell for five hours, finger-printed and photographed and forced to give a DNA sample. He claims that at one point police pointed a gun at his son, who photographed him being arm-locked (the photograph was printed in the British press). He had previously reported two burglaries with no action being taken.
On the other hand, more than 1,000 major offenders of foreign nationality, including murderers, rapists, kidnappers, other violent criminals and people-smugglers, who would have been eligible for deportation, were released from prison and no record was kept of their whereabouts. In about 160 of these cases the sentencing judges had specifically recommended that they be deported at the end of their sentences. There were previous cases reported shortly before this came to light of foreign criminals recommended for deportation who were subsequently freed committing further crimes including murder and rape.
Sir David Normington, the civil service head of the Home Office, said the situation had actually deteriorated since the Home Office was alerted to the problem last August, with about 40 foreign prisoners being released and "lost" every month since then compared to about 14 a month before.
While huge efforts are put into enforcing political correctness (a police task-force was reported investigating a cartoon of Mohammed put up on a notice-board in a private office, blaming it on dangerous "extremists," and undercover police have been sent in "Operation Napkin" ready to arrest patrons committing such racist hate-crimes as mimicking the accents of staff or asking for flied lice), in many ways the state seems astonishingly weak, and not just because of big increases over the last few years in every type of violent crime. In 2004, about 20 Chinese illegal immigrants were drowned picking cockles (small edible shellfish) when caught by the tide on the mudflats at Morecambe Bay in northwest England. It appeared an entire illegal industry -- not only picking the cockles but also processing them and distributing them for sale -- had been set up with none of the relevant regulatory authorities (immigration, police, local council, fisheries, conservation, coast-guard etc.) noticing or caring. While lethally dangerous situations like this are allowed to develop, absurd local regulations ban children's snowball fights and other kindergarten games.
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