I had one ear cocked towards the Today programme on the radio the other morning, as I do, and I listened with dismay to PC. Jones telling John Humphries about the procedures he has to follow if he stops some snot gobbling youth in the street late at night.
It made for depressing listening, as PC. Jones went through the forms he has to fill in there and then, and if he takes ‘executive action’, more forms to fill in when he gets back to the Station. According to the Daily Mail, and let’s face it, if it’s in the Daily Mail, it must be right, police officers spend a total of six million man hours each year filling in forms.
The other day, I watched a police video of a client of mine being booked in following his arrest for drink driving. Now I grant you he was less than co-operative, nothing, I hasten to add, to do with alcohol consumption, or so he told me in conference, he was just tired and naturally irritable, but the booking in procedure, with Sergeant Plod at the helm, was painful to behold. Plod tapped each key on his computer as if it were about to self-destruct. It’s enough to make strong men weep. The whole shambles took about fifteen minutes, time and enough, if my client had indeed been drinking, which he hadn’t, to sober up and pass the alcometer test with flying colours.
It’s the same with Traffic Wardens. You return to your car barely two minutes after you’ve parked for a quick dash to the bank, or whatever, only to find some sour faced petty functionary writing a short novel, all the while licking his pencil and sucking his teeth. And everything’s in triplicate.
We’ve lost the plot. I blame the Human Rights Act. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favour of basic human rights, they are the glue that binds together a civilised society, whether they’re enshrined in statute or evolve from plain old fashioned common sense and fair play.
So when it comes to plain old fashioned common sense, if PC. Jones simply clipped the youth around the ear and frog marched him back home, giving his mum a bit of plain old fashioned advice about parental responsibility at the same time, I’d be the first on my feet, cheering loudly. But that’s not going to happen. The snot gobbling youth, aided and abetted by his outraged mum, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and Victim Support, will sue the Police Federation for breach of his human rights, and he’d almost certainly win. And then, with a nice wedge in compensation, he’d be back out on the streets in no time, more alcohol, more anti-social behaviour, and untouchable.
And what sort of message does this send out to his snot gobbling chums, and more to the point, to law abiding citizens such as our esteemed Home Secretary, scared witless, who are unlucky or foolish enough to be out on the streets at the same time? Avoid eye contact, cross to the other side, don’t provoke them, let them shout and scream, hurry home and lock the door.
How did we get it so wrong?