Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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If the Old Bill won’t fight crime, who will?


LOCKDOWN or not, some aspects of life go on as normal. At 2am a couple of Sundays ago, police were called to St John’s Road in Southall, west London, to sort out a terrifying mass brawl involving 40 men armed with bottles and swords. Locals commented that only two of the 40 were arrested, and remarked that those two will probably end up with community service.

Such occurrences are by no means rare, as anyone can see from the newspapers. As TCW reported in 2018, people feel ‘poorly supported by the police, whose response to reported crime generally is woeful’, and David Fraser, in last Saturday’s TCW and on other occasions, has exposed the charade that is the UK’s current criminal justice system. The Southall scenario illustrates perfectly the increasing gulf between public expectations of police effectiveness and the reality on the ground.

The ‘mission statements’ of police forces in England and Wales serve only to highlight this gap between aspiration and reality. The Metropolitan Police say: ‘Our mission is to keep London safe for everyone. To do so we will: Focus on what matters most to Londoners. Work more closely with partners and the public. Achieve the best outcomes in the pursuit of justice and in the support of victims. Seize the opportunities of data and digital tech. Care for each other, work as a team and be an attractive place to work. Learn from experience, from others, and constantly strive to improve. Be recognised as a responsible, exemplary and ethical organisation.’ This gives no indication either of the extent of the problem of controlling lawlessness or how they plan to confront it.

Were they to look elsewhere for the policing solution, where would they find it? Not across the Channel in France, where many communities have experienced the same sort of violent disorder and worse over recent years. The French press has reported violent brawling on the streets of Paris, especially among rival migrant factions and drugs gangs. Residents complain they have been abandoned by their local authorities. In the 17th arrondissement they have taken matters into their own hands by forming a collective in ‘vigilance mode’ – if they get no support from the authorities, they will apply their own justice. A previous joint effort with the police, when they helped to get a gang of burglars detained (reported here) culminated in the offenders being released after 24 hours in custody.

As violence and crime escalate, French commentators have begun to use the term ensauvagement, meaning a descent into savagery and lawlessness. In one incident, residents reported the reluctance of the police to intervene, saying: ‘You need to have people in your residence who have the balls to go into the basement, to sort this out your own way, with the Corsican method.’ In other words, the police won’t be doing it. If you want it done, do it yourself.

Meanwhile, in the UK the law-abiding taxpayer is fleeced by yet another dysfunctional institution, paying through the nose for a vast ineffectual bureaucracy prioritising its own pension system. Yes, in their struggle to attract recruits the police have been advised to focus on ‘selling the full range of benefits’ to win recruits: ‘While it can be a challenging job with long and antisocial hours, police officers enjoy a unique sense of social responsibility, trust and respect as well as a relatively attractive pension.’  

The public’s patience is wearing thin, and people are increasingly aware that our current form of representative democracy is neither democratic nor representative. But in the absence of a total overhaul – political as well as judicial – is UK society is going to be reduced to the méthode corsaire? The prospect looks bleak. 

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Janice Davis
Janice Davis
Janice Davis is a grandmother and former girls’ grammar school teacher

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