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When Will They Learn?
Bureaucracy Strikes Again
By Shane Clarke
London Correspondent
UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson

In October of 2007, 38-year-old Fiona Pilkington drove to a secluded lay-by in her home county of Leicestershire, England. Her 18-year-old daughter, Francesca Hardwick, who had a mental age of three, was with her. Miss Pilkington doused the car in petrol and set fire to it, killing them both.

This tragedy was the result of 10 years of harassment and intimidation from local yobs. During that time, Miss Pilkington contacted the Police for help 33 times, but only received 8 visits from police officers.

Such numbers led UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson to criticise the police last year, accusing them of having an “unacceptable mindset” which caused the failure to control the anti-social behaviour that led to the deaths. Words like “ludicrous” and “ridiculous” were aimed at police as Mr Johnson also went on to criticise the senior police officer on the case during an inquest into the incident at the end of last year.

Simon Reed, Vice-Chairman of the Police Federation, which represents police officers on the front line, criticised Mr Johnson’s remarks, saying that the government couldn’t “have their cake and eat it. They introduce initiative after initiative and expect the service to plough resources into them, without considering the negative effect it may have on other policing functions.”

He also said that what is needed is a new “zero-tolerance” policy regarding anti-social behaviour, with more police officers on the streets, and stronger sentences to deal with offenders when brought to justice. At the moment, these yobs who terrorise the public and make them scared to walk the streets often walk away from court with an ASBO and nothing else. An ASBO is an Anti-Social Behaviour Order, which frankly isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. They may as well be giving them a knighthood because – in the world of the thug – an ASBO is considered a medal of honour, there to show just how bad these people are and why no-one should mess with them.

Far from being a deterrent, the ASBO actually provides bragging rights to these low-lifes. On any estate, any family in possession of an ASBO is seen as one to be feared. It entitles their children to run riot in the streets, damaging property, swearing like troopers and intimidating anyone who dares to be outside when they are present.

Of course, the fools who came up with this bright idea are far detached from the people who get them and the problems these people cause. Our MPs are too busy abusing their expense accounts and accepting free holidays from foreign governments to worry about the growing problem on the streets of Britain, where a man can look out of his window and see a group of kids climbing all over his car, and when he goes out to confront them he is kicked to death.

So determined are these crooks to avoid any responsibility for their own neglect, that 10 Leicestershire police officers now face the possibility of the end of their careers. It is they who have been lumbered with the responsibility for Miss Pilkington’s desperate actions. It is they who are being forced to carry the can for a ridiculous justice system that systematically buries them in bureaucracy, making it more and more difficult to do their job.

These 10 unfortunate scapegoats have been served disciplinary notices by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) while inquiries into their actions continue. An IPCC spokesperson said, “Such notices are not judgmental in any way, but are required under police misconduct regulations, and served on officers to advise that their conduct is under investigation.” The officers are still on duty, but this must be of little comfort to them. In fact, they will be under even more pressure in a job which already pushes them to their limits.

The inquest that was held in September last year ruled that police officers and council officials failed to share information, contributing to the deaths of Miss Pilkington and her daughter. The police were accused of failing to protect Miss Pilkington and her family, leading temporary Chief Constable Chris Eyre to offer “unreserved apologies” to the family.

It may be fair, and perfectly reasonable, to accuse the police of not protecting Miss Pilkington. The number of calls she made and the resulting number of visits from officers would certainly vindicate this. However, this is the typical convenient narrow-minded approach by politicians out to disguise their incompetence. As usual, they fail to discuss the bigger picture, where the stretched resources of the police force them to prioritise and to sit behind desks completing unending paperwork instead of patrolling the streets, as they want to.

According to official annual crime figures last year, an anti-social incident takes place in the UK every second. That’s 3600 every hour. How could the police possibly keep up with those kinds of figures when they have other crimes to deal with, and they spend most of their time filling in paperwork? Add to that the fact that the thugs committing these acts are more often than not back on the streets within hours with little more than the prospect of an ASBO ahead of them.

So, imagine this – you’re a police officer; you’re sitting behind a desk filling in yet more paperwork. The handcuffs which should be binding criminals as they are brought to justice hang unused and useless on your belt. Thanks to the crippling bureaucracy being heaped upon you by a government increasingly deserving of the handcuffs itself, you only have time to investigate one crime today. However, you have two calls – one is from a woman claiming she is being harassed by thugs, the other is about a 14 year old kid who has been stabbed to death over a row about a mobile phone. You have to prioritise – which one are you going to look at first?

Okay, so you go to the case of the murder first, with every intention of getting to the harassment claim as soon as you possibly can. In the meantime, more reports of serious crimes are coming in; at the weekend you often have to drop everything to rush to the scene of one of the many alcohol-and-drug-fuelled brawls and mini riots that now plague our town centres. So, the poor woman’s problem keeps getting pushed down the priorities list, despite more calls coming in from her, and you can’t hand it on to a colleague because they’re in the same boat. And so it goes on, with you and your colleagues – far from taking control of crime as promised by the government – struggling just to keep up with it. There is a war raging between the police and the criminals, and with crime rising and police resources decreasing, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who’s going to win this one.

Of course, don’t bother trying to convince the politicians of this. They don’t care, because it doesn’t affect them. Their children are not being killed, their families are not being harassed, and no one is climbing all over their cars. They introduce more and more agencies, bureaucracy and paper trails, all done to avoid any blame falling upon themselves, and to make it easier to put the blame on others.

Perhaps we should kick Alistair Darling out of 11 Downing Street and move an ASBO family in instead. Imagine Gordon Brown having to endure noise, swearing, harassment and intimidation. Imagine Sarah Brown having to endure disgusting sexual innuendo every time she steps outside her front door. You can bet your life that tougher sentences would be introduced and the ridiculous bureaucracy crippling the police would disappear faster than an MPs expense account.



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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.

 

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