I received a phone call over the weekend from a good friend of mine. I could tell immediately he was upset. He related to me how he and a couple of his (male) friends had been out enjoying the sunshine in the local park. They were larking about, though not to the extent that they were getting anyone's backs up. Or so they thought. This chap, let's call him Steve, is not a geezer, chav or any other sort of thug. He's a very pleasant bloke who spends his days in an office, on a computer, making sure the world keeps turning. Or something. His two friends I can't vouch for, I've not met them. However if Streve is hanging out with them, I sincerely doubt they are the sort of people you'd cross the street to avoid.
Anyhoo, there they are laughing, chatting, keeping to themselves when a couple of police officers approach them. Apparently five separate calls have been received stating that they'd been taking pictures of young children in the adjacent paddling pool. The three duly hand over their phones, explain that they've been taking pictures of eachother, show the officers these pictures, the officers content themselves that it's harmless, and that's it.
Except it isn't. The officers then insist the harmless photos are deleted, which they are - however even a luddite like me knows pressing 'delete' doesn't do any more than stop the photo being available at the touch of a button. It's still there on the memory card. That's not the worst of it though. One of my friend's companions, we'll call him John, has a knife in his bag, which he'd bought the day before for a camping trip. I don't have a detailed description of the knife, only that it was a 'camping knife' - Steve didn't actually see it clearly.
John gets nicked for possessing an offensive weapon. I presume the arresting officer would have checked if this chap had a good reason for still having the knife in his bag, and then satisfied himself that there wasn't a good reason.
Steve walked away bewildered with his other friend Dave, whilst at least one 'concerned parent' shouts 'THANK F**K, SHOULD OF (sic) LOCKED ALL YOU SICKOS UP'. He then called me for advice to pass on to John. My response was 'Make sure he takes the legal advice offered, and he might get a caution, or if he's lucky an NFA'. John waited in the cells for a few hours, was interviewed and then cautioned. He did get legal advice prior to interview.
This got me thinking. In the same circumstances I would not have asked for the photos to be deleted. There wouldn't be any point. With regard to the knife though, I'm sure I'd have acted in a similar manner. If someone is carrying a blade over 3 inches long and can't adequately account for it, I'd be obliged to bring them in. Steve feels aggrieved about the situation, and I empathise. John was not carrying the knife with any intentions - I'm not sure whether he'd forgotten it was in there. Nevertheless, a bloke with no previous convictions has through his own carelessness now got himself a record.
Knife crime has of course been hitting the headlines, again, and I can't fault the officer who made the arrest - I wasn't there so can't see things exactly as he saw them.
As for those who called the police, did they over-react? Certainly I can picture the foul-mouthed Waynetta Slob who shouted at Steve after John got carted away. Three young blokes having a laugh and minding their own business in the park on a hot day? Not your typical nonces in my experience. For five calls to be made, whether all from Waynetta or from her friends or unconnected parents does seem a little odd. Is it only a matter of time before one of the tabloids calls on El Presidente Brown to appoint a PaedoFinder General? It certainly seems common sense was absent, and I have a strong suspicion that media-driven hysteria played it's part in the trio's unpleasant experience.