Monday, August 06, 2007

The other side of the fence

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.


Annette said...

This is interesting, you can tell they were totally innocent.

However, the knife incident interested me. I have a penknife, would I be arrested for carrying that?
The only reason I carry one is because it can be useful.Quite simply if you have a thread hanging off your clothes, you can cut it off.
Simple as that.

Katy Walford said...


My name is Katy Walford and I'm a reporter for News of the World online. I'm writing to ask you to get in touch with us for your views on policing today.

We are looking for current or former policemen and women to let us know if you think there is too much paperwork and too much concern with you being politically correct etc etc which prevents you from doing the job that you joined the force to do - i.e. catching real criminals.

We are not asking you to give us your name, we are happy to take your comments anonymously, but please get in touch as soon as possible.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. My email is

Katy xx

Anonymous said...

In relation to the above comment by the reporter. it would also be interesting to find out if you actually knew hat a day as a police officer fels like. spending the best part of the day runing to (So called immediate calls) domestics, and when you get there it’s a dispute on which is better, coronation street or eastenders, and they are both worse the wear for drink. I look forward to going to a house where a decent person lives, who doesn’t like calling the police. Unfortunately when you do visit decent people it is mainly for bad news or dealing with a burglary (and you do actually feel sorry for the victim). I know we are out there to deal with all members of society, but I tend to spend more time with the decent tax paying callers rather than the benefit claiming drains of society.

I would like to know other views.

totallyun-pc said...

Odd one this, about the calls I mean... I suppose your mate is never going to be up front aboutwhat they were doing. We assume they were just chilling, cos you told us... but 5 calls? wierd to get that if nothing much was going on.

Your right about the knife though. The law is there, and in that case, its difficult to deal with it any other way once the explaiation has been deemed a poor one!

Winston Smith said...

It could be worse.

I was arrested for having an offensive weapon not so long ago.

The nature of thw offensive weapon?

A bottle of Domestos which I had just purchased from my local Tescos.

Aren't PCSO's wonderful?

BelfastPeeler said...

What was their reasonable grounds for a search I wonder? Odd.

And yes, as above, 5 calls makes you wonder how boisterous they were being. Although they could well have been from the same person at 10 minute intervals...

But the knife itself. Bought the day before and forgot about is a weak weak explanation. So a caution is probably fair enough.

Phil Bowles said...

Dear Blogger,

I am an ex Met officer, now in my 3rd year of a full-time law degree. I have a research project underway and I really need the views of serving officers on one specific question (regarding s139 CJA 1988). I have created a small and very basic website which poses the question and allows officers to vote yes/no to the answer.

The site is (no’www’ – that’s important)

I’d be hugely grateful if you could pop a link to it on yr blog. For statistical purposes, the more replies I get, the better!


Phil Bowles

Stonehead said...

I've been in, or heard of, similar situations.

In North Yorkshire, I was stopped by two police officers in a local park because I was there with my three-year-old son in the middle of the day on a weekday. Apparently it was suspicious because men are normally at work at that time so I was asked if I could show he was my son, if I had his mum's permission to be with him, and why I was at the park. (It was my day at home, his mum was at work, and we were having a bit of fun together.)

I've had similar experiences on two other occasions (one also in North Yorks and the other in Oxfordshire), while my father-in-law made the mistake of stopping his Transit to have lunch.

What he didn't realise was that there was a school around the corner and before he could eat half a sandwich he was being dragged out of the van and facing very heavy questioning, first there and then at a police station. He also had follow-up visits by his own force at home.

On the knife front, I'm a crofter and have a variety of knives and edged implements that I use for various jobs. I try to remember to empty my pockets and the Land Rover before leaving the croft, but there genuinely are days when I forget. My blood runs cold when I'm in the village or a nearby town and suddenly discover I have a knife in my pocket or tossed in the car.

It's no irrational fear either. Someone I know was a windowcleaner who worked up high. He carried a sailor's knife in case he became tangled in his ropes and had to cut himself free. He was peeling an apple with it one lunchtime when he was arrested and charged, accepting a caution after getting quite a hard time. Again, a man in his 60s went from a lifetime of respect for the police to being disdainful at best.

And don't get me wrong. By and large most coppers do a good job in difficult circumstances but when everyone is treated as a criminal then it's only to be expected that the police lose respect and co-operation from those would normally give it the most.