What Happened to the Good Old British Bobby?

We’re publishing an original piece today by James Moreton Wakeley, a former parliamentary researcher with a PhD in History from Oxford who wrote the recent essay entitled, “The Failure of the Political Class“. This one is a reflection on the events of Saturday evening when Metropolitan Police officers employed strong-arm tactics to disperse the Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common. As James points out, George Orwell praised the British police for being quite unlike the highly-politicised and faction-riven police forces of Republican Spain, or other such continental gendarmeries. A British police officer wasn’t someone to be feared, but, rather, someone to be turned to for help.

What went wrong? Here is an extract:

It is perhaps unsurprising that pictures of young women being dragged around and pushed to the floor by often male police officers has caused such outrage. Whatever one’s private thoughts on how society should respond to such bitter, senseless, and cruel tragedies as the murder of a young woman, it is impossible not be moved by scenes of the brutal treatment meted out to those who felt a deep need to commemorate a girl with whose situation they felt such a connection. As the editor of this website has already pointed-out, however, the Metropolitan Police’s behaviour is wholly unsurprising in the context of the past year, their relative temerity in the face of last summer’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests notwithstanding.

Other police forces, in other parts of the country, have also made a habit of over-enforcing the Government’s poorly-written and confusing Lockdown measures, damaging trust in the fairness and integrity of British policing. The whole country, for example, is familiar with the case of the Peppermint Tea Two, who were farcically ambushed by a gang of policemen when out walking a short distance from their homes and fined for apparently breaking the ‘spirit’ of the Lockdown restrictions rather than the letter. Public pressure forced Derbyshire Police to rescind the fines and to apologise.

This, however, was but one instance of a wider trend. Individual police officers and commanders appear to have been routinely over-interpreting their powers and capriciously fining people whose behaviour has been in line with the law. Figures from the end of last year show that three forces, Merseyside, Staffordshire, and Derbyshire, were forced to cancel almost half of the fines they had by then levied. According to the Crown Prosecution Service, of the 14 cases brought to court under the Coronavirus Act this January, 10 have had to have been withdrawn. The number of fines levied by different forces across the country varies enormously, suggesting that the way in which the law is understood and enforced is more postcode lottery than clear, objective exercise.

Worth reading in full.

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