Saturday, September 24, 2005


It distresses me to say it, when previously I have defended him, but I am beginning to worry about Ian Blair.

According to the Telegraph:
Britain's top police officer was accused last night of paving the way for "Judge Dredd law" by proposing that officers should be allowed to by-pass the courts and confiscate driving licences, seize vehicles and issue anti-social behaviour orders on the spot.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said "modernisation" of the force should be carried forward by introducing "an escalator of powers" for the dispensing of instant justice.

"One idea is to have some police officers - paid more and with more powers - to impose an interim anti-social behaviour order, for instance, or suspend a driving licence," he said. This would have an immediate effect rather than waiting for intervention by the courts, Sir Ian suggested.

He acknowledged that giving police powers currently exercised only by the courts would be controversial but could be seen as legitimate if they were used by properly trained constables.

"There is something here about making justice more immediately apparent, not only to the offender but also to the society that the offender is irritating," Sir Ian said.

What on Earth does he imagine that the Police have done recently that makes him think that we would be sanguine about granting them such draconian powers?

I read David Mery's piece in the Guardian earlier this week about being detained in Southwark tube station while the bomb squad checked his rucksack, then being incarcerated for the night, and finally having his flat searched. You can and should read the developing version here on his website.

Two bomb squad officers pass by. One turns to me and says in a joking tone: "Nice laptop!" A police officer apologises on behalf of the Metropolitan police, and explains that we are waiting for a more senior officer to express further apologies. They take off the handcuffs and start giving me back my possessions: my purse, keys, some papers. Another police officer says that this is not proper. I am handcuffed again.
Everyone understands that the police must be very or indeed over vigilant on London Underground. The officers on the ground made a judgement, took action, and then had the grace to apologise when they found out that there was no threat. I think that that is all exemplary.

It is simply the intervention of this jobsworth clown "another police officer" that escalates the incident into something like persection from an anecdote that could be laughed about or dined out upon.

While Police forces are liberally staffed with goons like that we should be extremely wary about extending their powers at all.

Where the feet hit the street Police action was hard, but fair and willing to admit mistakes. It was in the admin and the reckoning that the stuff began to hit the fan. Sir Ian to keep his own house in order. Action this day.

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