Please note the historical resonances. Assemblies of "more than two" people can be broken up by police under the Chief Constable of Northumbria's interpretation of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. The Daily Mail uses the emotional word "gang" in an unselfconsciously stupid way here.
My family of four, it seems, constitutes a potential "gang" to be broken up by police. Many will no doubt say that the police will not use their powers in that way, and I am sure most coppers won't. But it is a characteristic of a totalitarian state that almost everything is illegal and that selective enforcement gives the authorities wide discretion to harrass anyone they don't like.
Until my thirties I was happy to tell a policeman to get lost if he was exceeding his powers. Pulled over and given inappropriate grief by a Yorkshire traffic cop years ago I asked for his badge number and he backed off. I would be afraid to do that now. In fact I would no more do it than I would in Russia - where abject behaviour in the presence of policemen is the only, rather unreliable, alternative to a bribe.
As a respectable law-abiding person, I steer clear of any British policeman and would be reluctant to help him. I simply don't want to come to his attention. If I pointed out a crime to him and gave evidence against the criminal, he would not protect me from the criminal's revenge. As a terrible case in Henley a while back showed, he would put his "health and safety" above my own life if I were in mortal danger.
No British policeman ever solved a crime of which I was the victim (and there have been several). In fact none even pretended to try. Many have wasted my time, on the other hand, and shown me discourtesy in my capacity as a motorist (with a clean licence for more than two decades). Based purely on personal experience, I would be safer and happier without the British police.
Of course, I accept that personal experience is not everything. The police are a necessary evil. Given my experience of their pathetic performance, however, I am heartily sick of them pontificating and demanding extra powers. Until their forces perform decently in enforcing the laws we have always had, Britain's Chief Constables should have the good sense to shut up.
New police powers are not the answer to any of our problems. Yobs who didn't care about the old powers, won't care about the new ones. Only good citizens suffer from new laws, which alienates them from the police. Policing by consent is dying in Britain, if not already dead. The degree of force required to enforce order in a society which distrusts its police is much higher.
Laws should be clear and universally applicable. A law designed to be selectively enforced is a bad law. All the wicked behaviours ("general disorder, assaults and harassing people to buy alcohol") mentioned here by the Daily Mail agitprop were already illegal.
Supplementing laws which are not enforced with more laws will not make us behave differently. Of course the police should arrest and the CPS should prosecute teenagers (or others) who assault shoppers. But why should an innocent teenager talking to two friends be liable to this kind of (chilling phrase) "total policing?"
Are we trying to alienate the majority of good kids? Do we want a society run on the assumption that all teenagers are bad?
If the police were enforcing the laws we had 50 years ago we would be in a much better shape than we are now. We do not need new laws. The police do not need new powers. The politicians just need news stories like these. When we will see through the agitprop and wake up to the totalitarian dangers ahead?
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