Thursday, November 10, 2005

A night in the cells gave me a different view of the cops

Thank goodness Boris Johnson had a night in the cells to learn that policemen are not saints. All MP's should have his experience. 291 of them deserve to spend much longer in custody for their betrayal of Britain.

As a young man, I spent almost a year as a criminal defence lawyer to learn that policemen are as flawed as other humans. It should not have come as a surprise, but I was brought up by Daily Mail readers who believed in our "boys in blue;" (they don't any more, by the way).

Policemen under pressure to perform take short cuts, just as the "cop shows" on TV portray. "Doing wrong to do right" makes good TV and bad real life.

If an Oxford Police Constable will try to stitch up a blond undergraduate with a criminal damage charge to improve his clear up rate, how much more will an anti-terrorist officer with the Home Secretary on his back and a terrified public clamouring for action in the wake of a terror attack be prepared to bend the rules to get "a result"? Consider the case of the Birmingham Six. I don't doubt the police in that case believed them guilty. They didn't knowingly stitch up innocent men. That was the effect of their behaviour, however.

The police are not to be trusted. Not because they are the police, but because they are people. None of us are to be trusted when push comes to shove, which is why society has frameworks of rules within which we can be protected from each other.

28 days detention without trial is less than half as wicked as 90 days. But it is still wicked. And the "glorification of terror" law is a farce. Unless the Home Secretary is prepared to order the arrest of the French ambassador next Bastille Day, that is.

Sun readers fondly imagine that the law will be used in racist ways to round up shifty-looking Muslims. That's why they favour stringent powers. Sun readers presumably imagine we have enough jails to round up millions of Allah-botherers and hold them until - what? Until the threat passes? It won't. Not by these means, at least.

All historical experience of terrorism (and we have more than most nations) shows such measures will make things worse. Every time they are used, our authorities will generate sectarian hatred. One innocent Muslim held without charge for 28 days will produce dozens of Muslims (him, his family and friends) with a genuine sense of injustice. One evangelical Christian punished for preaching a literal, but unflattering, interpretation of the Koran, will produce thousands of embittered non-Muslims.

Blair's macho stance on terrorism betrays the psyche of a deeply insecure man. The press today focusses on his political weakness. History will focus on the damage he has done to our society with his endless spin, posturing and political manoeuvering. He is the worst PM we have ever had. What a shame his annointed successor may be even worse.

Telegraph | Opinion | A night in the cells gave me a different view of the cops

1 comment:

dearieme said...

Worse even than Heath and Wilson I'll grant you. Worse than Lloyd George - unsure.