Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Telegraph | News | Unruly home owners face eviction

Whatever happened to "an Englishman's home is his castle?"

Once again, the ladies and gentlemen of the press are missing the point. They may think "who cares if a yob is punished?" but they fail to understand what it means that these punishments are summary - i.e. without trial. This means a policeman or social worker can expel you from your house or send you for parenting classes because he or she *says* you are a yob. It will be up to you to prove otherwise, if you dare to make something of it.

There is always a danger that police and social workers will concentrate their fire on respectable people. Why? Because such people have something to lose and are therefore prepared to cooperate. The members of the underclass are too much like hard work and, often, too dangerous.

With the burden of proof turned against the accused, many innocent people will have to take the parenting classes or suffer the punishment rather than incur the expense of going to court - just as many now reluctantly submit to driver re-education to save points on their licence. Our society loses because the more respectable we are, the more we must fear offending a policeman or social worker. The less respectable we are, the more we can spit in their eye. That situation, whatever headlines Blair is winning today, is unlikely to lead to more "respect" in British society.

Two fellow-solicitors of my acquaintance suffered the stress and indignity of fighting for months to win back custody of their children because they were falsely accused of child abuse. The social workers were all over them precisely because they were white, middle class, highly-paid members of a respectable profession. They were clean, polite and pleasant to deal with. Everyone wanted that job. Compare and contrast with the case of Victoria Climbie. No-one in Social Services wanted to handle that case, for fear of being accused of harassing "vulnerable members of society".

All the new powers being given to the authorities have already led to a situation where I would be afraid to tell a policeman that he was out of order. If I annoy him, he has summary powers he can use against me which can make my life difficult and cost me money to deal with. 25 years ago, I asked for the badge number of a belligerent Yorkshire traffic cop with a bad attitude and a serious case of car envy. I threatened to call his Chief Constable. He backed down. I wouldn't dare do it now.

A society in which the people are afraid of their "public servants" is a police state. It is a smaller step than we all want to believe from where Tony Blair has brought us in the last decade, to the streets of Moscow in the days of Beria and his "flower game".

My advice to you is don't upset any policemen or social workers. If you live near one, move away. And don't be surprised when giving public servants these powers leads to corruption.

Telegraph | News | Unruly home owners face eviction

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