Sunday, August 02, 2009

Irish Stew In The Name Of The Law

Let's say you have a bit of wild night out, you get a bit drunk, you have a bit of a verbal argument with another bloke in the street, no punches are thrown but it all gets a bit lairy, insults are exchanged, there is some swearing, and then afterwards, the doorman on the the nightclub that you have just staggered out of hands you a ticket.

The ticket is a spot fine for being drunk and disorderly, fully back by new legal powers that the government have created which will further erode the power of and trust in our police force, which will further erode our civil liberties, and which may well put legal powers in the hands of people that frankly speaking you'd rather did not have this sort of legal power over you.

Accredited individuals, who may be 'community figures' such as traffic wardens, bouncers and private security guards, now have the right to access the Police National Computer system and run a criminal records check on you if they suspect that you have broken the law, and then may issue on the spot fines for a range of offences. Yes folks, that's right, bouncers and private security guards will now be allowed to delve into your most sensitive personal details.

Now I'm sure that there are very many decent, honest and upstanding bouncers around the country, but, having attended hundreds of gigs and dozens of venues, I can honestly report that there are quite a lot of shaven headed, knuckle dragging, violence prone thrill seekers working as security as well. I have a lot of trust in the police, they are well trained and receive continuous on the job training and monitoring. Bouncers though, just how much training are they going to get, it won't be enough, no matter how much training they receive they are never going to have the skills and aptitude of a police officer.

Perhaps ever more importantly, these people will not command the respect that police officers still do. Now I know that the police have to take a lot of crap from idiots on the street, like teachers, firemen and public health workers they are at the brunt of a general decline in respect for authority figures. But who really likes traffic wardens to begin with ? So if a traffic warden strides up to a group of youths who are drinking on the street, and he issues them with a spot fine for littering for the pizza boxes they have chucked in the gutter, does anyone really think that these sort of louts with respect him and his actions ? Or will the poor warden spend the rest of the night in hospital, or worse.

Bouncers, or in this politically correct age perhaps I should refer to them as Door Supervisors, but they're still bouncers so I won't, command even less respect, what they command is fear.

I think people should have a very real feeling of distrust about this scheme, it is easy to imagine where it can go wrong with unscrupulous 'accredited community figures' being able to shake down drunks and pull their criminal records in order to harass or blackmail them.

When you talk to a police officer you are aware that the uniform means something, it is a powerful symbol of the law and it is a crime in itself to pretend to be an officer of the law, the doormen and gig staff that now have powers to spot fine you might be wearing "a t-shirt emblazoned with a logo indicating they are authorised by the police to issue the tickets". I bet you can buy them from E-bay already. Will it then become a crime to wear a t-shirt proclaiming that you are an 'accredited community figure" ?

This country does not need an ill thought out and partially trained third tier police force, we should have a well funded, honest, well trained and just law enforcement organisation (which I believe, certainly on the latter three points, we mostly have), we do not need, and the Police themselves do not need, this dilution of their power and respect.

And my headline for this piece ? Well, you never know, they might extend the scheme to chefs.

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