Monday, February 1, 2010

The problems with society

I received a letter at the weekend from the Criminal Justice System and it made me cry readers. I’m not afraid to admit it.

The name of the organisation looks like some sort of Orwellian doublespeak doesn’t it? ‘Criminal justice’. Surely criminals should be ‘punished’ not given ‘justice’. I dunno, maybe I’m missing the point or something.

When I was a kid in Lincoln, the worst that would happen was that you’d get caught scrumping apples and Steve’s dad would give you a clip around the ear and that’d be that. Well, actually, worse things than that could happen and frequently did. Especially where the glue sniffers were involved. But by and large we had respect. Fast forward 30 years and things have scaled up somewhat!

As regular readers will know, I’m a liberally minded chap, although I’m not going to go all politically correct (yet another poignant oxymoron lol!). But despite my views I’m starting to feel that law and order have gone soft. Mum always used to say that we should bring back hanging and I’d always dismiss her as a reactionary. “Times have changed,” I’d say; “we’re not barbarians any more”.

But time has also opened my eyes to the reality of the world readers. I've wrestled with the issue of capital punishment before of course, some people are just scum and, in many cases, hanging literally is too good for them. People talk about chemical castration for rapists; what’s wrong with a couple of bricks and a game of cymbals?

Anyway, going back to the letter that lies before me on the dining room table. It is with regards to a certain piece of Newsdesk-based sleuth work that I undertook last year. I’m not talking about the case of Raffles the missing dog, oh no. What I’m talking about is a stone cold eye witness account of theft, assault, menacing behaviour and knife crime.

I didn’t write about it at the time, in case things went to the Old Bailey. I’ve done jury service before readers, so I know how the law courts work. If you go blabbing to the papers about the case, you can jeopardise the outcome.

The incident that I witnessed was quite literally daylight robbery. I was walking back from the station in downtown South London and suddenly I saw someone come darting out of an alleyway beside a house. He was pushing a bike readers. But there was something odd about proceedings. The back wheel of the bike was rubbing against the floor rather than rolling.

I could sense almost instinctively that I was seeing Crime. The bike’s back wheel was rubbing because it was locked to the frame! Then from nowhere, well from the house next to the alleyway actually, a middle-aged white male, of medium build, came running. He shouted “Oi” at the hoodie-wearing youth who was making good his escape up the road. I tell you what, readers, he was going at quite a pace, even though he was pushing a locked mountain bike up a hill.

I shouted over to the middle-aged white male of medium build “Is that your bike?” “Yes,” he shouted. It was at this point that I remembered the words of my old Judo master, ‘don’t go looking for trouble, trouble always finds you’.

I took up pursuit, but thought it wise that I should not be first to the scene. I’m a trained killer and sadly vigilantes can get into all sorts of trouble. I mean, look at that chap in High Wycombe who interrupted a burglar in his own home (not the burglar’s home, obviously. Burglar’s shouldn’t be allowed homes, anyway.) and then meted out some baseball bat retribution. He’s only just been let out of clink and his brother’s still there.

I reckon if someone breaks into your home, the rulebook goes out of the window (especially if they steal it. Lol.). Personally, I’d advocate capturing them and tying them up and then having a think about it. Revenge is a dish best served cold, as they say. The great thing about holding the burglar prisoner is that nobody will know that you’ve got him. After all, burglars probably don’t tell anyone that they’re off to do some burglarising and they’ll be back later. And if they do, they probably don’t say: “And if you need me, love, I’ll be turning over 124 Scanlon Gardens. I’ll probably have me mobile on silent, though, so I might not hear it if you ring. Alright then, take care. I’ll be home around half five in the morning.”

So you’ve got the bloke bound and gagged and now it’s time to start giving him a taste of fear. I reckon the best thing you could do would be to get all of your tools and line them up on the work surface. Chummy’s lashed to a kitchen chair; maybe you’ve sellotaped his eyes open so he has to look at what you’re doing. Once you’ve laid out the tools – and, if you’ve got one, one of those fancy posh corkscrews with the big levers – why not make a pretend phone call along the following lines (make sure he can hear you):

“Hello Dave, yeah, it’s me. Listen, have you got anything on tonight? No? Good, I’m calling in that favour. Yeah, that’s right. No, no. Nothing like that. I’m not in the Brotherhood any more. You wouldn’t believe it mate. I’ve only caught some twat trying to rob me gaff…. (long pause). Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly what I was thinking. No, nobody’ll know. You still got the van? Nice one, son. See you around ten tonight then. Oh, Dave… Yeah, I nearly forgot. Bring that new Stanley Jetcut and a couple of dust sheets, will ya? Ta.” You’re gambling here that the burglar knows how sharp a Stanley Jetcut is. Especially when its new.

Then you might want to go back to your selection of tools and idly drag your finger along the work surface, looking like you’re trying to choose between them. Perhaps you linger over a G clamp and a caulk gun (he might think you’re going to break his thumbs and pipe some caulk up his nose). Or maybe you pick up a big claw hammer (obvious, but it’s a classic) and heft its weight in your palm. You run a thumb over your lower lip, as if in contemplation of impending deeds of violence.

Of course, you might have a couple of power tools, the kind that come in their own case. You get out the sander. But you find to your frustration that it’s got the fluffy buffing disc on it from when you were polishing up that wardrobe. You hide this with your body while you put on the coarsest sandpaper disc that you have in the box before turning around and giving it a couple of revs. It would be better if you had a chainsaw but a) most people don’t have chainsaws in the house and b) they make a lot more noise than an electric sander. Then I suppose there’s c) which is that you might not have an electric sander in the first place, especially if you’re of the old school that suggests there’s no better way of preparing woodwork for painting than a couple of sheets of wet and dry and a cork sanding block. I guess the point is, just go with what you’ve got.

Maybe you’ve got an electric drill; one of the ones that doubles as a screwdriver. If you’ve got one of the cordless ones and you haven’t used it for a while then the battery pack will be flat. But don’t be put off by this, turn it to your advantage. Plug it in where the burglar can see it. Then say to him:

“See this battery pack, my fine tethered friend? That little red light will go green in about…” pause and look at your watch “…oh, I’d say four and a half hours. And then we’re going to do see what goes on inside the heads of people like you…” It’s one of the most frustrating things about cordless drills that the battery pack is always flat when you get it out and want to use it, meaning that you can’t do the little bit of DIY you’ve mustered the enthusiasm for. By the time it’s charged you can’t be arsed and then it sits in the living room for a couple of weeks until you can be bothered to put it away again. In this instance, however, it’s nothing short of a bonus.

Alternatively you pull out the little wooden thing with the spike on it. You say to the burglar: “Do you know what this is my old son? No? Well, apparently it’s called a bradawl. My old granddad said I’d find a use for it one day, and it looks like he was right.”

You might have some pliers; they’re associated with the removal of fingernails and teeth, of course. Needlenosed pliers aren’t so intimidating, though, so bear that in mind. If you’ve got tinsnips, well that’s brilliant. Anything that can cut through metal is bound to unnerve the burglar. Stanley knives and chisels; there’s no need for me to go into detail there. If, like me, you’ve got a small garden, then you may well have a pair of secateurs. They are bloody terrifying.

With all the sharp stuff, it goes without saying, be careful not to cut yourself. Not only will it hurt, but it will detract from the sense of menace that you are trying to create. If you do cut yourself, don’t hop up and down, suck the cut finger or squeeze your eyes shut. Instead, smile and lick the blood off yourself as if it’s a delicious gravy. Then he’ll think you’re a proper psycho.

Finally, instead of picking a tool, select the corkscrew. Hold the point right up to his eyeball as if you’re going to use it to pop the thing out. But instead, open a nice bottle of wine. Tell him you like to have a glass while you’re working, like the late, great Keith Floyd. But really you’re just buying time because, one way or another, you’ve going to have to let this bloke go at some stage and probably, like me, you’ve never really thought about this kind of thing very much.

Anyway, back to my story…With two people on his tail, the youth soon decided that pushing a locked mountain bike up a hill was going to be a bit of a drag on his pace, so he dropped his booty and continued running. The middle-aged white male of medium build was in very hot pursuit, though, and by the time I’d caught up he had already gotten hold of the thief.

Now I could finally see the thief’s face, he was gaunt and spotty and, despite being extremely white, was speaking in that faux Yardie South London patois. “I dint fink it was yours bruv, izzit” he said. But the bike’s owner wasn’t having any of this, and grappled with the youth. The pair then span around and went head first over a privet hedge and down into a garden below.

The owner landed on his head and in the kerfuffle the hoodie escaped, running up the garden path and down the street. By this point a crowd had gathered. I’m a born leader, though, and I took the initiative. I instructed a nearby teenager sitting on a bike to follow the thief, while maintaining a safe distance. Meanwhile, I made sure the old chap was OK.

After a while the teenager on the bike came back and pointed to a nearby road saying that the thief had cottoned on to the fact he was being followed and had come after him with a knife!!!

It was like I was living in an episode of The Bill. I was like PC Tony Stamp, and the teenager on the bike was like my informant, who may have been in Grange Hill, and would go on to have a role in Eastenders. I called 999 for back-up and, while waiting for the cavalry to arrive, decided to investigate the road where my CI had told me the thief was hiding.

I proceeded with caution in a northerly direction up the road and then I saw the thief. He was hanging about by a tree, keeping an eye on the road. He was checking to see if he was being tailed. I quickly ducked behind a tree of my own. As a martial arts expert I understand how to make use of my environment. I kept a visual. I know that visuals are vital in cases like this, if you lose track of the suspect, your status as a witness can be called into question by the slag’s brief.

After a while the thief came to the erroneous conclusion that he was in the clear and made his way towards a nearby park. I maintained a visual from some two hundred yards. To be totally honest, I wasn’t sure what to do really. I was pretty sure, judging by the direction he was walking, that he was heading to the tower blocks on the other side of the park. I quickened the pace a touch and then he stopped and stood stock still in the centre of a football pitch in the park and whistled.

Then from over by the other side of the park, quite near the tower blocks, one of those nasty little fighting dogs appeared and ran at great speed towards him. Except they’re not really aggressive dogs at all, Staffies. They’ve got a lovely temperament and they’re good with children. They just look ferocious, which is why the street youths have taken to dragging them around everywhere. It’s a sad fact that there are more Staffies in Battersea dogs home than any other breed, especially the labradoodle, which is exclusively owned by the posh.

Right behind the dog another be-hooded youth appeared and the two made their way towards one another, meeting, greeting and eventually sitting down over by the touchline of the pitch!

A good half hour had now passed since I’d first spotted the thief. He was chatting with his mate now, the Staffie bouncing back and forth between them both. Here’s my chance, I thought, calling directory enquiries to get put through to the local police station for more back up. A patrol car was on its way they said and so I waited. And waited. And waited.

It was now starting to get dark, and I spotted a white IC-one female citizen making her way across the park pushing a bike. Quick as a flash, the thief got to his feet. Bikes were clearly this man’s thing. The park was deserted, and the thief was now walking with intent towards the girl.

I started to walk out into the clearing of the park from my secluded spot. The thief had stopped the girl now and he was asking for something, she had stopped and was now rooting around in her handbag.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a patrol car at the perimeter of the park. I changed directions and waved it over. As the car approached me, the thief disengaged from the girl and started walking in the opposite direction; his pal and the dog having disappeared. I introduced myself to the policeman and pointed out the suspect, saying I had been the one to call in the bike theft and had now witnessed what I presumed was an attempted mugging.

The police told me to stay put while they went over to the thief. They chatted for a while and he was made to empty his pockets. After a while a meat wagon appeared and he was unceremoniously bundled into the back. The police came back and I gave a full account. It took ages too, but I didn’t mind. I’d done my civic duty, I went home and cracked into a few Cobras.

Fast forward to this weekend and I get a letter form the CJS telling me that thanks to my evidence and sleuth work, the criminal had been charged in court last December and had pleaded guilty. The sentence passed was: A community order to take part in the Think First Programme.

Think First! Fuck me, it sounds like something Johnny Ball would have presented on the telly when I was a nipper. Presumably Think First is a class led by some social worker type who tells criminals that they are naughty and that nicking bikes, threatening people with knives and mugging (or at least trying to) girls in parks is a ‘bad thing’.

I tell you what readers, it’s not very PC of me, but I think public flogging might be the sort of thing that might help people like this ‘think first’. The next time I see someone running off down the road with someone else’s bike I’m going to have to put my Judo into action. The streets of London are mean readers, dirty and mean, there’s only one language these people understand! We’ve got to stand up and be counted, we’ve got to fight fire with fire!!!!

Makes me sick readers, sick to pit of my stomach. I’m still owed over £400 from the clamping company that towed my car because I hadn’t displayed the updated permit that they hadn’t sent me. I get fined a small fortune, and people like that bike thief get to wander the streets with little more than an instruction to attend a Think First class.

It is dia-fucking-bolical, that’s what it is.

Yours in distress at the state of society



  1. Next time, smack the little fecker in the mouth and take the chance. At least that way he gets some punishment.

  2. I'd love to do all of the above, and when the little scrote is pleading for mercy, just say:

    "Oh no, I don't /live/ here. No, I was burgling the place when you turned up. Which was ... unfortunate ... for you ..."

  3. What's a Cobra? It sounds pretty badass.

  4. Excellent comments guys - I particularly like Fourstar's novel idea! Thought it would require quick thinking and in the heat of the battle I'm not sure I'd be that quick....

    Sally-Sal - Cobra is a quality lager-beer. You should try it. It goes very well with a Fray Bentos.

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