What do you call an octuple of officers?
So you call the police, fully expecting a proper turnout – fingerprints, forensic, the works. After all, you’ve seen enough television cop shows; you know how it works. I’m afraid, dear reader, that you will probably be disappointed. You’re more likely to be given a crime number (insurance, for the use of) by a bored desk officer followed a couple of days later by a letter advertising the services of the Victim Support organisation, a bunch of hand-wringing, do-gooders offering a packet of Jammy Dodgers and a shoulder to cry on.
Not much consolation when you’ve got poo smeared all over your walls and your Granny’s wedding ring is on sale at the local car boot, is it?
Of course, it’s not the fault of the police. As they continually tell us, they’re far too busy filling in forms and attending racial and sexual awareness awaydays to actually investigate any crimes. But wait, what’s this? There’s a minor barney in a Nottingham curry house involving a TV celebrity and a flying spoon and eight – count them – EIGHT body-armoured Plod turn up to arrest Mr Chris Tarrant at his hotel.
And here we are in the leafy avenues of Belgravia. Again, there’s a major crime in progress. A Yorkshire Terrier is rumoured to have been smuggled into the country, bypassing the stringent rabies and quarantine checks. No time to lose, lads. This one’s a biggie. And before you know it, eight – count them – EIGHT body-armoured Plod turn up at Jose Mounrinho’s house to investigate.
(Is there a set size for a Celebrity Harassment Squad? Have the Health and Safety Nazis dictated that it takes an octuple of officers to safely detain a squiffy sportsman or a pissed-up presenter?)
So it’s not all bad news. Bedevilled as they are by red tape and regulation, the boys in blue can still turn out in numbers when there’s something important to do – or when there’s a juicy story to be sold to the tabloids.
HOW THE LAW WORKS, Part Two: Our police are now target-led – they have to achieve certain numbers of arrests and clear-ups or … well … err ... nothing really. They don’t get a bonus and they don’t get sacked. Either way it’s a daft idea, but one which they’ve embraced with a vengeance.
Let’s take the case of the youngster, aged under 16 so he can’t be named, who collected £700 in sponsorship for Comic Relief. Rather than hand it over to Lenny Henry, who would spend it on pedicures for Romanian tramps, he promptly blew the lot, probably on blue alcopops and heroin.
Alerted to the situation the police force in question, who can’t be named because they’re inept, leapt into action and investigated the child for obtaining money by deception. Officers diligently interviewed all 542 people who had given the lad money, then decided to let him off with a formal warning anyway.
But wait – all 542 donors had had a crime committed against them, so 542 crimes were logged. And, because the situation had been officially dealt with, 542 crimes had been “solved”. So a youthful misdemeanour results in the figures being manipulated to read as if 542 murders, rapes or burglaries had been cleared up. The cops are happy; the government is happy. Job’s a good ‘un and trebles all round. If you can stomach it.
HOW THE LAW WORKS, Part Three: The dusty, geriatric judge is an English institution. Sheltered by an upbringing that goes from Eton to Cambridge to the Guards, and often strangers to the charms of ladies, we half expect these crusty old individuals to be out of step with modern civilisation.
Thus there wasn’t exactly massive surprise when one halted a terrorism trial last week to ask: “And what exactly is a website?” Mr Justice Peter Openshaw, 59, for it is he, later covered his tracks by claiming that he understood computers perfectly well and was merely asking the question on behalf of the jury, just in case the 12 good men and true hadn’t come across the phenomenon.
(Given that the British were described by the latest edition of the Lonely Planet guide book this week as being celebrity-obsessed, binge-drinking internet porn addicts, that seems unlikely, but doubting a judge’s word is never a sensible step for a writer.)
I’ll tell you who does know about websites and their rather more exotic offerings inside out – Mr Justice Peter Openshaw’s colleagues, that’s who. An amazing 1,434 complaints against judges and magistrates for misuse of their work computers, including viewing pornography, have been registered in just 10 months.
Seeing as there are just over 100 judges in the first place, including the ones currently suspended for playing hide the sausage with the housekeeper, that’s a remarkable strike rate. You’d think they’d have more sense. Or perhaps it was “research for a book”.
Of course, you aren’t supposed to know this. The Lord Chancellor’s department had originally admitted it had held the information but refused to provide it, claiming that it was exempt under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Then it got confused and refused to confirm whether or not it even held the information. It still refuses to divulge the number and rank of judges and magistrates who have been disciplined.
I wonder how many body-armoured Plod it takes to kick down the front door of a judge’s house?