Wednesday, 16 January 2008

‘Anti-social behaviour’ and the police

The aftermath of the trial of the youths found guilty of the murder of Garry Newlove has generated enormous publicity. He went out to confront youths who were kicking his wife’s car outside their suburban home in Warrington, Cheshire, and they beat him to death. Appalling. But there is a wider context.

The Newloves' own cars had been scratched or had the wing mirrors smashed on at least four occasions, she said.

Annoying, no doubt, but fairly trivial criminal damage. But how many cars did the Newloves have and where did they park them? On the pavement? Judging by the photograph above, widely reproduced in the media, that seems to be where some people on the Newloves street park their cars. Some forms of anti-social behaviour attract no media interest and even enjoy the active sympathy of the police.

On any rational analysis, the biggest social group guilty of anti-social behaviour, lawlessness and causing violence and death are not drunken and murderously violent teenagers, yobs with knives or men with guns, but motorists. No other group regularly kills 3,500 people a year. No other group can display lawless, dangerous behaviour in the same place at the same time day after day and benefit from the benign indifference of the police.

With tongue firmly lodged in cheek, the Cheshire Living Streets website advises in relation to cars parked on the pavement:

We don't recommend the following:
• carrying Vaseline and generously smearing the pavement-side wing mirror
• smearing mud
• windscreen stickers - a Greek group use Day-Glo orange depicting a donkey in a car above the message, "I park wherever I want."
• deflating tyres - a French group known as the Deflated discovered that this is legal in France so long as no damage is caused
• scratching cars
• car vaulting (going over cars blocking pavements), originated in Germany, but may damage cars
• sticking a knife in a couple of the tyres

Plainly the yobs who were kicking one of the Newlove cars were not environmentally motivated. But as the Living Streets site hints, vandalising obstructive cars in Cheshire may be the last desperate resort of pedestrians who can get no support or action from the police. Graphic photographs of anti-social behaviour by Cheshire drivers here.

Nationwide, the police collude with driver criminality and anti-social behaviour and by doing so actively promote danger on the roads for the most vulernable road users, particularly cyclists and pedestrians. In Waltham Forest police apparently issue, on average, just under 9 fixed penalty tickets a day for motoring offences. Consider that in any sixty seconds between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. there are surely at least nine instances of lawbreaking by drivers (speeding, red light jumping, intruding into ASLs, for example). Nine is probably an underestimate. Thus the local police are dealing with driver crime for just one minute of the day. For the other nine hours and fifty nine minutes, drivers are free to break the law, day after day after day.

Meanwhile the City Cyclists website understandably rages against a dressed up anti-cycling operation from the police force with the worst record on road safety in the whole country.


Tributes were paid today to a British cycling champion who was killed in a road accident near his home. Jason MacIntyre, a road and time trial cyclist, was hit by a van on the A82 near Fort William in the Highlands, where he lived with his wife, Caroline, and eight-year-old twin daughters. The 34-year-old was taken to Belford Hospital where he later died. Figures in the cycling world have paid tribute to one of Scotland's "finest cyclists".

I do wish journalists wouldn’t use that word ‘accident’. Most road crashes and road collisions are not accidents but the consequence of deliberate, conscious risk-taking and lawlessness. To describe any crash as an accident is to pre-judge its causation.