Friday, 12 April 2013

Taxpayer's money and political stunts

I started to feel sorry for Paris Brown, the so called "Kids Commissioner", forced to resign from her job advising on policing in Kent. She had simply showed herself to be a party loving, vacuous, foul mouthed bigot. A typical teenager really. The problem was that she was being paid on the basis that she might offer some penetrating insights to her employers. Clearly that was not going to be the case.

The guilty party here is her unrepentent boss, Ann Barnes, the Police Commissioner who thought this was a good use of tax payers money. Elsewhere in the UK we are being threatened with sixteen year olds being given the vote on the basis that they are the future and they are entitled to have a say. These are pathetic stunts by useless politicians desperate for a nice fluffy, unchallenging TV appearance.

We are told that adults cannot have the perspective of an teenager, so we are unable to understand them properly. I have a vivid. albeit distant memory of being a teenager. Looking back on it now, I know only one thing for sure. I wasn't half as smart and worldly as I thought I was. Spare me from kids who think they know how the world should be run.

Journalists or Autocue readers? No doubt in my mind

Coverage of the death of Baroness Thatcher has provided dozens of opportunities to scream at the TV. The major channels have been unable to restrain themselves from blaming every negative aspect of modern culture on the Thatcher legacy. I always knew that the Blair government was hopeless but you’d think they’d have been able to do something to correct her mistakes in the thirteen years they held the reigns of power. Clearly not.

I am only too aware of the polarizing impact Maggie had on the UK and I fully understand why some people despise her. I’d just prefer it if the issues were discussed in a sensible and dignified manner once she had been laid to rest. Whipping up hysteria ahead of her funeral is frankly appalling.

It’s not my intention to discuss politics here, my purpose is to point out the shabby, lazy, unprofessional and often politically motivated actions of our media. I can’t bring myself to call TV news presenters, journalists. That would imply they sought the truth with insightful, intelligent, well-researched questions. Most are chosen for their appearance and are completely lost when expected to depart from the autocue.  Two tiny, but telling examples have struck me in the last few days. The first was on Sky News this morning and involved the normally tolerable Colin Brazier.

We were invited to share the wrath expressed on Twitter that radio stations might ban the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,” even though it had reached number 1. The clinching argument from Sky was that banning the song would only make it more popular thus further enriching the people who had made it. This was by definition wrong as had been proved in the past. Artists such as the Sex Pistols were not mentioned but the link was implied. Well Colin, try to follow the simple logic…

The people who made the “Ding Dong” song have done nothing wrong, they are not being rewarded for being offensive. It is the people who wish it to be played on national radio that could be accused of causing offence but they will not benefit from further purchases. This is not therefore a case of encouraging the production of offensive content. Get the difference Mr Brazier? No, I thought not.

The other item was only a minor irritant. Many people are outraged that the cost of the funeral is being met from public funds. Some have threatened to disrupt the day in protest. The question I would have loved one of our uninquisitive presenters to ask is this…

How much of the funeral bill is for the security required to combat the threat posed by people who are outraged at its cost and have threatened to disrupt it?  

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Hate Crime - what other types of crime are there?

Sky News is a hugely reliable source of stories to make your blood boil and with presenters like Charlotte Hawkins; you can be guaranteed that no difficult questions will be asked to establish what is really behind the story.

Greater Manchester Police today announced what it described as a major breakthrough. It will now record offences against people who identify with certain sub-cultures (e.g. Goths, Emos and Punks) as "Hate Crimes". As a consequence they will be able to offer more support to the victims. It is a sad testimony of how low the police service of Britain has fallen that they can describe this as anything other than a cheap PR stunt.

My house was burgled a few years ago. After a half-hearted wander round the premises, the officers informed me that there was a lot of that sort of thing going on now and there was no real chance of finding the perpetrators or the jewellery that had been in my wife's family for generations. They asked me if we needed counselling, I replied that we did not, we would like them to find the people responsible and punish them. They looked at me as though I had lost touch with the real world. The police had already given up on solving crimes and were now simply offering victim support. I had missed that announcement. 
This is, of course, a trivial matter compared with the case of Fiona Pilkington.

In 2007, Fiona Pilkington killed herself and her daughter after a sustained and brutal campaign of terror by local yobs. The police said that they would have done more if they had realised that the victim was disabled and that it was therefore a "hate crime." Nobody disputes that the Pilkingtons were terrorised in their own home, the only argument has been whether it was motivated by hatred for the disabled. The police seemed to believe that the failure to correctly categorise a string of offences somehow absolved them from the responsibility to respond to the pleas of a desperate woman.   Have the police really sunk so low that they believe they should assess the motive of the perpetrator before they will respond to a reported crime?

Human Rights legislation comes under a huge amount of, often justified, criticism but Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law." The role of the police is to enforce the law, regardless of who the victim might be. Changing the way they record crimes makes no difference whatsoever. Announcing that they intended to come down like a ton of bricks on those who commit these offences regardless of the victim would represent a real breakthrough. We have a police force more concerned with its image than with fighting crime so that is never going to happen. 

What Greater Manchester Police did today was a shameful PR stunt. Trying to throw a few crumbs to well organised and highly effective pressure group, they announced that they will change their record keeping system, they said nothing to suggest that they have a single idea as to how such crimes will be reduced. 

Sky allowed this story to be presented as a ground breaking initiative by a regional police force without ever asking the basic questions that a journalist should ask, such as" 
  • What does this mean is practice?   
  • How will it change how you respond to a reported crime?
    What impact do you expect this will have on the instances of such offences?
  • Are the perpetrators more likely to be caught as a result of this initiative and will they be punished? 

The police are paid to enforce the law of the land, not to decide which offences they would like to prioritise. Sometime in the coming week a Goth may be attacked in the street simply because of their appearance and a little old lady will be mugged because she has just left the Post Office and might have a bit of extra cash in her handbag. Which of these should the police prioritise. The answer is - Both. That was not the message we got from the PR department of Greater Manchester Police today.