Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The wrong side of the law

Over the last year, I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters with the hard working law enforcement authorities of our great nation.

First our home in Oxfordshire was broken into. Two or more individuals used a crowbar to ‘jimmy’ the front door and enter the property before rifling through every upstairs room. A laptop, an iPhone, two cameras and handfuls of jewellery were stolen. Thames Valley Police acted fast. The gang was identified when one of its members tried to use a bank card they’d taken from a second property just after our home was raided. The cops swooped on one of the (well known) perpetrator’s addresses at the same time as he arrived home - in a taxi with a blue plastic sack containing all our belongings. However, as he denied all knowledge of the sack, or being in our house, police were unable to charge him, or anyone else, for the crime.

Next, a few months back, on a recent visit to see my parents in Lancashire, my car window was smashed and an individual accessed the vehicle and stole my satnav. Yes, I know it was stupid to leave it in the car, but we had arrived late and were in a hurry to get to the football with my father. And parking on a street surrounded by much bigger, nicer cars than mine must have lulled me into a sense of security. Lancashire Constabulary were very kind, even noticing that I was a long way away from my home address in Oxford, and helpfully provided me with my insurance details from the system as I didn’t have them with me. But they couldn’t send anyone out to see me, never mind investigate the crime, as “chances are they’ve not left any forensics and there’s next to no chance of us securing a conviction”.

Then, not long ago, TescoDirect alerted me to an unusual order I’d supposedly placed. I don’t buy anything from TescoDirect and so promptly followed this up with the bank. Together, we quickly established that someone, somehow, was fraudulently spending money from my account. Orders for almost £700 had been made so far. The good folks at the bank cancelled the card, and as it turned out, were able to stop any funds from being removed from my savings. They would investigate the crime, and would pass my details on to the law enforcement authorities to contact me if there was ever any follow up. There was never any follow up, and so, I presume, the master fraudster was free to attempt the same crime on some other unsuspecting victim. Possibly you. Or me, AGAIN.

Finally, a few months ago, we were again in the north visiting my mate Stu and his wife. We went for an afternoon out and parked (with about 15 other cars) on a nice fairly quiet, rural sort of street next to a country park with a nice café, where we enjoyed a relaxing lunch. However, on return to our cars, we were met by a policeman, who had been sitting in his car wait for the drivers to come back to their vehicles. In turn, Stu and I were taken and put in the back of the police car and told that we had both committed an offence. You see, there were no lines down the side of the street, and no visible signs to say you couldn’t park there…and so we assumed that you could. But, as it turns out, there were double white lines down the middle of the road, and on roads where this is the case, you are forbidden, by law, to park.

I know that not completely understanding the Highway Code is no excuse for breaking the law. But, being shocked, and somewhat embarrassed, at being in the back of this gruff officer’s car, and putting on my most snivelling, apologetic voice, I was expecting to be given a slap on the wrist and let off with a warning. Oh no. I could pay £60 fine and accept three points on my licence, or I could pay £80 for the privilege of attending the police authority’s “What’s Driving Us?” course. I did my course a week or so ago, and while it was actually quite interesting, it didn’t cover parking offences (everyone else there had run a red light or had been caught on their mobile phones while driving!)

And so it’s a hearty “well done!” to West Yorkshire Police - for cracking down on serious crime, and for doing their bit to keep us safe against hardened criminals. Successful “case outcomes” figures (not to mention the coffers!) must be going through the roof.

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