Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A legal minefield

There is a definite big society. Mike Harding was talking about voluntary groups who look after theatres, and individuals who help people with broken down cars or fall over. Yesterday Baroness Newlove, whose husband Garry was murdered by a gang of teenagers in 2007, said that "crime should not be seen as someone else's problem". I agree. If we turn away when something is going wrong then more will go wrong. Policing is only possible with consent. If we all became thieves or if we all started rioting then the police force could not cope. I hope that most of us would attempt to stop crime even if we put ourselves at some risk because failure to do so would lead to a crime spree.

One of Baroness Newlove's suggestions was to allow local people to combat anti-social behaviour. Give out speed guns and enforce speed limits. Go one further and allow locals to set the speed limit. It all sounds very good but it is slightly more difficult in practice. I am quite capable of working a speed gun but would I pick on the right people? How would I know if I was doing a good job or antagonising people I don't like. What would stop me being a vigilante? You may think vigilante is a good word but it means you are acting illegally. It means that you become judge and jury. You may even end up like Charles Bronson. I hear some cheers but it isn't good. Think of a remake of Death Wish but this time make it a horror.

It is a really good idea to encourage individuals to support law and order, to even give assistance to those in authority, but to give over authority to amateurs is a legal minefield.

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