Thursday, September 23, 2010
The "good old days" for kids have gone forever in Britain
It's now illegal to play in the street near their homes -- something kids did for generations
Police were accused today of being 'heavy handed' after three officers were dispatched to issue a ticking off to two boys - for playing football in the street.
Henry Worthington, 12, and his brother Alex, 11, were told their kick-abouts in a cul-de-sac outside their home after school were illegal and could result in them getting anti-social behaviour orders. Their father Anthony, 43, of Timperley, Greater Manchester, was also sent a letter from officials at Trafford Council warning him his two sons could be in breach of the 1980 Highways Act which outlaws ball games.
The incident comes after Greater Manchester Police revealed it was preparing to cut more than 3,000 jobs due to the government's anticipated 25 per cent cut in spending.
Today, Mr Worthington, an engineer, said: 'Sending three officers over simply to give a warning about kids playing football in the street is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
'My boys are not hooligans. They are good lads who cause no trouble and I prefer them to play outside the house so I know they are safe. They haven't interfered with a car or any pedestrians so I don't see what the problem is.
'They play for a local football club on the weekend and they just want to practise their skills outside their house with their friends. It's not as if they're out all hours 24/7, it's just half an hour after school.
'I'm absolutely appalled that the police are not out there catching real criminals. I feel like my family is being persecuted. 'When I was a lad the police were not out persecuting children for playing football. Now you get three policemen coming to my door to tell us off for it.
'It's a joke-and a total waste of police resources given that they are facing massive cuts. 'At this rate the England soccer squad will never get better if the future team can't practise playing football anywhere.'
Mr Worthington added: 'It's a quiet street, and we live on the corner of a close. They've been playing out since the year dot, and since they've got a bit older they've started playing football.
'About three months ago, the boys got stopped by officers driving a patrol car up the street and they told them not to play football in the street. A few weeks later they came round to my house.
'The first time there was only one uniformed officer, in his patrol car. He was polite and just said it's against the law to play football in the street and that they were monitoring the situation.
'I thought fair enough, I'm not going to argue with a police officer, but I did say I couldn't see why it was a problem when it is a quiet street.
'Apparently it is illegal under the Highways Act 1980. I told the boys not to play, but the other kids on the road are still playing, and from the next road so it's the same situation for them. 'Then three officers turned up. One stayed in the patrol car and the other two came to my door. I couldn't believe it. They have always been very polite, and I told them that I had asked the boys not to play in the street.
'Two weeks ago I had a letter from the council regarding street football outlining what anti-social behaviour is and referring to an on-going problem regarding street football.
'It also talked about section 161 of the Highways Act 1980. But I don't see how it is anti-social behaviour. I feel the police and the council have been very heavy handed, and that they are not using their common sense at all.
'It is not like my lads are out 24/7 and it's not like they've kicked a ball at a pedestrian or at a car. There are areas where we could take them to play but you can't take them all the time when it's only going to be for half an hour.'
Inspector Simon Wright from Greater Manchester Police said: 'Playing football in the road obviously has clear dangers and the man in this case was simply reminded of this by officers looking out for his children's safety.
'It is actually a criminal offence and is often perceived as a nuisance to local residents, especially as there are plenty of parks for the children to go and play in a safe environment.
'I am not aware of a complaint being made to police but would be more than happy to discuss any concerns the father has with him.' He added: 'I think the police action amounted to common sense. You should not let your kids play on the road - it is not a playground.'
Jonathan Coupe of Trafford Council said: 'Anti-social behaviour is defined as any behaviour that causes alarm or distress to another person. 'In this particular case a letter has been sent to the parents to explain that a complaint has been received about their child's behaviour with a request to address the issues outlined in the complaint.
'This is in no way a formal warning or prosecution. Through action such as this, issues can be resolved in an appropriate manner through the parents themselves without having to involve the authorities.'
We have let yobs rule streets, says top British cop
Police have staged a 30-year ‘retreat from the streets’, allowing the ‘disease’ of anti-social behaviour to blight Britain, a devastating report reveals today. Millions of acts of drunken loutishness and vandalism are going unreported as they have become ‘normalised’, it claims.
Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Denis O’Connor said the basic task of keeping the peace had been relegated to a ‘second-order consideration’ for officers who were obsessed with meeting targets for actual crimes. This had led to officers being pulled off the beat, handing control to yobs and allowing anti-social behaviour to ‘gather momentum’, he said.
Sir Denis pointed to the rise of ‘happy slapping’ attacks – where yobs hit strangers, often filming it on a mobile phone – as evidence that random street violence had become commonplace and acceptable.
The ‘Stop the Rot’ report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary showed that last year, 3.5million incidents of anti-social behaviour were reported. But this represents only one in four of the estimated real total, meaning an astonishing 14million acts of antisocial behaviour were carried out – one every two seconds.
The landmark report warned that police forces are routinely ignoring thousands of repeat victims of harassment and thuggery. Forces often mark such calls as ‘low priority’ because they do not qualify as crimes. As a result, no action is taken.
Worryingly, less than a third of forces use systems to identify both repeat victims whose lives have been made a misery by a string of incidents, and those such as the disabled who are particularly vulnerable.
Sir Denis said a ‘strategic error’ was made in the 1970s that downgraded the importance of street patrols. From the late 1990s, the relentless focus on crime statistics led to forces neglecting their core duty to keep the peace, he added. ‘The truth is that despite its high public profile in recent years, anti-social behaviour does not have the same status as “crime” for the police,’ he said.
‘The police record of accomplishment and failure has been expressed, increasingly strongly, in terms of crime statistics.
‘Meanwhile, the “non-qualifying” antisocial behaviour issue, and its variants, that signal lack of control on our streets, have grown and evolved in intensity and harm. ‘Anti-social behaviour matters a lot to people but it doesn’t count in the formal system in the same way crime does. ‘That retreat from the streets has, in some senses, undermined [the police’s] connection with the public, and allowed some of these things to gather momentum.’
The report contains a series of victims’ accounts which Sir Denis described as ‘harrowing’. One unnamed man endured 400 incidents including stones being thrown at his wife. Despite making 200 reports to the police and the council, he said ‘no action’ had been taken.
The report revealed a growing gap between what the public wanted, namely ‘boots on the ground’, and what the police were delivering.
Sir Denis added: ‘The public do not distinguish between anti-social behaviour and crime. 'For them it’s really a sliding scale of grief.’ Despite the scale of the problem, some officers don’t think dealing with it is ‘real policing’, Sir Denis said.
He called for early intervention to ‘nip in the bud’ problems so they did not spiral out of control, and an end to underestimating anti-social behaviour. He added: ‘Make no mistake. It requires feet on the street.’
Sir Denis repeated his fears that as in earlier recessions, front-line officers would be the first to go as spending cuts bit.
A HMIC report in July found that just 11 per cent of officers are visible and available to the public at any one time, and more were available on Monday morning than when they might most be needed, on Saturday nights when there is more drunken aggression.
A study commissioned by HMIC for the Stop the Rot report found nearly one in three victims surveyed were unaware of any police action taken in response to their complaint. One in three victims also reported reprisals from their tormentors after complaining to the police, according to the Ipsos Mori poll.
Among the most damning conclusions were those reserved for Community Safety Partnerships, introduced by Labour, which were supposed to ensure co-operation between councils, police and other Government agencies. The report said that academics at Cardiff University found that significant numbers of partnerships were ‘problematic’, despite tens of millions spent on them. They ‘lacked focus’ in helping victims, were swamped in red tape and a ‘meetings culture’, and showed little evidence of value for money.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the report showed that ‘ antisocial behaviour ruins lives and scars communities’. She said: ‘This report, yet again, shows that for too long this problem has been sidelined and victims, especially those who are vulnerable, have been let down.’
Labour introduced a multitude of policies aimed at combating antisocial behaviour, including Asbos. But last year then Home Secretary Alan Johnson admitted Labour had ‘coasted’ on the issue.
More action was promised following the inquests into the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her disabled 18-year-old daughter Francecca, who were tormented by a gang of youths despite making 33 desperate 999 calls over seven years.
Miss Pilkington was accused of ‘over-reacting’ and, unable to bear the torment any more, she killed herself and her daughter by setting fire to their car near their home in Barwell, Leicestershire, in October 2007.
Blair Gibbs, head of crime and justice-at the Policy Exchange thinktank, said: ‘Tolerating anti-social behaviour lets down victims of crime and breeds more serious criminality.’
Assistant Chief Constable Simon Edens from the Association of Chief Police Officers said: ‘Tackling antisocial behaviour must be achieved alongside keeping people safe through less visible parts of policing such as tackling serious organised crime or terrorism.’
Penny-Wise on Crime
For more than 200 years, the political left has been coming up with reasons why criminals should not be punished as much, or at all. The latest gambit in Missouri is providing judges with the costs of incarcerating the criminals they sentence.
According to the New York Times, "a three-year prison sentence would run more than $37,000 while probation would cost $6,770." For a more serious crime, where a 5-year imprisonment would cost more than $50,000, it would cost less than $9,000 for what is described as "five years of intensive probation."
This is only the latest in a long line of "alternatives to incarceration" schemes that are constantly being pushed by all sorts of clever people, not only in Missouri but across the United States and across the Atlantic, especially in Britain.
The most obvious question that is being resolutely ignored in these scientific-sounding calculations is: What is the cost of turning criminals loose? Phrases like "intensive probation" may create the illusion that criminals at large are somehow under control of the authorities but illusions are especially dangerous when it comes to crime.
Another question that ought to be obvious is: Why are we counting only the cost to the government of putting a criminal behind bars, but not the cost to the public of turning him loose?
Some may say that it is not possible to quantify the costs of the dangers and anxieties of the public when more criminals are walking the streets. That is certainly true, if you mean the full costs. But we can quantify the money costs-- and just the money costs to the public vastly exceed the costs to the government of locking up criminals.
In Britain, where the "alternatives to incarceration" vogue has led to only 7 percent of convicted criminals being put behind bars, the annual cost of the prison system has been estimated at just under two billion pounds sterling. Meanwhile, the annual financial cost alone of crimes committed against the public has been an estimated sixty billion pounds sterling.
In the United States, the cost of incarcerating a criminal has been estimated as being $10,000 a year less than the cost of turning him loose.
In all these calculations we are leaving out the costs of violence, intimidation and the fears that people have for the safety of themselves and their children, not to mention the sense of helplessness and outrage when the society refuses to pay as much attention to innocent victims as they lavish on the criminals who victimize them.
These are all important costs. But it is unnecessary to take them into account, when just the money costs of turning criminals loose is enough to show what reckless nonsense is being preached to us by arrogant elites in the media, in academia and elsewhere.
Deception of the public by advocates of leniency to criminals has been institutionalized in legal practices that create the illusion of far more punishment being meted out than is actually the case. "Concurrent sentences" are one of the most blatant of these frauds.
When a criminal has been convicted of multiple crimes, having him serve his sentences for these crimes "concurrently" means that he actually serves no more time for five crimes than he would serve for whichever of those crimes has the longest sentence. In other words, the other four crimes are "on the house."
Sentences in general overstate how long the criminal will actually spend behind bars. Probation, furloughs, parole and time off for good behavior lead the list of reasons for turning a criminal loose before he serves the sentence that was announced to the public when he was convicted.
Even "life imprisonment without the possibility of parole"-- often offered as a substitute for execution for first degree murder-- can be misleading. There is no such thing as life imprisonment without the possibility of a liberal governor being elected, and then commuting or pardoning the murderer later on. And, of course, the murderer can commit murder again behind bars.
With all the things that liberals are willing to spend vast sums of money on, it is a little much to have them become penny-wise when it comes to keeping criminals off the streets.
Leftist hysteria over the fact that there is one major Australian newspaper that regularly questions them and their policies
(Rupert Murdoch's The Australian is relentlessly under attack from miffed media progressives)
Like taking a drag on a post-coital cigarette, after each election in recent years the political Left has a habit of letting off some steam after the big event. They reach for their keyboards or grab a microphone to take a swipe at the media. Make that the media with which they vehemently disagree.
After the 2007 election, progressives within the media were calling for a "cleansing" of conservatives from News Limited newspapers under the ruse that such voices were no longer required in the new left-wing era under Labor and Kevin Rudd.
It made for an amusing misread of politics: Rudd campaigned as a conservative. And a hypocritical one: there was no similar call for a purging of left-wing voices when John Howard was elected in 1996. Not to mention disingenuous: the same group complaining about a stifling of dissent during the Howard years wanted to stifle dissent in 2007.
This time left-leaning critics are busy scolding the news coverage and news analysis in The Australian with the same reckless disregard for facts. Same hypocrisy, too. Same Orwellian language about improving the national debate.
As media crimes go, the post-election accusers are guilty of committing the partisan offences they wrongly convict others of having committed. Travelling in an ideological pack, Malcolm Fraser, Bob Brown, ABC journalists at Media Watch, Insiders and Radio National, the echo chamber bloggers at Crikey and Laura Tingle in The Australian Financial Review assert The Australian has gone too far in scrutinising the record of the Rudd government and the anti-growth policies of the Greens, a party now part of the minority Gillard government. Add John Menadue to that list.
Last week, the Whitlam-era head of the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet - a self-described "grumpy old man" - accused the media of failing "almost absolutely" in examining critical issues such as the two-speed economy and Julia Gillard's citizens' assembly. Wrong on both counts.
This newspaper has reported, analysed and editorialised at length about the consequences of this country's two-speed economy and has been highly critical of the vacuous citizens' assembly.
Describing this newspaper as "the Mad Hatter's Tea Party", Menadue claimed The Australian was "pernicious" in the way it reported waste within the schools building program when in fact the Auditor-General's report showed that "Australians got very good value for money". Wrong again.
The report by the Australian National Audit Office did not audit value. It did find 82 per cent of schools that were self-managing projects - mostly private schools - believed they had received value for money compared with just 40 per cent for other schools. The Orgill interim report released last month revealed Building the Education Revolution cost premiums of 5 per cent to 6 per cent (or $800 million) and extreme variations among BER projects, with centralised systems such as those in NSW costing double those of ACT public schools and Catholic schools in Tasmania and Queensland. That is not value for money.
Indeed, The Australian has uncovered a steady stream of mismanagement, rorts and waste under the $16.2 billion stimulus program. And unashamedly so. That's the role of quality media. Other so-called quality media outlets - such as Fairfax and the ABC - dropped the ball here, picking it up late and half-heartedly.
Menadue's spray continued: "And you watch them, [The Australian] will be doing the same thing on the NBN." Yes, The Australian will continue to report, analyse and editorialise about taxpayers getting value for money under the Gillard government's latest big spending initiative, the $43bn National Broadband Network. And unashamedly so.
Menadue took particular aim at Dennis Shanahan for living off Newspoll, creating news out of Newspoll and beating up stories against the Rudd government. Wrong again. As political editor of this newspaper, Shanahan's job is to report Newspoll results. When Labor's primary vote started to fall, he reported it.
Critics who claimed Shanahan was guilty of "playing down" Labor's two-party preferred vote were disconnected from reality. Rudd publicly admitted he was being "whacked" in the polls. Then, in June, the falling primary vote led to Rudd's removal.
Menadue was smoking some cigarette during last Wednesday morning's hissy fit. And so was ABC local radio host Deb Cameron. As Shanahan said in an email to Cameron, her failure to challenge Menadue about errors of basic facts suggested she was either ignorant about the election coverage or in complete agreement with Menadue's misinformation.
As chairman of the Centre for Policy Development, Menadue lectures about the "lack of honesty and transparency in public discourse", of holding people to account for their "mistakes and untruths". So let's do what Cameron should have done and get honest and transparent about Menadue's contribution to public discourse. Let's hold him to account for his mistakes and untruths.
Menadue is not an independent, objective observer. He is a player and his attack is political. Harbouring a long history of unhappiness with sections of the media which do not toe his leftist views, he set up the New Matilda website to provide "independent political commentary". Of course, it's just his platform to run a predictable genre of political whinge.
Menadue's philosophical leanings are diametrically opposed to those of The Australian on everything from economics to social policies. More Keynesian than Keynes, Menadue advised the worst government in Australia's history.
In fact, academic writings record that Menadue has the distinction of criticising a May 1975 cabinet submission about budget strategy by then treasurer Jim Cairns for not being Keynesian enough. (Cairns, not Menadue, was willing to consider the inflationary warnings from Milton Friedman when the economist visited Australia in April 1975.)
Menadue has been a long-time political activist, opposing the Iraq war as a signatory to the Gang of 43 letter, a vocal lobbyist for a human rights act where a handful of judges, not the Australian people, dictate social policy, and a prominent refugee advocate highly critical of the Howard government's policies, reaffirmed at election after election by the Australian people. Loved at writers' festivals and by the comrades at Workers Online, his obsession with the Murdoch papers - like that of others before him - betrays a moralising dismissal of Australians who may share this newspaper's values about smaller government, lower taxes, freer trade, economic liberalism and social polices that sit at the pragmatic centre of Australia.
Menadue, like his progressive comrades, is entitled to his political positions. But let's put those political views on the table in the interest of disclosing all relevant facts when assessing the cacophony of leftist claims that the media failed in its role at the last election.
When the facts are known, it's clear enough that Menadue has not provided serious or independent analysis of the media's performance at the last election.
Indeed, his ill-informed tirade last week - and the gushing response from Cameron - exposes the consistently shabby state of the so-called intellectual Left. By all means let's have a debate about the media, but progressives will need to lift their game if they want to make a meaningful contribution to that debate.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.