My thought for the day, as I’ve permission to republish an article by the Hunts Sabs Association, suggesting with relevant and shocking examples, Wiltshire Police are lacking in pursuing these rural crimes.
I will direct your attention to the piece, but figure I’d attempt my own spin, else what’s the point in owning a blog in the first place?! So, I’m desperately trying to see the other side of the coin, to avoid accusations of bias. But every time forced to the opinion fox hunting and other blood sports is gratuitously barbaric, trail hunting, for many, is a smokescreen, and our police are clearly not proactive on the issue……
We trashed our common room in art college despite warnings they’d close it, and eventually they did. My bitterness toward the decision was driven by naïve self-centred arrogance of delinquency, but there came a point of feeling guilt that future students wouldn’t benefit from the facility due to our incompetence; reactionary anarchist I once was!
I ponder this “few ruined it for a rest” lesson as I browse hunting social media groups and pages. To momentarily steer against the hunt sabs, or FWGs, as is the favoured term we’ll use hereafter, an abbreviation of Frontline Wildlife Guardians, these glossy and glorious shows of countryside pursuits are embellished with glamorous images, (as our featured image of the Tedworth Hunt,) promoting family, fundraising events, that while a world apart from my own lifestyle, the legality and moral obligation of it is not entirely inconceivable, and the thought it’s not all just a charade hiding a cruel blood sport is a possibility, for some hunts.
Though as FWGs collate irrefutable evidence some hunts are clearly ignoring the law and continuing hunting by using trial hunts as a smokescreen, and in doing so are met with violent retort, county constabularies are working with campaigners and nationally progress is gradually happening, Wiltshire Police are accused of failing by comparison. The well-publicised poor policing of the violence at Lacock on Boxing Day is clear it needs addressing, FWGs report the incident is the tip of the iceberg.
Got to rub the worry-lines of my forehead here. The article points to five ongoing investigations they’ve been reliably informed are ongoing with the Avon Vale Hunt. It states, “alongside a Hunting Act investigation, there are investigations into assaults on sabs: in January, a Bristol sab was punched in the head by an Avon Vale terrier man who had been stopped digging out a fox from a badger sett. The saboteur was knocked unconscious and spent several nights in hospital with a brain bleed, precisely the sort of serious injury that can have tragic consequences and as ironically highlighted by Avon Vale fox hunting Tory MP for North Wiltshire James Gray in the ‘One Punch Can Kill’ campaign.”
I’m glad to hear they’re investigated, but it’s hardly proactive, where are the police when these assaults occurred? Intelligence should tip them off when hunts happen, and they should be policed akin to Saturday night at a city nightclub; there’s terrible acts of violence hiding in our rural fields, and not just on wildlife. Instead, Wiltshire Hunt Sabs told the Hunts Sabs Association, “with so many criminal investigations and allegations ongoing, we would have expected at least a modicum of police suspicion that these gangsters could possibly have been killing foxes, and also aren’t opposed to throwing the odd punch – or ten – at those of us who try to stop them and just maybe they have been doing exactly this for decades. Instead, what we have faced from the police is an unleashing of bias and abuse of power as our publicly funded police service is being used to protect a violent criminal hunt to carry on breaking the law.”
“We also had several officers tell us we could remedy the situation by ‘leaving the area’ whilst simultaneously acknowledging we were there lawfully. Can you imagine them telling someone being assaulted on the high street that they should go home and leave the assailant in peace?”
Besides, eyes of suspicion are on police bias over the Lacock Boxing Day bash-a-sab fest, being one of the two officers affiliated with the hunt personally reportedly took time to chat with her pro-hunt friends and “turned her back” on the violence. The sabs claiming “she was not just an ex-rider, we are also told her own horse was at the hunt on the 27th December 2021, being ridden by a friend of hers, who – we have been told – is also the partner of the violent terrierman responsible for the brain bleed in our Bristol hunt sab.”
The public deserve to know if officers on the scene made any calls for advice or back up, Police say they cannot correspond as the incident is under investigation. Police officers swear an oath of impartiality, the PCC doesn’t and Phillip Wilkinson made full use of this on Twitter, calling out FWGs as “bullies,” suggesting he was “not impressed when I witness grownups wearing balaclavas screaming in face of children who just happen to be riding a pony,” yet doesn’t appear to be able to back this bold claim up with evidence, and why, oh why would anyone take children to a fox hunt anyway?! I’m not associated in any manner with this group of Wiltshire Hunt Sabs and they never reveal their identity to me, but his claims are vastly different from my own dealings with them, as they appear to be the pacifist campaigners one would obviously perceive them to be.
If there are hunts really following the law with fake trails and they are in control of the bloodhounds to prevent them side-tracking from the scent of passing wildlife, as they insist they are, they’re unfortunate victims akin to the future generations of art students in my common room scenario; if some can’t be trusted, and police are informed, educated and trained to investigate, or as accusations suggest, seem to bizarrely favour the illegal pro-hunters, I say pull the plug on the lot, ban trail hunts and apologies if you really trail hunt legally, but the few ruined it for the others.
I’m drawn to the Tedworth Hunt, for example, who parade an “East Kennet Fun Ride,” as a Facebook event, defining it as “3 or 8 miles of beautiful riding on the Wiltshire Countryside with optional jumps.” Not for me, but I’ve no problem with this. Yet the accompanying photo shows a fellow dressed in traditional hunt uniform loading bloodhounds onto a trailer. Why would you need dogs if you’re only horse-riding I ponder? Why does the Tedworth Hunt carry pistols if it’s only a fake trial, does a fake trail open-fire first?! And one more question I’ll relay next paragraph, as, admittedly, therein lies my lack of knowledge on the subject, perhaps there’s good reason for it, I dunno, no one tells me, but why still call these hunting-related happenings hunts at all, and why would anyone support the philosophy of butchering of wildlife by subjecting the activity to replica scenarios if they didn’t secretly wish fox hunting to return? Would it not be better to rid ourselves of the entire culture surrounding it?
The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs are the only ones who will communicate with me on the subject respectfully. This will post on social media and be met with many comments in support, and a few aggressive, hate-filled pro-hunt responses, but not one will contain any polite or reasonable counterargument, no one will invite me to view it from their angle, leading me to wonder why, if everything is tickety-boo, all dandy and legal, why they project this rage, why do they seem to hire these thugs to accost and assault members of the public for merely attempting to protect the wildlife they themselves claim to love and appreciate? Why all the hate if they’re operating legally, it doesn’t add up, unless, I conclude, they’re hiding something.
I note posts on hunting Facebook pages about how they love their hounds, but we’ve seen some shoot them dead if they underperform. If trail hunting is supposed to be this fun and harmless pursuit, it’s hardly non-competitive for the hounds they claim to adore. The point is, no matter how much I scan these glossy representations of modern hunting organisations, they suffer inane hypocrisy; why persist to support something historically barbaric and inhumane?
Because they claim they’re not fox hunting, the pre-Hunting Act excuse of culling is defunct, and the argument for trail hunts seems to rest on this baffling “traditional values” defence. For this I’d like to point out Victorian coalmines employed children to sit in dark passageways for twelve-hour shifts, their only glimmer of light being when the cart pulled into their section and they tugged it along to the next. Yet to suggest we send children down mines, that they don’t actually have to work down there, just sit there in the dark because it’s “tradition” would be ludicrous, but not unlike this concept of trail hunting.
Yet, as observed by our Cobra Kai, PCC Wilko, they love taking their kids out to butcher wildlife, apparently, which is, to be frank, twisted beyond all reason, and concludes; it’s impossible to live rurally and be impartial towards blood sports. I could label “screaming in face of children who just happen to be riding a pony,” as complete and utter codswallop for the purposes of propaganda but that would imply the law are defending the unlawful, which cannot be true; who’s zooming who? Who knows what to think anymore? Other than perpetually the argument never settles, so obvious answer is ban it completely, it no longer serves a purpose, only causes friction.
Get a new hobby, preferably one unsupportive of murder!
Okay, I admit it, our Song of the Day feature was too optimistic, and failing every day to post a tune meant it fell by the wayside.Song of the Week, think I can manage that, just! Let’s reintroduce it now, every Wednesday without fail, pinky promise, and do the first one right about now! Swindon…
What’s Funny About Tuesday Night? Andy Fawthrop You know how we’ve previously moaned on and on (and on) on these pages before about the lack of comedy in D-Town? Well – guess what? No – there’s still a yawning gap where the comedy should be in our lovely town. But we continue to live in…
Akin to Ghostbuster’s nemesis Slimer when he appears over the hotdog stand, I was squatting a spacious windowsill at Wiltshire Music Centre with an Evie’s burger summoning me to munch, when a mature lady swung open the fire-door to the third stage at Bradford Roots Music Festival a couple of weeks ago. She looked agitated,…
Make no mistake, there’s a civil war under our noses, which comes to an apex when blood-thirsty predators triumphantly parade their wrongdoing on a day when most of us struggle out of bed to reach the fridge. Judge for yourselves who’s the goodies and who’s the baddies here, but pray tell me you’re not party to this obnoxious pageant? I mean, hardly “Christmassy,” is it, unless of course, Santa puts a bullet in the head of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for not keeping up with the herd?
Posing a question in a headline, I’ve learned, attracts hits. Usual method is for me to then waffle endlessly, circling the question but never really answering it, until, only sometimes, at the conclusion. I’m gonna swap, answer it now, get it out in the open. Can we stop Boxing Day hunts across Wiltshire?
Don’t be disillusioned, and apologises for bursting any bubbles; the answer is no, not a chance, pal.
Despite good news last week that the Wilton Hunt Ball has been postponed due to the omicron outbreak, we all know pandemic restrictions last year didn’t bother them, and with reference to breaking news of government Christmas parties, flaunting the law for the most powerful in society doesn’t need investigating, according to police.
I mean, whatever did happen to the inquiry as to how hunting organisations pushed for a drink-driving Avon Huntsmaster to stand as Wiltshire PCC, costing the taxpayer over £3million for a re-election? The carpet is looking lumpy, how much more can be brushed under it?
Every avenue I explore on this subject gets blocked, no one in any position of power to help wants to address the issue. That is a total and utter disgrace and they should, quite frankly, hold their heads in shame.
Make no mistake, Boxing Day Hunts aren’t the bee-all-and-end-all of hunting, but they’re the most important hunt on the annual calendar, because the audience it attracts. The Countryside Alliance will try convince you droves arrive in support. True, Boxing Day hunts aim to condone and promote the tenet, crucial in their campaign to turn the Hunting Act 2004 on its head. Though many onlookers remain oblivious to the cruel realities, while others will be lobbying against it.
If all is not lost, councils of both county, town and parish levels can take action, if they wanted, ban it on their land, or at least refuse to accept invitations to, and disallow council land to be used to meet, thus reducing the celebration of blood sports and gradually eradicating the archaic and brutal custom.
In a heartfelt campaign, non-profit organisation, Keep the Ban, urge concerned folk to contact their councillors, celebrating success when Keswick Town Council in Cumbria decided to revoke their invitation to the John Peel Hunt. Locally, the wonderful Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs informed me Bradford-on-Avon Town Council “have banned both hunting and culling on their land at town council level” but reckoned, “it’s mostly symbolic, although there are definitely council owned farms (tenant farmers of WCC) that do cull, so a wider wildlife protection policy is probably going to be more use.”
However, fresh from a meeting, Alison Kent, Clerk to Pewsey Parish Council replied yesterday, “the decision was to allow the Tedworth Hunt to meet in the car park on Monday 27th.” A local hunt which the Wiltshire Hunt Sabs claim “weaponised their horses against sabs.” Why would they do this, without anything to hide?
My first port of call is Wiltshire Councillor Laura Mayes, who despite as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills, this is not her area of expertise, it must be said, is always willing to humour me and answer my endless questions on any random subject, and I thank her for her help. Although, her answer was unswerving; “I have done some digging and asked Cabinet colleagues and we all agreed that WC has no power to take any action, re trail-hunting as it is currently a legal activity. Any illegal activity would be a police matter.”
Wiltshire Council may convince themselves nothing illegal is happening, yet I argue, like a speeding driver, for them, the thrill of the activity outweighs the carnage it might cause. I’m no prude, I can understand it must be exhilarating to ride across the hillsides in pursuit of a target, addictive even, given hunting is ingrained in their psyche, passed down through generations. If an arsonist wandered into a fireworks factory with a lighter, would WC turn a blind eye, safe in the knowledge setting it alight would be illegal, therefore the arsonist would resist the temptation of their own obsession?
Countryside Alliance website outrightly states they oppose the hunting Act 2004, claiming it’s “bad for rural communities,” even, and, get your head around this brazen irony, “bad for animal welfare,” and a “waste of police resources.” If they feel like this, and nothing is done to prevent them, how on God’s earth can you expect them to not pursue a wild animal if it was to be caught in heat of the moment on this supposed fake trail?
Let’s take the last part of the CA’s stance; on Boxing Day police resources will be stretched, on a day they’d rather be peaceful I’d wager, because they’ll need to be present across the country where the crowds gather to observe this pretentiously parade of their unforgiving activity as a magnificent pageant. I have to wonder how much police time is spent keeping an eye on the hunters against policing the meetings. I also emailed Wiltshire Police to ask how they would actually patrol a hunt, horseback I’d imagine being the only effective method.
I also wished to enquire what their relationship with the hunt sabs was like, if they supported the portfolio sabs are building to suggest unlawful acts are indeed taking place. Only this week, they posted a video to their Facebook page clearly showing The Royal Artillery Hunt rioting on two deer in an SSSI area on Salisbury Plain Training Area on Saturday 4th December, and Huntsman, Charles Carter, did nothing to call them off; something the Daily Mail suggested put the sabs “at war” with the Army.
A spokesperson for the sabs told me, “If something is being used as a smokescreen for a crime then either it’s an illegal activity or the law needs addressing!” Face it, Western Huntsman John Sampson in Penzance, was only found guilty of being in charge of dogs which killed a cat caught in the hunt on a Cornish housing estate, because a neighbour filmed him from their window, shamelessly lobbing the cat’s dead body into a nearby garden. If it wasn’t filmed, there would be no evidence. A clear indication hunters need monitoring, but while my press office contact with Wiltshire Police is usually responsive, they felt the matter needed to be addressed by the Rural Crime Unit, and passing my queries onto them was the end of our communication.
Should the police wish to respond, I can amend this appropriately, but time is pushing forward to Boxing Day, and my only line of information comes from The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs themselves. Far from a Batman-Chief Commissioner Gordan relationship, where Gordan doesn’t necessarily like the vigilante but compromises on the grounds they share the same goal, the Hunt Sabs were keen to criticise Police.
“I can show you a clip of an officer blocking a byway,” the sabs expressed, “when challenged he demanded evidence that they were illegally hunting, which the sab asked ‘well if you stop blocking the public right of way, I can get you some.’ He refused.” Whatever happened to inspector’s hunch aside, if investigation isn’t gathered by official resources, someone has to, furthermore, isn’t the officer acting unlawfully in blocking the byway, it’s a public right of way?
“Yeah,” the sabs replied, “accessing the byway was first a small section of ORPA (other routes of public access) so even though he had no idea what the public access rights where, he still chose to block it, even after offering to show him on an OS Map.”
Playing devil’s advocate, I supposed, his defence would be they were potentially there to “start trouble” when the hunters were doing nothing illegal. But how can he tell if the police don’t even follow the hunt? Have the Sabs ever seen police patrolling a hunt, keeping up with it to insure nothing illegal occurs?
“There’s no history of us starting trouble,” they replied. “The hunts always claim that but we don’t. We’re just there to make sure they don’t kill. Wilts Police have never to my knowledge ever patrolled a hunt. Any time they are there it is to ‘keep the peace,’ which in reality means blocking us from stopping them killing. The police don’t even know the law; on one hunt recently, two officers turned up and had to Google it on the way. I had to explain to them everything that was happening, and to be fair they listened, but initially they were too quick to take the hunt’s word that they were legally hunting. They have no training on this, I personally have emailed the rural crime team and asked, they’re not interested.”
I gulp at this, as while Wiltshire rural crime unit certainly isn’t responsive, the sabs said Gloucestershire Police now have “operation hunt,” and have said they will go out to hunts. But the real hard pill to swallow was my contact with The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs felt contacting the authorities was futile, adding in their understandable frustrations, “I can’t see them doing much, I personally have given up bothering with them.”
Still, all they ask for doing the tasks the police you pay for should be, is the price of a coffee to help their campaign funding, and they ask you sound your objection to Pewsey Parish Council for allowing the Tedworth Hunt to meet in their carpark, or contacting your MP and councillors in general, as Boxing Day Hunts go further than simply potentially bludgeoning a fox or any other animal which might accidently stumble into the crossfire, to death, but also act as a celebration and promotion of such cruelty.
I wish the season of goodwill to all men could extend to all life, all god’s creatures great and small, and I’m a realist who cannot accept nothing unlawful is happening here, when photograph and video evidence is there for all to see that clearly it is, and I thank the sabs for their time when others in power barely gave theirs, and for the difficult and arduous task they take on.
Who in Devizes has been upsetting the local gutter press now?! Detached from a relatively good idea, Wiltshire 999’s, a blog which once reported current crimes and police matters, a tabloid version called Wiltshire Live has risen like a phoenix from the ashes, most likely to prove more profitable.
With their Facebook page constantly phishing for personal info, it publishes regular slapdash magazine style articles gaining popularity as it trundles. Unlike the historically founded Newsquest group which publishes newspapers such as the Swindon Advertiser and Gazette & Herald, without the restraints of mainstream journalism it is able to deliver some shock tactical pieces, it seems with a penchant for highlighting Devizes as a pretty dire place to live.
Reactionary it maybe, every angry click appeases its advertisers, I’m sure many Devizes residents have seen yesterday’s posts on local Facebook pages by the journalist herself, which states out of 22 areas of Wiltshire, measured by a crime-rate map, designed by an independent website, Devizes has the “greatest spread of crime out of all of the Wiltshire’s areas included in this database.”
Gut reaction to this is understandably to deny it, be shocked and exasperated, because we live here and we love it, and we walk around feeling relatively safe. Those who have lived elsewhere perhaps even more aware Devizes is not Wiltshire’s answer to Mexico’s Tijuana, where approximately seven people are murdered daily, yet neither is Wiltshire Live making it out to be. It does clearly state the county is in the top ten safest places in the country, already knocking some severity off the claim.
Originally then I determined to scrutinise this “crime-map,” ready to criticise the website for defamatory claims on Devizes, but hey-ho, story checks out; miserably, Devizes does score highest, but only in the way the reporter was reading it. Starter for ten, the “crime map” runs on quantity against population percentage, so effectively an all-out bloodthirsty massacre scores a point, equally does a Parkinson’s sufferer caught with a spliff in his own garden, or a chancing teenager pinching a porkpie from Morrisons.
There is no judgement on the severity of the crime, then, only that it was reported. Again, in Wiltshire Live’s defence, it does say it’s, “vital to consider, is that many crimes sadly go unreported, making statistics like these never 100% accurate,” ergo, if Devizes currently has the greatest spread of crime out of all of the Wiltshire’s areas included in this database, something failed to mention is that Devizes also has a knack of reporting incidents, and that’s surely the mainstay to solving and counteracting them, rather then, ha, you know, just reporting scare stories for hits; correct me if I’m wrong.
So, reading the data differently, Devizes has 988 reported crimes, against Swindon’s 11,503, Salisbury’s 3,177 and even Melksham, with a similar population, weighs in greater than Devizes, with 1,064. Much as I’d liked to have changed my angle on this story, and defend Wiltshire Live, today I find another, separate story, saying “police are investigating a new TikTok trend called ‘heartbeat challenge’ – where kids play loud music outside a house and kick the front door in time to the beat.” While this is obviously happening nationally if not internationally, Wiltshire Live informs “houses in Wiltshire have been targeted,” and then adds the cliff-hanger, “including a home in Devizes.” One has to wonder why Devizes has been singled out, named and shamed, when homes across the county have been hit by the appalling prank.
The issue I have is, running scare stories for clickbait like this is counterproductive against suggesting methods to help reduce crime, it only exists to sensationalise, in my honest opinion. Because an article like this is followed by many not bothered to read it fully, consequently resulting in a bombardment of social media comments like Chinese whispers. The article is shabby, given another six months another small town could top our terrible statistic, in journalistic jargon “it’s got legs,” yet not through content, rather the social media storm in a teacup it’ll no doubt cause.
Firstly, to face the blame game is the young, obviously. Too wrapped up with other social media sites to defend themselves on “fogie” Facebook, it’s fair to say many a petty crime is caused by younger people, bored with nothing better to be doing, because playgrounds are in state of disrepair, activities and social clubs have been axed or underfunded, and they’re set an example by a lying, lawbreaking government set to increase the rate of criminal activity in order to make themselves look better. In times of discontent crime rates rise as a consequence, history proves this.
Let’s look at the most serious of crimes, taking another’s life. In Devizes last year we had an arson attack, police arrested a man on suspicion of murder, who was twenty. Karl Quincey was 35 when he was convicted of killing Barry Cooper in 2008. Michael Chudley was 63 when he shot James Ward in the head with a sawn-off shotgun in 2013. None of them best described as “young,” unless you’re Bill Wyman. Even ancient murderers in Devizes disproves this banal theory, The Devizes Petticoat Murder, Benjamin Purnell was 51 when he was charged with the wilful murder of his wife, Emily, in 1889.
One commenter duly noted out of the 988 reported crimes, 978 were bike theft, to receive a plethora of amused emojis in response, although according to the crimerate website, and despite a known spate of bike theft, it’s not true. Rather, more shockingly “The most common crimes in Devizes are violence and sexual offences, with 457 offences during 2020, giving a crime rate of 39. This is 10% higher than 2019’s figure of 411 offences and a difference of 3.95 from 2019’s crime rate of 35. Devizes’s least common crime is robbery, with 5 offences recorded in 2020, a decrease of 80% from 2019’s figure of 9 crimes.”
So, there is a decrease in there, failed to be mentioned in the article. But whoa, sexual offences are on the increase, in all parts of the county. This, in a week when scare stories about drink “spiking” in clubland rolled mainstream media, young girls suggesting they don’t bother going out anymore due to the danger of drugs being either put in drinks or even injected when in close proximity. In running an entertainment guide, I want to encourage people to go out, but to enjoy themselves, yet I’m in the dark here, not been “clubbing” since……well, I’m not intending to disclose how long!
Therefore, it was deeply concerning to of read this trend, and I’ve contacted both Devizes Police and The Exchange nightclub in Devizes for their thoughts, on what they’re doing to best prevent this, and what to do if you think you’ve been spiked. Most of all, I was interested to know how common this was in Devizes, because, and I even said this, even though incidents have been reported in Salisbury and Swindon, I felt clubbers here were less likely to be victims, because Devizes was far safer. And I still believe it is, despite this damming report.
Should I change my angle on this too, I wonder, and go with on premise set out by Wiltshire Live, that you’re statistically more likely to be a victim in Devizes than any other small town in Wiltshire, as I would hate to think I’ve projected the notion it’s not something to worry too much about, provided you take the precautions set out by those organisations I contacted? Who knows, because I’m still awaiting replies from both the Exchange and Police. A shame if they feel it superfluous to respond, when you’d think it’s a message in their benefit to get out.
Hold the front page, I plead with both organisations to reply, so we can advise how to avoid such terrible incidents, because I’m not writing this shit for prestige or cold cash, I’m writing from the heart, and care not if you wish to advertise your business here, or if this gets sufficient hits for Word Ads.
Furthermore, if you’ve been affected by a sexual offence like being spiked, in Devizes, and feel you’ve some advice to give others, please do contact us, your anonymity will be respected.
I’ll say it how it is, thank you, and it is that Devizes is no more dangerous than any other Wiltshire market town, in my opinion, based on wandering around at night hunting gigs and cider! It is disheartening to hear crime is on the increase, yet I strongly suspect this is true nationwide, and I bid while you take care out there, not to rise to the bait and fear for your safety in such a great place to live.
There, given my tuppence, for what it’s worth, can I have my tea now?!
Here’s a fun and free game to play for all the family over the school holidays, where you can find out which one of you will be the new Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner!
Well, actually, it’s a bit rubbish. But face it, once our council tax hits the roof to pay the £1.4 million for another PCC election, after the Tories made what is technically known as a cock-up, you won’t have the spare cash to buy another board game, so you might just as well print out this game board and make do.
You need five people to play the game, each player decides to take the role of a candidate respectively, no arguing now, not everyone can be Mike.
You will need to find a dice, who do I look like? Rich Uncle Pennybags? This isn’t Waddington’s you know. Oh, and some counters too, one for each of the following colour codes:
Yellow: Lib Dem
Murky Grey: Reform
Put your counters at the start and the first to roll a six, starts. Move around the board and the winner is the one who reaches the end first, democratic huh? But beware, if you land on a square corresponding to the colour of your candidate, you must obey the command written on it without question, as real police would. No Dirty Harrys here please; play fair, just like all the real candidates.
Best of luck, and have fun. Just think this could be the first Wiltshire election where the Tories don’t win hands down, but I doubt it, they paid me a backhander to rig the game! If you do win remember to whoop whoop, because that IS da sound of da police.
Truth be told, I get a tad nervy when a subject wants an interview via phone call. I worry of saying the wrong thing, or forgetting a fundamental question. Being I’ve chatted to Mike Rees, Wiltshire independent Police Crime Commissioner candidate on the dog and bone before, I’m quite looking forward to hearing from him. He is so down-to-earth it’s like chatting to an old friend.
At the time he was at his boxing class, where he teaches various age groups, but I felt Mike sounded rather exhausted and slightly more despondent than his usual cheery self. Naturally I opened with asking him how the campaigning was going. “It’s bloody hard work, to be honest, Darren,” he confessed, perhaps the very reason for his temperament. Mike runs a business, has the boxing gym to manage too, “and I’m trying to get this campaign stuff down. I keep getting requests for more leaflets, and I just can’t afford that. That’s my disadvantage.”
Hoping the focus will be entirely on Mike and his campaign, prior to the call I made a mental note not to mention, if possible, the other candidates and in particular, Conservative Johnathan Seed. But only a minute in I broke that rule, mainly because a post by Seedy popped on my Facebook newsfeed seconds before the call, and I noted it was sponsored by a company. Budget is everything when on a campaign trial, and Mike funds his himself.
However, sharing is caring on social media; I mainly see positivity for Mike, but newsfeeds are catered to taste, and there’s that silent majority. “Yeah,” he agreed, “it’s the people not on social media who are always going to vote Tory, no matter what. That’s the people I can’t really get to.”
This said, I’ve noted a number of known conservative thinkers in support of Mike, because the humdinger here is the importance of politics in the PCC role. Other candidates affiliated with a party insist this is political. I loved chatting to Lib Dem runner Liz Webster, though I asked Mike how he felt when, in the interview, she said he was “going for the wrong job!”
This was where Mike cheered up. “Yeah, chief constable; it did make me laugh! No, I don’t. It’s the last thing I want to do!” Mike knows exactly what the job involves. There’s this notion circulating we need a party-led politician for PCC, like calling a sparky for a plumbing job. Yet, in a political MP or councillor election anyone is free to run as an independent, and no one batters an eyelid. Mike agreed, informing me his focus is on the public, “on what the people want, you know. They have HMIC inspections and Wiltshire Police has come out as good. Do the public think that? I’m not sure they do. That’s what’s more important, not what HMIC says but what the pubic think about their policing.”
So, I put another negative comment from the book of face to him, which said “we don’t want a copper in the role because he’s institutionalised.” Mike retorted, he’s been out of the cops for seven years, and been running his own business, “and I’ve seen things from the other side. I’ve seen real poor police service, and seen some good stuff. There are good cops out there, but some bad service, and some stories I get told, I just put my head in my hands. As someone who worked for the police for thirty years, I understand what they’re going through. But I also get dismayed by it, because through my service we always wanted to do the best for the victim. It seems like they’re more concerned with policing themselves than they are about policing the public. So, I worry for the public perception of them.”
He reflected, “on my first day of training school, what we were taught; prevention and detection of crime, preservation of life and property, keeping the peace. That was the core function of the police, it just seems like we’ve lost sight of that, personally. We’ve become to politicised, and I don’t like it.”
One point Mike recently posted online, was concerning domestic abuse, stating he was disappointed with the House of Lords when 351 MPs rejected Amendment 42 of the Domestic Abuse Bill, which sought to instigate a national register of domestic abuse perpetrators and stalkers. I wanted to ask Mike, how one governs a police force if you have to align with political decisions you personally disagree with. “Well,” he started, “I’m not afraid to speak up. This is what I see as an advantage for me; I don’t need the job, I’m going in there to try make things better, because I care. I could sit here and moan all day but someone’s got to put down we’re trying do something about it. A politician, I don’t think they think like that, they think rather differently. I understand what these people are dealing with on a daily basis, dealing with some horrible, nasty things, and the force is demoralised, recent federation survey showed us that, and things need to change.”
“If you’ve got a demoralised police force, it doesn’t matter what policies and procedures people are coming up with, nothing’s going to work. You’ve got to sort your workforce out first, and get them to follow you, be inspired by you; and that’s one of things I do.”
There’s been progression since we last spoke, and I felt the need to mention the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill protests, supposing the successful Wiltshire candidate is lucky in respect that while we’ve had a few protests, it’s relatively passive compared to Bristol. “No one’s got an issue with peaceful protest, have they?” Mike responded, with his “own views” about the Bill, “I don’t see the need for it, to be honest, I think the law is already there for what they’re trying to do. I don’t see the purpose it serves.”
“If the violence is there, it can be dealt with now, under the current laws.” Mike laughed off the concept a protest should be shut down if it gets too noisy, adding, “a slightly annoying protest? What’s that about? How can you judge ‘annoying’?!”
“Peaceful protest is an absolute right in a democratic society, isn’t it?” he asked me; like, yeah, I thought so too! “If you’re going to be violent, then you’re going to be dealt with, and I think you should be dealt with strongly. If you’re going to infiltrate and cause violence, then you have to be dealt with strongly, that’s the only way to deal with it.”
To find myself agreeing with the police must be an age thing, but I do on all Mike’s points! I only hope, on this reply, the ‘you’ he uses is proverbial and not a personal warning! That’s the key throughout our chat, he’s an agreeable bloke. I noted if one wants to be violent, they will, and we went through other examples in British history, like football violence. And herein is my respect for the police, because if you see a fight happening on the street, you cross the road, avoid it, but the Babylon, they’ve got to be the ones who go and sort it out. I confessed; I’d be completely shit at that! Mike relayed when, off duty, he stepped in to stop an unfair fight, “I told the lad who was getting a kicking to bugger off, which he did, then they set on me!” The point is, most politicians, I’d gather, would be like me, sheepishly walking away, hardly ‘community policing!’ Mike has been there, and knows the shop floor duties.
A serious note ensued, Mike felt we’d lost touch with community policing, “it’s really important to build up a relationship with the community, they feel reassured and they talk to you, and when they start talking, you find, who the criminals on the patch are. We seem to have lost all that, mostly down to lack of resources.” All candidates are requesting more funding is needed, in previous chats with Mike, he was adamant, while he agreed more funding is needed, it’s not the amount rather where and how it is spent. “It’s a combination of both,” he told, “but there’s a lot of money that’s wasted, I’ve seen it over the years, still hear stories now, that need looking at. The other candidates get to hear about that, because they don’t know people within the service, whereas I get to hear all that. Because people trust me, I have a good reputation.”
Pet crimes seemed to be a focus for other contenders, but Mike claimed he hadn’t seemed much evidence of that, and, comparably, it’s not so much of an issue in Wiltshire. More steam to the notion, you need a guy with his ear to ground and a rapport with the workforce. Rural crime is different, “it’s due to a lack of policing.” I added my tuppence on the lack of the Bobby on beat, and speed watching, and Mike agreed, adding volunteer community speed watchers felt they wasn’t getting supported by Wiltshire Police. “Road safety,” he stated, “is really important, you know. Would you rather have us tell you your house has been burgled or a loved one has been hit by a speeding car? Some say catching speeders when you should be catching real criminals, but what would you rather be told?”
What Mike wants to see, is specials working with the community speedwatch, “then they feel better because it’s being enforced, and everyone’s a winner!” Trust me to break the solemn tangent with a dig, “yep,” I replied, “get them out of the office, give ‘em some doughnuts and fresh air!” Ack, I used the doughnut gag, to the possible, and I very much hope it will be so, future police crime commissioner.
I wanted him to laugh it off, but he was feeling pessimistic about his chances, “I still think Mr Seed will get it, due to huge number of votes I have to get.” It was a sour point to end on, but I didn’t type this up for nothing. Yet Mike’s cynicism has the span of seconds, joking, “and I’ve only nine friends!!” Although we love the cut off Mike’s jib, without the equal campaign budget, it is up to us, to share his social media posts, and posters, this interview, and let our friends know, we don’t necessarily need a paper-pushing office-bearer in this role, if you agree, we need a fellow of shop floor experience. And man, I’ve not even mentioned fox hunting!
I did end on a topical subject for our arts and music-based zine, and asked Mike about pop crime; “can we get Rick Astley arrested, or Ace of Base, or Venga Boys?”
“He should’ve been sent down years ago!” Mike replied, but retracted it on the grounds he does a cover of AC-DC, “and that sort of stuff, so he’s gone up in my estimation!” What a genuinely great bloke! All the best Mike, we’re rooting for you.
“Perhaps it will take electing a determined and feisty female Lib-Dem to turn that around in standing up for our Police and communities.” Wiltshire PCC Candidate Liz Webster opened up about her life, priorities for the role, and her reasons for standing….
If our jolly chinwag with Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner candidate, Johnathon Seed, last month went supernova, hijacked with best intentions by those offended with field sports (oops, did I say field sports, when I meant the inglorious barbaric biota slaughter dressed as a requisite pageant?) and we found solace with the hospitable dude, Mike Rees, who independently campaigns for the same position, it’s all kind of, I dunno, left me in limbo.
My apologies if you came here looking for impartiality, you should know by now, I don’t dither on traditionalisms. Still, I’m between a rock and hard place, questioning the necessity for politics within this PCC job thingy, as while Rees favours his wealth of on-the-job experience, Seed is adamant politics is essential.
I went searching for a third opinion, and found it with the Liberal Democrat’s PCC candidate, Liz Webster. But I discovered more than I bargained for. Away from campaigning, Liz runs a farm with her husband and stressed her passion for the future of farming. “It’s calving season,” she explained, “and I’m deeply worried about trade deals that will be a disaster for our environment, animal welfare, food standards and for shoppers and farmers alike.” Liz and her husband set up campaign website, Save British Farming, protesting the Government’s current Agriculture and Trade Bills.
I didn’t want to dwell on my aforementioned ruckus, wanted the focus today to be what she would bring to the table, but I felt it imperative to ask Liz for her views on fox hunting, if she encourages the law to be upheld on these matters, oh and the boy’s ruckus too!
“I’m too busy responding to residents’ concerns about speeding, anti-social behaviour, domestic violence, pet theft, police station closures, drug dealers and cyber-crime to pay attention to personal spats between other candidates,” she stated.
“However, I have had very many anxious residents ask me asking about fox hunting, so here is where I stand. As an animal lover and keen horse rider when young, I have never had any involvement in hunting. My husband and I farm at the northern tip of Wiltshire and we work with Matt Prior on his Marlborough Downs: Space for Nature project to conserve and protect wildlife on our farm.”
“Animal welfare matters to me. which is why I’ve been campaigning for Wiltshire Police to treat the crime of pet theft much more seriously, and I’m having some success. I want the law strengthened in this area. Protecting our pets, farmed animals and wildlife is important.”
“If the voters of Wiltshire and Swindon vote me in as our next Police and Crime Commissioner, I will urge that all laws to protect our animals, including our wildlife, are respected and that we investigate and prosecute those that break the law.”
Below is an extract of a recently published article which Liz penned. The section sets out her views on the issue, and farmed animal welfare, “which aligns with the vast majority of our citizens,” Liz expressed, “and against those of our current Prime Minister, and apparently my Conservative opponent.”
Take the latest discovery of his (Boris Johnson) opinions on foxhunting laws from an article he wrote for the Spectator in 2005. In it, he said: “It is like skiing, in that you are personally tracing, at speed, the contour of the landscape, and then there is the added interest of the weird semi-sexual relation with the horse, in which you have the illusion of understanding and control. There is the military-style pleasure of wheeling and charging as one, the emulative fun of a pseudo-campaign.” [our emphasis]
Boris Johnson, 2005
He argued that the foxhunting ban was “a Marxian attack” by the Labour government on the upper classes and nothing to do with animal cruelty, and he urged foxhunters to break the law and keep killing animals.
Bizarre that he should totally disregard the will of the people that is still overwhelmingly against hunting, irrespective of the relationship with the horse, semi-sexual or otherwise.
It’s one rule for them and another for us: let them eat chlorinated chicken and hormone infused meat! Boris Johnson also completely ignores the will of the people on food and animal welfare standards.
Recent polls have shown that between 80 and 90% of the public are aligned against lowering our standards to help deliver a quick and grubby USA trade deal.
Righteousness aside, I’m forever baffled by his weird semi-sexual relation with the horse, but I’m too nauseated to ponder deeper, and there’s not much which dribbles from his Gugelhupf-hole that makes sense to me. But we must push on, the importance of politics in the duties of police crime commissioner is my kingpin, and I asked Liz, “why?”
“Our Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) takes decisions that impact on all of us,” Liz replied. “They set the strategic priorities for our Police Force. Those decisions will reflect their values, those values are why people join together in political parties. The political alignment of the candidates should provide voters with assurances and clues about how those decisions will made.”
“My values are liberal; that means being open, tolerant, caring and respectful of others, being inclusive, strong on the importance of communities and our environment but also willing to listen and to compromise to make real progress. For example, I believe that putting real effort and resources into community cohesion will prevent crime and limit damage. That’s why I’m a Liberal Democrat.”
“Now that we, the people get to choose our PCC it is important that we know their values, where they stand on the key issues and what their priorities are. Mine are set out in my Plan for Wiltshire. I have experienced very directly the reality of inadequate action, funding and systemic failure. That woke me up to the reality that I should not stand quietly and watch but get involved to prevent it happening to others.”
If you supposed Liz Webster just woke up one day and thought, I know, I fancy being police crime commissioner, think again. The revelation came to her a decade ago, when her eldest son, Henry, was the victim of a hate crime in one of Wiltshire’s schools. “He was attacked by a gang with hammer. Like all parents, I trusted The Ridgeway School and the Local Council who are the Education Authority to be responsible for my children’s safety while they were at school.”
“When they failed to protect Henry,” Liz expressed, “that fundamental belief ensured I campaigned hard for three and half years for real change and eventually succeeded in getting an independent inquiry (Serious Case Review) published. That set out the lessons that had to be learnt to stop horrific attacks on children from happening again. I have written an article which touches on some of these lessons.”
“The Conservatives say they dislike ‘big government.’ Their grip on power over the last decade has seen our public services cut to the bone. Wiltshire Police – already at the bottom of the funding league table – has suffered deeply damaging cuts at the hand of Conservatives. This has ensured that our communities are less safe and left our police force feeling undervalued.”
“Seven Conservative MPs, two Conservative Councils and a Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (and all mostly male) have allowed this to happen. Perhaps it will take electing a determined and feisty female LibDems to turn that around in standing up for our Police and communities.”
Liz has said, “Wiltshire is one of the lowest funded police forces in the country because of an outdated formula which favours densely populated urban counties,” a notion also high on Johnathon Seed’s agenda. Yet while Liz recently wrote to the Home Secretary, she hasn’t responded. Meanwhile, hey-ho, pictures are circulating of Mr Seed blushing over Priti Patel as if she was Marilyn Monroe, (with a decided lack of facemask and social distancing measures I might add, though perhaps being beside the point!)
Isn’t this proof of a self-righteous, monopolising attitude with conservatives, where taking total control of not only government but our councils and policing too is paramount; there’s no room for any alternative? You don’t got to answer that; I put it Liz!
“The Conservatives are all about being in power,” she replied, (you think?!) “Both they and the Labour Party centralise power. Liberals believe in decentralising power. That’s why I’m passionate about setting up and properly supporting Community Safety Forums and making sure our senior Police Officers attend and listen to residents’ real concerns.”
“They make campaign promises are not anchored in reality, like my Conservative opponent’s pledge to recruit an extra one hundred police officers with no explanation of the vast increase in the precept that it will take to get anywhere near this or the vast practical problems of getting it done.”
“I want our Government to fairly fund Wiltshire Police and to be smart about how we use technology and increased community engagement to tackle and prevent crime and get local parish, town and Wiltshire and Swindon Borough Councils working with charities, school, businesses and volunteers alongside our Police.”
“The Conservative candidate is attacking the policies of the Conservative incumbent PCC, the Conservative Council, of which he is a member, and the Conservative Government that he surely voted for. He is gaslighting his past very active campaigning to get rid of the hunting ban, ignoring the fact that he has spent four years sitting on the Police and Crime Panel where all these issues and policies on the Police estate were discussed, just to try to get himself elected.”
“Both the Labour and Conservative PCC candidates have been sitting councillors on the Police and Crime Panel and yet neither have installed cost effective technology to deal with speeding in their wards and neither said a word about the police station closures until now.”
“As PCC I will be straight forward with people, make communications and community engagement my priority. Look at smart ways and good ideas being used by other police forces. Look to get our Police, local councils, schools, businesses and community organisation working together rather than against each other.”
I’ll tip my cap, shine your shoes for a shilling, guvnor and suppose it’s the working class in me which, throughout my warming to Liz and her policies, maintain clarity in Mike Rees’s argument; a PCC with on-hand experience is greater than a political standpoint.
Her angle and priority on rural theft of pets, trees and hedges, no matter how big the budget, and how many new officers are employed, in a rural setting cannot be everywhere all the time. Ergo, a bigger budget allowing more officers and resources will solve crimes and capture criminals more efficiently, but it’s not as proactive in preventing crimes as on-hand experience. Learned that from Telly Savalas, they call it “the hunch!”
But Liz thinks, “unfortunately, I think Mike Rees is standing for the wrong job. I think we wants to be Chief Constable not our Police and Crime Commissioner. Judging by his comments, so does my Conservative opponent. A Police and Crime Commissioner is not a military or police operational role. No one standing in this election should be trying to replace our Chief Constable.”
Yeah, but Mike looks more like Telly Savalas than Liz does!
“The role of the PCC is to involve our communities, enhance their support for and engagement with our Police to make our lives safer. They are also required to listen to the public and give candid feedback and direction when community needs are not being met or when real issues like pet theft are being ignored or downgraded.”
“The PCC is there to set the strategy for safer communities and to influence how policing is delivered to prevent crime and protect people and ensure that victims voices are heard. They are a bridge between the people and the police.”
“A successful PCC should strive to deliver less crime, less victims, safer communities and a happier police force. You do that by making good collegiate decisions and by working effectively with others that can help deliver those goals.”
“My family were victims in one of Wiltshire’s more high-profile cases back in 2007 when Wiltshire Police was run by the Police Authority and not by the PCC. We found that as the victims of this horrific crime we were marginalised. The whole emphasis was on the prosecution of the case and the protection of the offenders.”
“My son and several of the offenders were minors. But my son did not get same protection as his attackers. To this day some of them enjoy the luxury of anonymity as their identities were protected from the media. My son’s pictures and our address were printed in newspapers within hours of the attack. We had no help to deal with the media onslaught at the same time as we dealt with a serious medical emergency.”
“If I am elected, one of my key jobs I will ensure that Wiltshire Police are reminded to that the victims of crime need real help and support.”
It’s inspiring motivation from a moving and terrible incident, summed up by her campaign’s strapline: Offering a more victim-led and preventative approach to the role of Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner. But how do we prevent rural crime such as the aforementioned animal theft, and even speeding through sleepy villages, when they’re so hard to police due to the openness of the countryside?
“Farming in a very rural corner of Wiltshire,” Liz started, “I am thoroughly awake to the difficulties we face dealing with rural crime. That’s why I have put forward practical policies that will help tackle such crimes. For example, I want to immediately abolish the position of deputy PCC. After discussions with our Chief Constable, I want that money used for a Traveller liaison officer to ensure cohesion throughout our rural communities.”
“I want to create a county wide DNA database for livestock to tackle sheep and cattle rustling, a growing area of violent, organised crime. This approach would combine that with reaching out to ensure all Farm vehicles and items are logged and safely returned.”
“Iam committed to using smart and cost-effective camera technology to tackle speeding in our villages and rural areas. This will empower our excellent Community Speed Watch teams. It will identify those driving without paying their road tax and deter and detect offenders of rural crime.”
Liz recently posted thoughts on an article about what controls the state should be allowed to hold on to once things start to get back normal, as Covid infections and fatalities reduce. She wrote, “the balance between safety and freedom is an eternal tug of war, but it’s paramount that the suspensions of freedoms agreed in a health emergency don’t become permanent.” But with government’s talk of free speech reform, and scrapping the bill of human rights, on top of predicted poverty increases due to economic downturn, tensions are bound to mount. How would police in Wilts under Liz’s control react to possible protests, racist and hate crime, and acts of violence bought about by this tension?
“My values are centred in the Human Right Act” Liz affirmed, “it is effectively the incorporation of the document, drafted in large part by the UK, post the atrocities of the Second World War – the European Convention on Human Rights – of which the UK is a founding member. To withdraw from a commitment that guaranteed certain rights for all, regardless of your political affiliation is anti-British.”
“It is of great concern that the economic and financial impacts of Covid19 could see tensions run high. That is why we need a PCC who will make communicating with the public a priority and really values community engagement, as I do. A PCC who will, through social interventions and crime prevention policies seek to settle tensions rather than preside over their explosion.”
“As a mother I experienced directly what happens if things are ignored and tensions are allowed to build to flashpoint; it ends in violence and threat to life, to the life of my son, Henry. Having lived through that nightmare, I would never sit by and allow that to happen to other families. I am someone who wants to enjoy living in a county which is free and safe.”
“The rights to free speech and peaceful protest are fundamental. They have been respected in our country down the years. The tolerant attitude they represent alongside the rule of law is part of why Britain has been respected around the world. But should protest or hate speech break the law, lead to damage and violence then, of course, the lawbreakers must be held to account and brought to justice, whoever they are.”
Very liberal response! But that’s where its advantageous to have a Lib Dem PCC, rather than another Conservative who’ll surely simply toe the line. “Yes, I can confirm that I am a Liberal Democrat,” Liz said. “Within our broad set of Liberal principles, I am free to think for and be myself. To use my strengths to communicate openly and honestly without being told what to do or say. The Conservative Party has become increasingly extreme and intolerant, forcing out good people because they disagreed with Brexit and had the courage to say so. No wonder Nigel Farage was happy to instruct his candidates to stand down at the General Election and so many UKIP members joined the Conservative Party. Another Conservative PCC will see more of the same. Wiltshire will stay at the bottom of the funding pile.”
I don’t know about you, but all I see these days, perhaps due to lockdown, is internet and phone scams. It’s an international issue rather than county, but does Liz think police could do better in this area? “More international action is needed to control the internet and telephone scams,” she explained, “but yes with such a widespread issue the only answer is to educate and support people as best we can. This is why the PCC needs to have the ability and motivation to work closely with other those who support vulnerable people in our communities. Our businesses, particularly the smaller ones and those run by self-employed people are also an increasing target of these cyber criminals. I have a meeting with a women’s business group next week to discuss the increasing levels of crime they are experiencing. I will report back on this issue.”
Domestic abuse rising is another topical post hot on Liz’s social media campaign, stressing the importance of calling a helpline. “Perhaps as the only female candidate this issue of domestic abuse is high on my agenda,” she expressed. “It highlights the need for far more education and empowerment of women. That is the real way of breaking this dire crime that means people cannot feel safe in their own homes.”
“I also welcome and back enthusiastically the Ask Ana initiative. This has seen training staff in pharmacies to enable victims of domestic abuse to simply “ask for Ana”. That code will see them taken into the pharmacy private space and be linked to trained police and support staff. This is a great example of what I mean by harnessing all of our communities’ various resources to combat crime and keep people safe.”
“I am also fully committed to ensuring the essential services offered by Domestic Abuse charities are properly funded and resourced. I have met with the leaders of our domestic abuse refuge in Swindon. If I am elected, I will go above what has already been done to ensure this vital service is protected.”
I’m grateful to Liz, and immediately warmed to her and her campaign, she has good sense of direction, motivation for engaging positively and justly in the role, and given her save British Farming campaign, will no doubt have a close and honoured connection with Wiltshire folk.
I’m supposing now there may be a need for political perspective within the role of PCC, however much I’ve taken to Mike’s approach. If so, I believe we must not take this disheartening conception that there is no alternative, as red. You’re welcomed to name-call, assume my political stance, but I’m growing evermore sceptical of the nodding dog which is Keir Starmer, but I won’t bow to this Tory appropriation; there is an alternative, and perhaps, just perhaps Police Crime Commissioner is a great place to start the trial.
I thank Liz for taking time out of her busy schedule on the campaign trail, which you can find out more about here, and wish her all the very best. Still, none of them will beat Kojak in my honest opinion; cootchie-coo, he loves ya, baby!
To clarify, I like dunking biscuits into my tea, but if it’s not my cup of tea, and someone else wants to dip their biscuit in it, why on Earth would I have a problem? It affects me in no way whatsoever, it has zero consequences to my brew, nada.
If I dunk my biscuit into your tea, however, half drops off and dissolves into your cup, we might have a minor issue; it’s impolite and I should’ve asked first. Truth be told, though, this has never manifested, because I’ve basic manners, and only dunk into my own tea. Ergo, I say; dunk, and let others dunk. It’s a fair and just modern tenet, tasty too, you should try it sometime.
Since Henry VIII’s Buggery Act of 1533, of which defines the term as “an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and Man,” the timeline of LGBT history in UK law reads like the genocidal presupposing of a tyrannical third world regime. Wrought with disturbing arrogances, cruel and misconstrued judgements and fatal sentences, its roots lie biblically, a confine we no longer adhere our hearts and souls fully into, anyway. Least we accept the book was drafted over centuries of prejudiced editing by megalomaniac nutcases who couldn’t possibly have known the word of god any more than an amoeba knows the name of the pond it lives on.
As time moves forward, the religious connotations are secreted under political judgement, yet so inherit is our belief in chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus, “thou shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination,” and for the sake of obeying, it will be 328 years after the passing of the Buggery Act, that the death penalty for it was abolished. Here’s my melon-twister for starters, if law had to be based on the apparent, word of god, what happened, when executing an offender, to deadly sin number five, Ὀργή, or “wrath” to us? And while you’re explaining that one to me, maybe explicate Luke 6:37 too; “do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven?”
Hard to imagine, this would be the way of things until only fifty-four years ago, when despite restrictions The Sexual Offences Act 1967 legalized consensual homosexual acts, privately, and only for over twenty-ones. My own lifetime witnessed this step in the right direction continue. Through the hullabaloo of celebs bravely confessing and campaigning, even during the dawn of AIDS, as Boy George and many others colourfully threw it in their faces, pride to be homosexual was still controversial and a long way from general acceptance. The ingrained discrimination turned from angered hatred to taboo, and the butt of the joke. Dick Emery made his fortune; his angle was awful, but we liked him.
Sticks and stones, not quite as bad as the death penalty, though psychologically damaging, it’s been a rocky road to where we now sit, dunking our biscuits. A gender-neutral era of law, media acceptance and general consensus, where anyone can marry anyone, where the sexual orientation of pop stars is of no significance, and when a character in a prime-time children’s cartoon, namely The Loud House, can have two Dads. A notion as brilliant as the colours of a rainbow.
Even to look back as recent as twenty years ago, where Will Young “came out of the closet,” society has achieved something unthinkable given the history, and for everyone hung, to those necessitating toilet trading, and from those who hid in denial and shame to those queens who wafted it their judicious faces, despite your personal orientation, this is something, in my view to be proud of, and to celebrate.
Yet, when the social media manager of those ordered by government to uphold the law decides to acknowledge this acceptance, on the shortest month of the year marking LGBT History Month, by taking two minutes out of their day to add rainbow colours symbolising Pride, to the backdrop of their Facebook logo, cabin-fevered keyboard warriors gather to accumulate a thread of hatred comments, condemning the decision.
Yep, despite the repulsive and discriminating history, when we finally reach this trailblazing conjunction, Wiltshire Police’s temporary Facebook profile picture is plagued by self-righteous little Englanders, again shamelessly twisting the narrative of positivity for their own wonky agenda. It comes from the same school of thought which devised “All Lives Matter.” Regardless of the plight of a cause, they have to have their share of the glory, less launch their toys from their prams.
Given the plight and horrors history exposes on the campaign, you really have an issue with this?
Largely, the feeble excuse for their prejudges was police should be out there, arresting people, as if every officer on the force gathered around one laptop, each clicking one Photoshop option. See here, it took me precisely two minutes to lone extract a rainbow backdrop off Google and paste it onto my logo, and I kind of like it, might keep it, if it annoys.
The other popular justification is in doing this, police are side-tracking and singling out a particular group, precariously extenuating the issue. Humm… only, it seems by bringing it to your personal attention. Wiltshire Police explain their reasoning, “the rainbow is a symbol of hope. It represents everyone, irrespective of their sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability. People are people. All of us need kindness, tolerance and acceptance. Please remember this when you post your comments.”
Top answer is, survey says no; “Just accept people for who they are, there is no room for any form of prejudice, but I cannot help but think that highlighting individual groups just widens the gap, instead of building the bridge.” Really? Two “buts;” you like buts?
Think historically, the death penalty denotes the gap started quite wide, awareness and celebration of said cognizance is a bridge building machine. Some need to take a long hard look at themselves, and dunk their custard cream in a fresh new cuppa. Growling at a rainbow like a dog barks at the moon; give me strength!
One can only conclude, even if it’s ingrained and those passing negative opinion genuinely believe they’re not discriminating, they are. Your archaic notion of abhorrence is regressive, and yet again, unwelcome to general consensus.
If you trust there’s no need to symbolise this progress, then there’s no need to pass negative comment. But by the very fact you did, represents a definite need to; snakes and ladders. Because there’s looming underlining issue, and it lies in your own psyche. Ergo, eradication is teetering, we’ve come a long way; u ok, hun? If the reprehensible repercussions of this episode represent anything, it is not Pride, but shame, and evidently, the sat-nav of equality has not announced we are at our destination, quite yet.
Is it campaign point-scoring, as the authorities seem to presume, or concern for health which encouraged Wiltshire PCC candidate, Mike Rees to volunteer to administer lateral flow tests? Whatever, the bottom line is discouraging anyone from attempting to help out during this crisis is bureaucratic nonsense.
And besides, just a brief chat with Mike recently, throughly convinced me his motives are genuine. He’s an open minded, authentic and down-to-earth guy, with experience in the field and a passion for the role.
Mike explains: “It’s with great surprise and disappointment that I have to let you know that I have been stopped, and apparently barred, from becoming a volunteer in the police effort to combat Covid19.
As a retired police officer I put my name forward for volunteer duties last year when the pandemic struck.
This month I answered another call to volunteer to administer lateral flow tests to police officers and staff. I had a training session earlier this week and completed the online NHS assessment and passed to certificate my competency for the task.
Today I was expecting to attend a ‘dry run’ session however I’ve now been told I cannot attend as they have to investigate the ‘rules’ as allowing me to volunteer may suggest bias on their part because I’m a candidate for the role of Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner.
I’m disappointed and dismayed to be denied the opportunity to volunteer to support the police, a force I worked in for 30 years.
I’ve asked for the ‘rules’ to be clarified as I see no possible concerns.
For your information, I do not agree with this decision to bar me from volunteering.
I’m standing as an independent candidate, not aligned to any political party and volunteering was a personal decision.”
Mike is fast becoming the outside chance of becoming our PCC, and we’re backing him fully here on Devizine after his Malmesbury boxing club recently helped out the homeless, appealing for donations of sleeping bags , food and clothes from locals and delivering them to the OpenDoors support agency in Devizes.
Plus, this is, by far, not the first charitable thing Mike has engaged in.
Busy day, chatting to Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner candidates and The Wilts Hunt Sabs; something is conflicting…
In 2012 five members of the Avon Vale Hunt, including the master huntsman and Wiltshire councillor, Jonathon Seed appeared in court charged with breaching the Hunting Act 2004. Though they all denied the breach before magistrates in Chippenham, Seed made a statement released to the Wiltshire Times,“This is a private prosecution by the RSPCA and I believe that it has been commenced for political reasons, as their stance against hunting is well known and it is of great significance that Wiltshire Police, after advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, declined to take this case forward. These proceedings are an abuse of the private prosecution system, which needs to be addressed in due course.”
And how best to address said abuse? Elect to become Police Crime Commissioner, that’s how. Perhaps it’s an episode the councillor wishes would disappear, going on the rather defensive attitude he put up when I chatted with him about his campaign this morning. And for what’s it’s worth, he provided some great ideas and valid points on subjects he attempted to divert me onto, but I was wondering where he actually stood on hunting, being, you know, it’s illegal, and he’s wants to be Police Crime Commissioner, just felt, well, a tad conflicting.
“Okay, so, not about the campaign then,” he started.
But I think it’s relevant. “Hunting is illegal,” I pointed to the seemingly obvious, “surely we would want a PCC who upholds the law?”
“Are you suggesting that I wouldn’t want the law upheld?” came Jonathon’s reply. Had to say, far from suggesting anything, the question was built behind the datum the huntsmaster for the Avon Vale hunt appeared in court with allegations he broke the law. And upon experts in the field, Wiltshire Hunt Sabs, who seemed convinced laws had been broken that day. “The badger sett incident,” they confirmed, “it’s clear evidence they were illegally hunting. It’s illegal to use terriers underground (the exemption is in relation to birds, which isn’t relevant on a hunt.) There can only be one reason for sending terriers to ground and that is to flush a fox.”
“You were,” I checked, “huntsmaster for the Avon Vale hunt at the time?”
“You will already know that I was,” Johnathon stated, “the allegation against me that was unfounded was dropped and is covered in the blog.”
Wiltshire Hunt Sabs claimed, “it wasn’t unfounded at all, the current Huntmaster (Stuart Radborne) was found guilty of interfering with the sett. The fact they couldn’t prove hunting act charges is yet more evidence that the law around hunting needs tightening.”
“Do you have anything to ask about the campaign,” Johnathon inquired, “or are you just interested in the Avon Vale Hunt?”
Yes, I do. So, I asked him, “if successful in the post, would you therefore discourage police to act against hunting offences? I mean, I understand, because they’d be personal friends engaged in something you firmly believe in. Also, would you support a turnaround of the law to allow hunting?”
And thus, came the jaw-dropper.
“I have spoken to thousands of people about policing over the last four years,” he said, “residents, officers, volunteers, victims of crime and nobody has wanted to talk about hunting other than trolls online.” Rather than be labelled a “troll,” by Tory boss-cop I allowed myself to be side-tracked. Jonathon was keen to lobby government for further funding, “Wiltshire is the third poorest funded force per head of population in the country, it needs overhauling and I will work with government to achieve this.”
“I have spoken to thousands of people about policing over the last four years,” he said, “residents, officers, volunteers, victims of crime and nobody has wanted to talk about hunting other than trolls online.”
Funds would put more officers in our communities, and offer better support for training and officers and staff’s mental health, and I cannot argue with this, though I pondered why it should be; are we all so better behaved in rural Wiltshire, so we don’t need as much policing as an urban area? I know I am!
“Historic underfunding of the force will continue to be an issue due to the way the funding formula is weighted towards some areas,” Johnathon explained, “The current PCC has done nothing to improve the situation and I believe the public deserve a PCC who will lobby the heart of government for better funding.”
I overlooked the oxymoron; “heart of government.”
In true Conservative fashion he blamed Labour, because fourteen years isn’t enough to up a budget. “The formula was created under Blair so naturally favoured labour voting areas,” he reckoned. “Getting the central government funding addressed has to be a priority. Just because we are a rural county doesn’t mean we don’t have sophisticated criminals operating in our towns and villages; domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation, modern day slavery, county drugs lines all affect our communities….”
“And fox hunters?” I added!
“It’s a shame that without knowing me or talking to me you would assume I would actively seek to have the law overlooked,” Johnathon asserted. “I do not and would not want our police to do this for any crime. The Chief Constable has my full backing to ensure that the law is upheld. There is no picking and choosing who the police ‘police.’ Operational policing isn’t the responsibility of the PCC.”
On the front seems Johnathon has good policies, but they’re undoubtably all politically motivated. Do we need a local councillor in the role, or someone who has been actively in the field, policing? I also spoke to independent candidate Mike Rees, passionate about delivering a quality police service for the people. And have to admit, it was akin to chatting to eager musicians when interviewing them. In fact, if there’s irony in voting for a police candidate suspected of breaking the law, the only similarity is that Mike is in a heavy rock band called “the Lawless!”
He told me of annual fundraising gigs at Level III with a plethora of other bands, which has raised £13K for his own charity “Fatboy’s Cancer Charity,” which aims to bring a smile to children who are suffering from cancer or have other life-threatening illnesses. He was also adamant he loved animals, and aside his respect for traditional aspects of rural life, more needed to be done to enforce the Hunting Act. Mike went as far as telling me he’d like to set up a hedgehog rescue centre in his retirement.
“I know there’s a difference between what the boss says and what the police see,I’d like to see a happy workforce, not demoralised.” He expressed a want to improve the service, the relationship between officers and the bosses, and the public, as he’s been on the beat in Swindon, working up through surveillance and CID to counter-terrorism, called in to help during the London bombing. “No wool pulled over my eyes,” Mike added.
“We’ve seen year on year increases to the policing precept, yet no tangible changes or improvements to the service the public of Wiltshire receive,” Mike stated, “seems evident to me and the many people who I speak with, that the Police sometimes do not have the resources to deal with many of the basic responsibilities that we expect; and all too often we see the cracks of struggling service delivery being papered over with a slick marketing campaign, or dare I say it, a social media post!”
“I know that savings can be made, and I also know how tax-payers money is sometimes squandered by Police managers,” he continued. “A politician who doesn’t understand policing can be told that something is required or best value, and will just accept what they are told. I know whether it is actually nice to have or need to have. Spending needs to be scrutinised very closely and I would look to do that to ensure money is diverted to the right resources and needs.”
Though Mike said Jonathon Seed was “very critical of Independent Candidates on his Facebook page recently. To my knowledge, I am the only independent candidate for Wiltshire so his comments are clearly directed to me!” But “the last thing I want to do is get involved in a continual slanging match with any of the other candidates.” Which is just as well for them, as an amateur boxer, I wouldn’t argue!
Jonathon Seed was “very critical of Independent Candidates on his Facebook page recently.”
He compared his own campaign budget to Johnathon’s on the precept he doesn’t mind if he doesn’t get the job, estimating Seed has “about £50k to spend on campaigning, I’ve got about £50, and I begrudge paying that! Money is squandered when it should be to improve services.”
The hunting issue will always be a touchy subject in any rural settings with opinions so divided. But the law is the law, and if anyone upholds it, it should be Police Crime Commissioner. Though while Mr Seed’s blogposts call for his innocence, they also state: “Millions of people in this country engage in perfectly legal fishing, hunting and shooting pastimes and should not be demonised and bullied by a small but vocal minority who do not approve of these pastimes,” and “It is utterly irrelevant to the vast majority of the electorate whether or not a political candidate had a lawful interest in country sports along with millions of other law-abiding people.” Left me wondering how defending wild animals under lawful methods, could possibly deemed demonising and bullying.
“If you wanted to ask me something sensible about fox hunting,” Johnathon said, “rather than the usual stuff that has been well rehearsed and I know doesn’t resonate with rural voters, ask me my views on the change to trespass and who it will apply to.”
But I didn’t like to ask, changing rules to trespass blatantly is there to halt operations from protesters. The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs said, “we’d love to know if he still hunts, we haven’t seen him out with the AVH, but there was a rumour he may go out with the Tedworth. I suspect he has paused for the election. It’s interesting he calls concerned members of the public “trolls”. How arrogant do you have to be to think that regular members of the public aren’t interested in his background as a fox hunter!”
I’ll let the hits on this article decide, and leave it there. I’m all for deciding the next Police Crime Commissioner based purely on a doughnut eating contest, might be easier, might even win myself! Then you’d all be buggered!
Officers were called to the house and requested the party was be shut down in line with COVID-19 regulations, and claims their pleas were ignored. A spokesperson for Wiltshire Police said, (which I’ve had to amend the basic grammar of, like a primary school teacher): “As we continue to navigate through the COVID pandemic, we all have to take personal responsibility for our actions and adhere to the regulations.”
“Despite a warning, the organiser allowed the gathering of 80-100 people to continue, which is in clear breach of the current restrictions. Which states that ‘no gathering of more than 30 people may take place indoors, which would constitute a rave, if it were outdoors; amplified music, at night and due to loudness, duration and time it would likely cause significant distress to locals.”
Partygoers were dispersed and the hefty fine was issued. It’s a substantial amount for anyone to digest, the website stated, “there is no discretion given to set a lower amount.” Job done police, story dusted and archived. In my opinion, though, I’m afraid it feels far from over and arguably raises a number of questions.
I feel impelled ask then, firstly, was it shut down for safety reasons, due to the pandemic, or as the Wiltshire Police spokesman clearly states here, “amplified music at night would likely cause significant distress to locals?”
I cannot help but agree in this era of the pandemic we all must consider the risks and act accordingly, but the environment must be attained for people to want to do this, and take action appropriately, rather than feel they are being forced by law. Yes, the organiser and everyone who attended was putting their own health and the health of others at risk, and were foolish to do so. And when the officers attempted to engage with the group, they should have taken heed. Yet they should have wanted to do this of their own free will.
The harder the law, the more likely the rebellion toward it, though it may be important for the law to be enforced, an unaffordable fine such as this is draconian. It’s likely to have an adverse effect from the youth, who understandably see their lives disrupted in the same manner as everyone else, yet with no clear indication of ideas are being pitched to support them.
We’re casting our children out into the riskiest easing of lockdown ruling since it began, by returning them to school and college, and though you may deem it necessary, can you not also see they must feel like lab rats?
From all ancient philosophies and all of history we see a continuous pattern; people wishing to gather and celebrate is ingrained in our psyche and culture. And let’s face it, the conservative ethos set to stamp out partying long before this pandemic.
The breakup of the trend of the free festival scene in the eighties, only constituted a bigger problem to attempt to outlaw, the raves in the nineties. Retrospective youth cultures we can reflect back on now, and realise and agree the occurrences of these events were not only ground-breaking for artistic progression, and memorable for the attendees, but in reality, harmless fun.
Regulating and eventual normalising of the Criminal Justice Bill, saw something far worse; a political and social rejection of society, and a fight between police and people; a disgruntled conflict.
The psychological effect of lockdown is only just beginning to be felt, as we venture away from it. You feel isolation for the elderly was difficult, how was it for our younger generation who, by the illusion of timespan, six months feels far longer? The need in younger people to party must be recognised, as I’d imagine older generations reflect upon their youth misdoings. Rather we’re stamping our authority around and closing individual cases with a pat on the back and a job well done. We should, as a society in the dawn of change, be considering how we can arrange and organise celebratory events and parties sensibly and safely.
We have managed to adopt and implement new systems for shopping, for eating out, travel, and all other activities older generations wish to engage in, we should now focus on ways to keep the younger satisfied too. I don’t profess to have the answers, but believe by thinking together, and frankly, giving a hoot about our entire population, we can work out methods to accomplish it. Furthermore, if ideas were suggested and implemented so parties could go ahead safely, the need and want to break the law will surely lessen.
Break up the party, yes indeed, as we’re far from out of the water, but chuck people a paddle. They need a release; they need party and celebrate now more than ever in these trying times. If not, issue 10k fines to all who break the regulations; every grandad who forgets and leans over you in a supermarket, every businessman internationally jetting around the world, anyone, I dunno, who felt like driving across the country during lockdown to visit a castle, perhaps?
So, Devizine exists to highlight and promote local events and I try my best, apart from the odd bit of cheeky satire, to steer away from political matters. Yet I’m both heartbroken and at a loss for words this afternoon, chatting online to Pewsey mum, Tanya Borg. But within it, there is an event I need to let you know about, in this horrid mess, please read on….
Tanya’s two daughters, Angel and Maya were abducted by their father five years ago, and taken to Libya to live with his family. After being granted full custody in both nations, Tanya travelled to Libya to rescue them, but Tanya explains when they tried to get away, they were bundled in a car and driven away. She hasn’t seen or had contact with them since.
Red tape between the Crown Prosecution Service and Wiltshire Police has prevented further action from being taken, and under advice of the CPS, Wiltshire Police have closed the case. “The CPS are saying they don’t tell the police what to do,” Tanya explained, “But Wiltshire Police are saying the CPS don’t want to take the case.” I cannot imagine how distraught she must be. “You have no idea,” Tanya continued, “Angry. Frustrated. Sad. My daughters need help.”
In fear for the treatment of her daughters, Tanya went to explain how, after a court order for joint custody, their grandmother wouldn’t allow them to leave the house, so Tanya tried for full custody, but they ran away with the children. Angel is now twenty, and Maya just eight. A Daily Mail article exposes the issue, with a video of the father’s family driving them away. It is with hope the video will pressure British authorities to reopen the case.
This is where I asked if Tanya had or has any further contact with them, and the short answer was “no.” In England we complain about this, whinge about that, the bus being delayed etc, we really don’t understand how life is in Libya. “Because there is no authorities inside Libya, due to the situation, as Libya is at war with itself,” Tanya detailed, “it is dangerous, and that is their excuse, but now there has been a newly elected government, they could at least try, that is what is most upsetting, they haven’t even tried. I feel like my children don’t matter, because I am not of status.”
Firstly, Tanya has a GoFundMe campaign page, where you can contribute. “It’s a corrupt country, and money talks,” she explains, “I can’t do anything without it.” Tanya has spoken to Claire Perry, who passed it onto the Minister of the African Department, “which say,” Tanya claimed, “They cannot do anything.” MP Danny Kruger has been emailed, which was my first port-of-call, and we await a response.
Tanya plans to take a protest to Downing Street on the 8th August, but has also staged an event in Pewsey on the 25th July. Meeting at the Cooper’s Arms at 3pm, the protest will follow the eminent carnival route. “My eldest daughter,” Tanya explained, “was carnival princess back in 2011.” They will be chanting “Free Angel and Maya,” but ask protesters observe social distancing and wear facemasks. “I would love as many people to attend and support,” she hopes, “to help me bring my babies home.” Tanya will also be organising a local coach for the Downing Street protest.
Navigating my footing becoming trickier as guy-ropes criss-crossed my path midst the shadowy maze of tents, still I chased. For reasoning I need not go into, the pursued managed to grab two twenty-pound notes from my wallet, one of which I snatched back, the other he made off with. The fleeting moment had gone from bad to worse, at this huge, anarchic festival. Now I was alone, chasing this kid. He had encouraged me not to follow, threatened to “carve me up.” I doubted his word; “carve me up,” over a score?
The notion arrived at my frontal lobe when he abandoned escape, turned to flash a blade at me. It only registered once I was an inch away, and he took a swing with the knife, then, thankfully, I took heed of common sense; wasn’t worth twenty quid. I backed off; he ran. He got a note off me; sucks, but I kept my life.
Reminiscing this feels like a movie, you know, where the hero escapes with seconds to spare; utterly thoughtless to have taken it that far, there’s no reruns in real life, no alternative ending. I find myself contemplating the what ifs, in this era where knife crime is rife, so the media informs us. I stagger at the whole stupidity of it, worry for youth, in times of desperation, economic slump, taking to the streets armed is a sad reality.
To those who adopt this philosophy, look at my pitiful example of yore; you’re not a “playa,” not doing anything fresh, nothing gallant or outrageous, zilch “gangsta” pal, just foolhardiness you cannot, and will not see as such until you get wise, or on a hospital bed.
Least, I speculate, should think ourselves lucky in Wiltshire, where by comparison I believe the chances of being a victim of knife crime is way less. But how much less, and is it on the increase? What would happen to me if I was caught with a knife in Wiltshire? I thought I’d hassle Wiltshire Police’s PC Paul Woodbridge for answers. If you do take a knife out to play, maybe you couldn’t care less what the police have to say. Yeah, alright, you’re free to skip the interview part, but I beg you scroll to the conclusion under the line.
Now, the Salisbury Journal reported in January that Wiltshire is bucking the trend of increasing knife crime, and ours has gone down recently, The Swindon Advertiser ran a similar article, but back in April last year it reported precisely the opposite: “Stats show Wiltshire knife crime up 214 per cent in five years.” So, after an increase, it seems the rate is dropping locally. I asked Paul how this reflects on the knowledges of the police on the streets?
“I’m not sure where your stats come from but you may be referring to some PA figures released recently which show a hike between 2013 and 2018,” he explained. “If that’s the case then the explanation is that our recording of knife crimes has improved in that time along with more people coming forward to report such crimes, thanks to the increased publicity around this issue. Overall, our knife crime figures show Wiltshire is a safe place to live; the statistics show knife crime has dropped by 18% across the county in the past year (Sept ’17 to Sept ’18) but we won’t ever rest on our laurels, and will firmly deal with anyone who we find carrying a knife.”
The assumption is violent crime, particularly knife-crime is predominantly a city problem, how much better does our market towns like Devizes, Marlborough and Melksham compare to our larger towns and cities, like Salisbury and Swindon? “By the nature of population sizes,” PC Woodbridge clarified, “and generally speaking, smaller towns do not experience the same extent of crimes as larger towns and cities.”
Yet though I’ve been planning this article for a while now, only this morning a post on a Devizes Facebook group claimed their son was attacked by youth with a knife, and was cut across the face.
What would PC Woodbridge advise if you’re threatened with a knife? Or is this a no-brainer; I mean, I’d run, right? But what if you’re cornered? Does he think self-defence classes are a good thing? “As you said, the best advice is always to run and get help.” He continued, “get somewhere public where lots of people are, if possible, and call the police on 999. Self-defence classes are down to personal preference, but I would always look to put as much distance between me and the knife as I could.”
I wanted to gage PC Woodbridge on the wonky ethos of carrying a knife for protection, what would he say to those who do? “Statistics show that that those who carry knives are much more likely to be injured than those who don’t. Carrying a knife does not make someone safer and you will be arrested if caught with an illegal knife and not a good reason to be carrying it. You could then face time in prison.”
What about armistice in a town like Devizes? What would happen to you, what would be the process if you walked into the police station and handed over a knife? PC Woodbridge explained, “if you were to hand in a knife then we would take your details and provided there had been no offences committed, then it would be disposed of. Don’t forget in September last year we had a countywide knife amnesty as part of Wiltshire Police’s knife crime campaign, Op Sceptre, where up to 500 knives were handed in to police stations across the county and disposed of safely. We will plan other amnesties in the future.”
I asked him, what else can we do to raise awareness and promote knife crime safety? “Information and education are paramount. Our recent Op Sceptre campaign has been very successful. During a week earlier in March, we spoke to people and gave out leaflets to underline the message: ‘No knife, safer life.’ We also do a large social media and media campaign. Search for ‘Op Sceptre’ to see what was covered.”
“Op Sceptre may be over for now,” PC Woodbridge continued, “but our work doesn’t stop, we’re never complacent about knife crime and I want to remind everyone that we will respond to any intelligence and information given to us by the public; knife crime can affect anyone. We also continue working with schools and colleges to keep the safety and educational messages in the public domain.”
So, that’s what the police said, but with all due respect to PC Woodbridge, and though I’m grateful for his time, I’d wager the ones we really need to reach out to have skipped past this, don’t care for the what the police have to say. So, I reply, okay, fair enough, for now, to hell with the police, it’s just me and you here talking, right? I don’t write like the standard press, out to make money. Readers expect an honest review, so I write from the heart. Take the start of this piece for example, journalists never open on a real personal incident, okay?
I know, understand and appreciate the world may’ve dealt you a shit card. Maybe your folks did a shit job at being parents, maybe you reckon this government are selfish, backstabbing bastards, and I’d say, yeah, you’re right, mate. Must be loads guilty for how crap your life is; but the thing is, it doesn’t matter who you’d like to point the finger to, when you choose to go out and take a knife, no one is to blame in that instance, but YOU.
It is your decision. If a government doesn’t want anarchy through poverty, why would it apply pressure through consistent service and educational cuts, when the magic money tree exists? I don’t know; maybe because it’s hidden in a walled garden. They pick it for funding war, bailing themselves out by buying votes, and lavish luncheons. I swear, it’s what they want you to do, takes the pressure off them. Channel your anger at them, see? By taking a knife to some kid who maybe dissed you out of tenner, may be shagging your girlfriend, or not paid you for that eighth, taking your frustration out on any Joe Bloggs, you’re playing into their hand. I’d even go as far as saying, alright, we live in the real world; bods mug each other off, and if so, if has to come to it, take it out with fisticuffs.
The vicious cycle is that you take out a knife, and they need to take out a knife, and she needs to take out a knife and everyone’s taking out a fucking knife. Break that cycle, or, simply, someone is going to get killed, if not you, them, but shit, you’re still gonna do time for it. That is pointless and damn right stupid.
Thank you to PC Woodbridge for his valuable time, I’m not one to say if this will make everyone stop and think about it, but if just one does, that’s one life saved.