Thursday, February 23, 2006
Blair's Brave New Britain
Kurt Walker, an 18 year-old community worker and student, was walking home from his local community centre when he met up with a friend who asked him what he was up to. Kurt answered "F*** all, mate", as teenagers seem to do. Unfortunately, he was being eavesdropped by a rather zealous policewoman (who also probably had targets to meet) who decided that this statement was a breach of the peace and issued an £80 fixed penalty notice as allowed under the Public Order Act.
The fine is the same punishment he could have expected on a first offence for being drunk and disorderly, stealing goods worth up to £200 or causing £500 damage!
Kurt was understandably angry. He said, "I was gobsmacked. I walked off up the street furious. It's my right to swear in a private conversation. The police officer should not even have been listening - she was snooping. If I told what I thought of this stupid law that makes a criminal of you for swearing, I'd get another £80 fine. It's ridiculous."
Rev Ian Gregory of the Campaign for Courtesy, said: "If we were to fine everyone £80 for using that word, we could solve the national debt."
The £80 on-the-spot fines were introduced in 2003 as part of Tony Blair's 'respect' campaign, but were only supposed to be imposed at times of potential serious public order breakdown as a means of defusing the situation, - not penalising a young man walking home talking to his mate.
However, history shows that police will use powers given to them whereever and whenever thay can, and particularly when they are in the role of law enforcer, prosecutor and judge all at the same time. Unless public apathy changes to alarm at the erosion of freedom, the British will be cowed into a nation of government puppets.