One of the most bumblingly inept of all the bumblingly inept Labour government ministers, is Tony McNulty, MP for Harrow East, and minister of state for the Home Office. McNulty, who once advised members of the public who saw a crime being committed to "jump up and down" in a bid to distract the criminal, has particular responsibility for the police service. And, in that capacity, he has once again distinguished himself as being quite possibly the most idiotic minister in the current government - a rather impressive feat, it has to be said.
Yesterday, the government, represented by the rotund figure of McNulty, brought into force a set of new laws enabling the police to challenge town centre drunks. Under these new laws, the police will be able to slap troublesome drinkers with an order, called a "direction to leave", which will have the effect of banning them from a set area for two days. If you, as a suspected troublesome drinker, fail to comply with Plod's command, you will face a fine of up to £2,500, and Plod will also be able to take your fingerprints and DNA.
Now, this sounds fairly draconian in any event. After all, if someone is actually committing a crime, then I don't see why the police should not just arrest them, and then deal with them through the conventional channels. And if they're not actually committing a crime, then I fail to see why they should be treated as if they were. However, the direction to leave will not only apply to those who are rip-roaringly drunk and causing a disturbance. It will also apply to those whom the police suspect might get rip-roaringly drunk and cause a disturbance. This can extend, not just to people who are having a drink but are not drunk, but also to people who have not even started to drink.
Quite how the police are going to identify violent drunks before they've touched a drop is beyond me. Unless the police have hitherto unknown powers of prophecy, I imagine that there will be rather a lot of guesswork involved. And, personally, I think that the idea that people can be prevented from going about their lawful business, and potentially face a very substantial fine, solely on the grounds that some semi-literate Plod thinks that they 'look the type', is repugnant.
The aim of these new police powers is to reduce alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder. And this is, of course, a perfectly laudable aim. However, I have a very radical idea, which might, just possibly, prove somewhat more effective than guesswork in preventing crime. And that is, that the police should actually do their jobs properly. Just yesterday, I wrote about the man in Portsmouth who was told by the police that he should write to his MP after his son was knocked unconscious by thugs, since there were no police officers available to deal with the crime. Now, perhaps if the police were to devote a bit more time to actually patrolling the streets at chucking out time, and a bit less time to harassing law-abiding people, then they might prove somewhat more effective at preventing alcohol-fuelled crime. Just a thought.Hat-tip: Mr Smith