Friday, January 02, 2009

A Bad End To A Holiday

I'm sure that this occurs to a greater or lesser extent in many cities throughout the western nations, but for some reason Great Britain gets the rap for drunkenness and carousing. Perhaps they really are out of control (i.e., their soccer fans getting banned throughout Europe) or maybe we Anglos love to writhe and moan whilst we self excoriate ourselves for real and imagined sins.

In either event, the Brits are on a roll as alcohol-related emergency calls to ambulance services averaged one every seven seconds during London's New Year's Eve reveries. Some of the pictures included with this UK Daily Mail article are pretty gory. I have seen worse (one broken beer bottle assault in a west end Syracuse bar brawl left the victim with over 300 stitches).

One of the commenters on this article remarked that there were relatively few arrests for drunkenness so how bad could it have been? Believe me, when police are overwhelmed in any given situation, there are not many arrests simply because the cops feel it isn't worth the hassle. Why get your brains beat out by a bunch of drunks who don't want their friends arrested? Being that they are A) highly intoxicated; B) young and C) highly intoxicated, they will not hesitate in attacking a uniformed police officer. Given the hopeless state of Britain's criminal justice system, you have a better chance of doing a major bid in prison if you shoot a burglar theatening you in your own home than if you beat a cop half to death in a drunken frenzy. These examples are from a 2002 article:

In 1987 two men assaulted Eric Butler, a 56-year-old British Petroleum executive, in a London subway car, trying to strangle him and smashing his head against the door. No one came to his aid. He later testified, "My air supply was being cut off, my eyes became blurred, and I feared for my life." In desperation he unsheathed an ornamental sword blade in his walking stick and slashed at one of his attackers, stabbing the man in the stomach. The assailants were charged with wounding. Butler was tried and convicted of carrying an offensive weapon.

In 1994 an English homeowner, armed with a toy gun, managed to detain two burglars who had broken into his house while he called the police. When the officers arrived, they arrested the homeowner for using an imitation gun to threaten or intimidate. In a similar incident the following year, when an elderly woman fired a toy cap pistol to drive off a group of youths who were threatening her, she was arrested for putting someone in fear. Now the police are pressing Parliament to make imitation guns illegal.

In 1999 Tony Martin, a 55-year-old Norfolk farmer living alone in a shabby farmhouse, awakened to the sound of breaking glass as two burglars, both with long criminal records, burst into his home. He had been robbed six times before, and his village, like 70 percent of rural English communities, had no police presence. He sneaked downstairs with a shotgun and shot at the intruders. Martin received life in prison for killing one burglar, 10 years for wounding the second, and a year for having an unregistered shotgun.

If this is the way British police operate under normal conditions, why would you expect them to do something different under extraordinary circumstances?

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