Accommodating Thieves

When I first saw the headline “Gardener Ordered to Remove Barbed Wire Fence on Grounds It Could ‘Wound Thieves'” on the FoxNews website, I couldn’t believe. I thought to myself, surely this couldn’t be the case in America. This sounds like something that could only happen in Britain.

Well, upon reading the article, it is, in fact, something that could only happen in Britain. Fox picked up the story from the Daily Mail.

For those not familiar with vegetable gardening in a country with over 10 times greater population density than the US, local councils set aside plots of ground called allotments. People can rent an allotment, put a shed on it and grow some veg.

That’s what Bill Malcolm did in Worcestershire. Then over the course of four months, three times thieves wrecked his plants and stole $600 worth of tools. He even caught one of the theives red handed, but as you might suspect, the police did nothing. Bill thought the best thing to do was put up a little bit of barbed wire to discourage the yobs. Just a single strand around his patch.

It would seem a would-be thief complained to Bromsgrove Council that he might hurt himself. They have told Bill to take down the wire, because they are afraid of getting sued by injured theives. That’s right. And there is good reason for this. Thieves, who have very little chance of facing any consequences in the criminal justice system, are more than happy to sue when their victims do not roll out the red carpet and politely hand things over.

Admittedly this accommodation for thieves is not limited to Bromsgrove. Bristol council recently told its allotment holders to stop locking their sheds, as shed were being damaged when they were being broken into.

Notes from Hell

My most read post of the last month (and the third most read this year) was about Susan Pope, the school nurse at Malvern St James who was sacked for smacking her son once on the bottom for repeatedly swearing at her.

Today Mrs Pope has her own say, in a article she wrote for the Mail on Sunday. If you want an inside story on dealing with bureaucrats and police in the face of often bizarre accusations, you must read this. It has been nearly a year since her ordeal began and it is not over yet. Social Services are still infesting the lives of Mrs Pope and her husband, because the Popes won’t back down. Social Services have acted illegally repeatedly and gotten away with it. It is a story of abuse: a harrowing tale of governmental abuse of innocent people.

Social Services are helping to spread the cancer of family breakdown identified by Sir Paul Coleridge, the senior family court judge, as I mentioned yesterday. Sir Paul was not just concerned about marriages falling apart, but about the meltdown of parent-child relationships. Sir Paul’s views made not just the front page headline of the Daily Mail, but also the Daily Telegraph and the The Times. The case of the Popes just hightlights how Social Services can apply the blowtorch of aggressive incompetence to these relationships. Not all families are made of the same mettle. (As a side note, Al Gore will not be happy to know that Sir Paul thinks the breakdown of the family is worse than global warming.)

Mrs Pope mentions the subject of another popular post, former school bursar Denis Smith. It appears he was more involved in Mrs Smith’s sacking than previously suggested, whilst at the same time his own departure from the school was less honourable than reported.

Hoisted

Thanks to Mr Malvern for his comments on my posting about Susan Pope, the nurse at Malvern St James school who was sacked for smacking her foul-mouthed son on the bum. He noted that the school bursar who sent the letter sacking Mrs Pope has himself been sacked.

Mr Malvern was quite generous in his description of the Denis Smith’s offences. He didn’t mention that Mr Smith rammed a police car in his drunken attempt to evade police driving through Malvern streets at 80 mph. Having worked in Malvern, I have to commend Mr Smith on his driving skills. I would not be able to drive anywhere near that fast if I wanted to, even fully sober.

Being a keen letter-writer, Mr Smith did not wait to receive his P45. He resigned. I’m guessing he figured that if the school was willing to sack someone even though they did not commit an offence, he probably didn’t stand much of a chance.

Anyhow a couple links for those interested: Malvern Gazette and Worcester News.

To modify something I heard during the Eliot Spitzer fiasco, let me make the introductions: Denis, petard. Petard, Denis.

A Real Disgrace

For the glory of a man is from the honor of his father,
And it is a disgrace for children to dishonor their mother.

Wisdom of Sirach 3:11

The truth of this verse was made evident by the elder son of Susan Pope. Mrs Pope was until recently the senior nurse at one of the most prestigious private girls schools in the country, Malvern St James. She was sacked for gross misconduct.

However, as has become increasingly common in this country, she was not sacked for anything she did or didn’t do at work. She was sacked for something that happened at home. The facts are not in dispute. Her ten-year-old son swore at her, and after giving him a warning that he would get a smack on the bottom if he did it again, he called her bluff. She was true to her word and applied the mildest discipline to his buttocks over his trousers.

Now most decent reasonable people would immediately recognise that she made a mistake. The warning was entirely out of order. He already knew that what he was doing was wrong. He had already made a conscious decision to curse his mother. This is unquestionably one-strike-and-you’re-out territory.

So all you need now is another rebellious son and a society in complete disconnect with reality. Mrs Pope has both. Her fifteen-year-old snatched his younger brother from the house and called the police. She was arrested and spent 32 hours in police custody. Not only that, her husband was also arrested and held for 32 hours and he didn’t do anything at all. That didn’t stop police questioning him for four hours. She was only questioned for 90 minutes. (I know, I know: on top of all this you are wondering why they were held for 32 hours to be questioned for so little time. That’s the way police do business in this country.)

Someone at the Crown Prosecution Service wisely decided not to charge Mrs Pope with any offence. But as I’m sure you know, Newton’s Third Law of Bureaucratic Motion requires that for every wise action there is an equally stupid reaction. Worcestershire County Council social services stepped in and put both the ten-year-old potty mouth and his eight-year-old sister on the Child Protection Register. They have been on the Register since this occurred last May. According The Daily Telegraph:

sources within the department indicated the Popes had not yet satisfied them that they had met the welfare criteria laid out when the children were placed on the register. “There are issues that still need to be sorted, it’s not simply about a child being smacked,” the source said.

In case you need a translation from the Bureaucraspeak language, the source said that the Pope children are still in danger because bureaurcrats do not believe the parents have accepted the re-education required of them. The State has decided how its children are to be raised and parents must realised that they are merely agents of the State.

So finally, you would think that a posh private school steeped in tradition would be above such things. Well, no. You would think that they would be aware of the character of their employee, but that’s not the issue. Denis Smith, the school’s bursar made the real issue plain in his letter to Mrs Pope informing her that she had been sacked:

The school’s reputation could be significantly damaged in the event that parents or potential parents were to discover that your children are on the Child Protection Register.

We do not believe that the school needs to accept this very real risk to its reputation, which has arisen directly as a result of your conduct.

That’s a lot of words when just two were required: pride and money. But if he wanted to be verbose, he should have just been honest and written something like: “You innocence is irrelevant. We don’t care if social services are completely off their rocker. It is all about appearances and the wrong appearance could cost us pride and money. We care much more about our pride and our money than we could ever possibly care about you, our devalued employee.”

The only positive outcome from this would be for the school’s reputation to be significantly damaged as a result of their conduct. If the values demonstrated by Malvern St James in sacking Susan Pope exemplify what parents want for their children, when they ship them off to be raised by this boarding school, then they should go ahead. Otherwise, they might pause to consider first whether they want their child to be inculcated with the opposite of the Golden Rule. They might further pause to consider whether the way the school treats its employees will be reflected in the way it treats its pupils. Before making a £25,000 per year gamble with the life of a child, perhaps that’s much more worthy of consideration than whether the school nurse smacked her sons bum when he swore at her.

After all, their child may come home thinking that it is okay to destroy the parents’ career if they don’t like being disciplined. Seems like there’s a lot at stake here. I hope the bursar at Malvern St James finds out they gambled the wrong way.