Category Archives: crime

A frivolous, hopeless wreck of a police force

Nero’s fiddling was effective firefighting by comparison

Britain has by far the highest rate of violent crime in Western Europe, about five or six times that of Spain, for example. What is the response of the British police?

Dalrymple writes that it is a fact of modern British life that

as the police appear more and more to resemble the paramilitary force of an authoritarian régime or military dictatorship, they become less and less effectual, whom only the law-abiding fear.

They seem to concentrate ever less on real police work, and

engage in parallel pseudo-activities, such as commiserating with the victims of the crimes they have failed to prevent and in the vast majority of cases make no attempt to solve.

He notes that a break-in during which an elderly person is murdered, for example,

is increasingly apt to be described as ‘a burglary that went tragically wrong’.

The British police love to

waste their time on the pseudo-pastoral care of those whom I suppose we must now call their clients.

Their primary object appears to be

work avoidance through work creation, a seemingly frantic activity — while never having to do anything that actually conduces to any conceivable end other than early retirement on the grounds of ill-health through stress.

This is a world

that is forever developing training packages, building and delivering capacity, etc., while actually doing nothing. Nero’s fiddling, by comparison, was effective firefighting – evidence-based, of course. It is always time for thinking outside the box, ringfencing a safe space for blue-skies thinking.

Britain’s preposterously lenient criminal-justice system

What’s behind the UK crime wave

Dalrymple points out that in England,

only 35% of those convicted of violent crimes go to prison; 36% receive community sentences; 20% get off with a warning.

Spain, he notes,

has a rate of imprisonment for violent crime nearly five times greater than Britain’s, and a much lower rate of violent crime—approximately one-fifth.

The woeful inadequacy of sentencing in Britain

It has, writes Dalrymple, helped to turn England

from being one of the best-ordered to being among the worst-ordered countries in western Europe.

A disguised form of sadism

Britain’s wilful neglect in the face of crime and depravity

A few years ago, Dalrymple reminds us,

it came to light that police in Rotherham had for decades systematically turned a blind eye to the mass sexual abuse of children—at least 1,400 victims—by Muslim men.

He explains also that his British-born female Muslim patients tell him that school inspectors

never intervened when their parents prevented them from attending school, often for years. On the other hand, white working-class parents were bullied by those inspectors when their refractory 15-year-old daughters refused to go.

Noble savagery

The late Henry Vincent: protest against injustice

Moral grandiosity and exhibitionism are the occupational hazards of intellectuals

The attitude of many intellectuals towards crime (which almost never affects them personally) is distinguished, writes Dalrymple, by

a mixture of sentimentality and intellectual pride.

On the one hand, there is

reluctance to believe that ordinary people can behave very badly.

On the other, there is the belief that

it is the function of the intellectual to uncover the underlying ‘reality’ of phenomena. (If he is not for that, what is he for?) It represents a loss of caste to express the man-in-the-street’s horror at, or revulsion against, crime.

Crime

has to become not really crime, but something altogether more noble, which it takes nobility and intelligence or acuity on the part of the intellectual to recognise. People don’t steal or rob because they want something and think it is the easiest way to get it; they are uttering a protest against injustice.

Gogol for the absurdity

The minister for loneliness

England in the grip of sentimentality

In January 2018, the British government appointed a ‘minister for loneliness’. Dalrymple comments:

While the government busied itself with the task of reducing loneliness, or with the creation of a bureaucracy with the task supposedly of reducing loneliness, it did not concern itself very much with the abundant evidence, extending over decades, that it has long presided over the most crime-ridden country in Western Europe.

After all,

only one crime is recorded by the police—alas, not the same as the number of crimes known to the police—for every two lonely people found by the parliamentary commission on loneliness. It is obvious which of these two problems, loneliness or crime, should attract more of the government’s attention.

He draws attention to a part of the General Confession in the Book of Common Prayer:

We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us.

The words, says Dalrymple,

might serve not as the confession of the British government, but as a description of it.

A parliamentary commission found that about a seventh of the population suffers from loneliness, and that

it was the duty of the government to do something about it. For who, if not the government, is responsible for ensuring that everyone has a social life and friends and relatives who visit? After all, it was government policy that smashed up the family in the first place.

To understand what is going on in Britain and the rest of the West, Dalrymple writes,

it is necessary, and probably sufficient, to read three authors: Gogol for the pervasive absurdity, Kafka for the pervasive fear and menace, and Orwell for the pervasive lies.

Concentrate on the inessential

This is the motto of the British police, writes Dalrymple. (It is taken, he points out, from that of the psychiatric services.) Concentrating on the inessential gives the police

far less trouble

than, say, arresting and punishing the culprit of a crime.

Dalrymple observes that today the British police

repress everything except crime and disorder

while dressing up like

the paramilitary arm of some extremist political party.

Counselling

carried out by men or women in stab-proof vests

Counsellor’s uniform

appears now to be their chief rôle. After all, says Dalrymple,

it is far easier to identify the victims than the culprits, and therefore it is a far more efficient use of police time (in very short supply) to attend to the former rather than to the latter.

The police are determined to

improve the service to their customers

and they often regret that

in the past they have concentrated too exclusively on trying to catch the culprits and not enough on the pastoral care of victims.

The inadmissible

THE Americans have a theory, writes Dalrymple,

that to allow small crimes to go unremarked and unpunished is to invite bigger crimes.

Needless to say, Britons of intellectual disposition

despise this theory: first, because it is American; second, because it does not address the root of all crime — that is to say, the injustice of our present social and economic arrangements; and, third, because it is obviously true.

Why we read and re-read the doctor-essayist

Dalrymple is identified by an acute English journalist (also a skilled and powerful debater), Peter Hitchens, as

one of the greatest men of our age [second item in Hitchens’s 6th August 2017 column in the UK newspaper the Mail on Sunday].

For decades, Hitchens reminds us, Dalrymple

worked in a major British jail, listening to the excuses and self-justifications of people who had done terrible things to others, and to themselves.

Refusing to follow fashion,

and genuinely concerned for these often very sad characters, he treated them as adults, urging them to take responsibility for their actions instead of offering excuses for them. Many, who had come to despise authority, were glad to be up against someone they could not easily fool.

Hitchens’s guess is that many of those Dalrymple treated

benefited greatly from his tough-minded approach. He didn’t fill them with pills or substitute one drug for another. His observations of the way heroin abusers feign terrible discomfort, after arriving in prison and being deprived of their drug, is both funny and a badly needed corrective to conventional wisdom.

All this, Hitchens notes, is to be found in the Dalrymple collection The Knife Went In (2017).

The title, a quotation from an actual murderer, is an example of the way such people refuse to admit they had any part in the crimes they commit. The knife somehow got there and went into the victim, by itself. It is a series of short, gripping real-life stories in which he recounts his experiences with our broken, lying penal system with its fake prison sentences and its ridiculous form-filling as a substitute for action.

The book is mainly about prisons and crime, but, says Hitchens,

it tells a deep truth about the sort of society we have become. It is one in which almost nobody is, or wants to be, responsible for anything.

Hitchens concludes:

A future historian, a century hence, will learn more about 21st-century Britain from this book than from any official document.

The decay of Paris

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-22-18-34Dalrymple writes that quite a number of the stations of the Métro

smell unmistakably of the homeless, far more than they ever did before. Whole families of beggars take up daytime residence in them, claiming to be Syrian refugees but really being gypsies.

At the Gare du Nord

one would not know what country one was in, except that such a mélange could not occur anywhere but in a few major Western cities.

There are more French in Kensington than here, he says.

This is not, he points out,

true cosmopolitanism. It is the reduction of everyone to the lowest common denominator, namely something akin to American ghetto culture.

One’s sense of security, he notes,

is not heightened by observing how many of the young men jump the ticket barriers, quite openly and with a sense of entitlement on their faces, secure in the knowledge that no one will say, let alone do, anything about it. One is not surprised occasionally to observe a crime committed there; one is surprised that there are not many more.