Every now and again a story emerges which typifies just how far our society has changed.
It is just under 100 years since 306 soldiers were shot during the Great War for "Cowardice in the face of the Enemy". Now, as Murray Wardrop of the Daily Telegraph reports:-
Police refuse to tackle burglary suspects at travellers’ site 'over health and safety fears’
Police refused to raid a travellers’ camp where suspected thieves were hiding because the officers were worried about breaking health and safety rules.
Ecton Lane traveller's camp Photo: SWNS
The machinery at Preston Lodge Farm which was taken by travellers Photo: SWNS
The suspects had allegedly burgled a farm and Sean Stanley, 27, and his father Paul assumed that retrieving their stolen property would be straightforward, having followed the getaway vehicle and shown it to the team of five officers.
But the police declined to enter the camp and seize the van, insisting that they first had to carry out a “risk assessment”.
The Stanleys offered to do the job for them but were warned they would be arrested if they approached the site.
Northamptonshire Police yesterday admitted that no arrests had been made and that the vehicle and stolen property had not yet been seized following the alleged burglary on Sunday.
The Stanleys chased the thieves after their arable farm near Wootton, Northants, was raided around 10pm.
Undeterred by one of the suspects allegedly brandishing a shotgun as they sped off, they tracked down their van at a travellers’ site 10 miles away.
Officers arrived at Ecton Lane Travellers Site, a legal, council-owned camp near Northampton, and the Stanleys pointed out the vehicle, hoping to recover their property, stolen vehicle parts.
Sean Stanley said: “I followed them to the traveller site and could see the vehicle from the road.
“I gave police the licence plate and showed them where it was. I gave police everything on a plate but they said they had to carry out a risk assessment.
“I understand there is protocol but they are the police and should be used to dealing with things like this.
“They were scared, they wouldn’t go in. We could see the van so my dad and I said we would go and get it and we were told we would be arrested.”
His father added: “It’s a very sad situation when the police aren’t prepared to confront a situation like this.”
The burglars stole an aluminium flat bed container, wheels and bumpers from one of the farm’s lorries worth around £1,500, the Stanleys claim.
They were also attempting to steal headlights, bumpers and wheels from another vehicle on the farm when they were disturbed by a neighbour, it is alleged. The raid was the second in four months at the farm.
Northamptonshire Police said that three police officers entered the camp in the early hours on Monday but decided not to risk seizing the suspects’ vehicle.
A spokesman said: “Three police officers did enter the site at Ecton Lane and located the suspect vehicle but an assessment was made not to recover the vehicle in the early hours of this morning.
“There were various issues. It was very early in the morning and we had not spoken to the witness to the burglary at that time.
“No arrests have been made but detectives are investigating the matter and we have now taken a full statement from the victim. A complaint has been made by the victim about the decision not to recover the vehicle and this also is being investigated.
“We are reviewing whether the decision made was proportionate to the information we had been given.”
The Stanleys also complained they felt the police response was inadequate, given that one of the thieves had threatened them with a shotgun.
This kind of dereliction of duty is by no means as rare as we taxpayers, who pay police salaries (at rates considerably higher than soldiers), would wish. Consider the much discussed shooting of Mr de Menezes in 2007 at Stockwell. The police thought he was a suicide bomber but even so let him get into a crowded London bus because they said they hadn't done their Health and Safety Assessment; ie the Met were willing to put the lives of members of the public at risk in preference to their own lives. "To Protect & to Serve"?
Let's elect Police Chiefs so that at least we, as voters, can hold them democratically to account!