You're nicked, boyo! I'll put you down as 'White Other'
By RICHARD LITTLEJOHN
Last updated at 11:22 AM on 12th October 2010
Last updated at 11:22 AM on 12th October 2010
Photographer Dave Hogan was waiting at a red traffic light in North London when he reached over to the passenger seat to retrieve his new iPhone, which was about to fall on to the floor.
As he did so, there was a knock on the car window. Dave looked up to see a callow youth in a policeman’s uniform instructing him to pull over to the kerb.
What followed was a Kafkaesque encounter with the bold future of London law enforcement.
What a waste: You have to wonder why police go to such lengths to criminalise a law-abiding, middle-class tax payer
The young officer, who had only recently graduated from the police academy at Hendon and was receiving on-the-job supervision from a WPC, told Hogan to park in a busy bus lane.
He pointed out that not only was he stationary, he wasn’t actually using the phone, merely moving it back on the seat to prevent it sliding off. In any event, it had a hands-free attachment.
Furthermore, he invited the officer to examine the directory in his iPhone, which would prove he hadn’t been making a call. Modern mobiles contain a record of the date, time and duration of all incoming and outgoing calls.
It indicated that he had last used the phone a few minutes earlier, when he had pulled onto a petrol station forecourt for a can of pop and a packet of crisps.
There was no activity at the time the policeman claimed he had seen Dave using the phone. The last call recorded was at 1.09pm, a fact also confirmed by the telephone service provider from its own computerised log.
This didn’t prevent the rookie cop writing out a ticket, specifying the time the alleged offence had taken place: 1.15pm.
Hogan insists he was ultra-polite to the officer, even though his patience was sorely tried. While parked in the bus lane, he saw a number of motorists drive past using their mobiles on the move.
When he pointed this out, the young copper wasn’t interested. Dave appealed to the more experienced WPC, but she refused to intervene.
The policeman asked him to make a statement. Dave denied categorically that he had been using his phone and had firm evidence to prove it.
‘Why aren’t you writing this down?’ he asked.
‘I shall summarise your comments,’ he was told. The officer then asked him to sign the summary. Dave declined, on the perfectly reasonable grounds that it wasn’t what he had said. The interview then took a surreal turn.
Plod asked for his ethnic origin. Why? Just routine, sir. The police have to record the race and sex of everyone they stop.
Dave said he was Welsh. Young Lochinvar studied his form, which contained an impressive catalogue of exotic ethnic categories. But not, apparently, exhaustive.
After scouring it for a few moments, he announced: ‘I haven’t got a box for Welsh. I’ll put you down as White Other.’
He gave Dave a summons, telling him he had a week to plead guilty by post, pay a £60 fine and accept three penalty points on his licence.
The alternative was to challenge the ticket in court, and run the risk of being disqualified from driving and fined £1,000, if the magistrate sides with the Old Bill and refuses to believe his version of events.
Dave would also have to take a day off work and pay a lawyer £500 to argue his case.
Both police officers could also be tied up in court for a whole day, reducing still further the pathetically small number of bobbies on the beat.
If the court accepts the phone company’s record, proving that no call had been made or received at the time alleged in the summons, Dave would be cleared and would be entitled to claim costs from the police.
In other words, the taxpayer would end up footing the bill for this farce.
Dave tells me he intends to fight and the whole affair has left a sour taste.
He has had a clean licence for 30 years, a remarkable achievement for any motorist in the age of the Gatso, let alone a Fleet Street photographer in a flash 4x4.
He’s even prepared to acknowledge an excess of zeal in an over- enthusiastic young bobby making his first tentative steps on the street in an official culture of bureaucratic box-ticking and a voracious appetite for income raised by fines.
But that doesn’t explain the attitude of the dopey WPC supposed to be babysitting her young charge. She could have nipped the whole thing in the bud when it became obvious a mistake had been made.
In his long career in newspapers, Dave has always been happy to help the police. Now he says he wouldn’t give them the time of day.
This incident blocked a bus lane for 25 minutes and has shaken Dave’s belief in the honesty of the police. He never imagined he would be fitted up for a phone call he can prove he didn’t make.
He naturally wonders why the police would go to such lengths to criminalise a law-abiding, middle-class taxpayer.
Yesterday, as the Equalities Commission published its latest report on ‘fairness’, there was the usual furore over the high number of young black men supposedly stopped unnecessarily by the police.
But I’ve never seen any statistics for the number of middle-class, white — or White Other, come to that — motorists buggered about for no good reason.
Dave’s promised to keep me posted, but I shouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the day I haven’t received a raft of emails from Daily Mail readers relating similar tales of woe and officiousness on the part of Plod.
And the police wonder why Middle Britain’s faith in the forces of law and order is at an all-time low.
Mind how you go.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1319696/Fairness-report-Ill-White-Other.html#ixzz129hWC6d0