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and Robbers

The games of children, we are told, enable them to learn about how the adult world works and practise its ways. In my childhood we played a game called “Cops and Robbers”. In our innocence we thought we were imitating the grown ups. Perhaps we were, in the 1970s. But in 2020 the grown up coppers have tired of that game and gone off to do something else.

The Times reports,

Boots makes legal history after police let thief go

It was no surprise to anyone who knew Nicholas Richards, a career criminal with 25 convictions including 18 for shoplifting, that his motives were not entirely honourable when he walked into Boots.

Witnesses described him stealing £170-worth of Gucci perfume; CCTV footage recovered from the chemist’s flagship branch in Piccadilly showed him putting the goods in his bag; and cameras worn by private security officers who detained him recorded him admitting the offence.

So staff at Boots, which loses between £10,000 and £12,000 a week to shoplifting, were upset when police officers arrived on the crime scene, decided the case was a “civil” matter and released Richards, who was already on a suspended sentence for theft. Boots was furious about the failure to dispense justice and decided to take part in what is believed to be the first private prosecution for shoplifting supported by a corporate victim.

The case is being brought by TM Eye. Set up by two former Metropolitan police officers, it is the parent company of My Local Bobby (MLB), which provides neighbourhood policing to residents, firms and shops. Its 30 “bobbies”, who wear red vests and caps, provide 24-hour cover. They are mostly former police officers and soldiers.

Richards has pleaded guilty, so it all seems to have worked out all right in the end. This time. This is the nice version of what happens when the state justice system fails and private individuals must step in to fill the void. There is also a less nice version.

29 comments to and Robbers

  • Roué le Jour

    Self service shopping assumes a civilised population.

  • Vinegar Joe

    The police are there to protect the State not the public.

  • Eric

    Eventually people get sick of lawlessness, and it’s a niche organized crime will fill. Your daughter gets assaulted? If the government won’t at least provide the illusion of justice you go to the Godfather and get things taken care of properly.

  • Mr Ecks

    Vinegar Joe is correct.

    But it is time the wider public understood that fact.

    Boots should have prosecuted Plod as well.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Eric,

    Yes. That is the “less nice version” to which I referred in the post. The even less nice version is this.

  • James Strong

    Prosecute the police for this.

  • James Strong

    How about finding out the residences of:

    the officers attending the scene

    every police officer in the relevant police ‘service’ above the rank of Sergeant

    and going round to their houses and taking items in their gardens not tied down.

    wheelbarrows, bikes, garden gnomes, motor cars, whatever.

    Of course I would never, never, advocate criminal action, but it seems that the relevant police ‘service’ wouldn’t regard these actions as crimes.

  • Stonyground

    If they were to bring a private prosecution against the police, what could they accuse them of? Genuine question, what would have a reasonable chance of success?

  • Rudolph Hucker

    If they were to bring a private prosecution against the police, what could they accuse them of? Genuine question, what would have a reasonable chance of success?

    Dereliction of duty?
    Wasting police time?

  • MadRocketSci

    After rolling my eyes at the genre, I’ve often toyed with the idea of writing a “cyberpunk” setting with the viewpoint reversed. Just what aspects of the setting are really dystopian? Private entities trying to keep a little order, or the complete abdication of the government coupled with casual criminality of the underclass? With technology so powerful, do you really *want* the government around to centralize that power, or is it better if fragmented security companies provide a bit of a barrier to panopticon. Should we sympathise with the implant-and-drug addled punk knocking over a store, or the awfully-square suit-bedecked biomed grad student that has his life together and is trying to do something constructive?

    Anyway, do you want a cyberpunk dystopia? Because this is how you get a cyberpunk dystopia. 😛 Far better than Orwell’s dystopia, at least. Hopefully the conflicting requirements for state control mean they’re mutually exclusive.

  • bobby

    “If they were to bring a private prosecution against the police, what could they accuse them of? Genuine question, what would have a reasonable chance of success?”

    In the USA?

    There’s no case against the police in this scenario. Police have no actual legal duty to do much of anything. They exercise their discretion. Once they decided not to arrest, their role was complete.

  • John B

    ‘ This is the nice version of what happens when the state justice system fails and private individuals must step in to fill the void.’

    All prosecutions used to be private until the State nationalised the criminal justice system. There is nothing the State does which was not formally done in the private sector (which includes not-for-profit) until the State nationalised it… and screwed it up.

  • After such a case is dealt with privately, call Billlls cleanup service. All debris including the perp will be discretely removed, walls and floors cleaned and all the rubbish will be loaded into our unmarked truck and disposed of. Our motto: We Don’t Want To Know.”

  • Deep Lurker

    My understanding is that this was the usual way things worked in the UK 200+ years ago, with private arrests and private prosecutions. The London Metropolitan police wasn’t established until 1829. So while Boots is being radical here (in the sense of going back to old roots), it’s actions here are not completely novel or unprecedented.

    I wouldn’t want to go back to the Bloody Code, but a system with many more private arrests and prosecutions shouldn’t be unthinkable. Especially not for libertarians. Discussed and subjected to Chesterton’s Gate, yes. Rejected unthinkingly, no.

    [Note to self: Must buy & read a copy of David Friedman’s Legal Systems Very Different from Ours.]

  • Fraser Orr

    I’m curious… I understand why people might be frustrated by the police’s decision, but on the other hand, as a libertarian, I see this as a good thing. The commercial market is providing the service of policing and prosecution, and doing a much better job than that state — I mean who is surprised about this? Who isn’t delighted that at least in some limited areas that this service is available?

    And my real question is… how long before plod crushes this new private police service since they are showing them up so badly?

  • And my real question is… how long before plod crushes this new private police service since they are showing them up so badly?

    Contrarywise, how long before a Tory council says no more cop monies until you lazy doughnut eating barstewards start doing the job we pay you for. I would vote for that.

  • This isn’t new — this is very old. Before Robert Peel formed the Bobbies, this is how ALL prosecution was done. If someone robbed you, you hired a private thief catcher. The Bobbies were sold on the idea that they weren’t replacing the public’s duty to catch thieves — they were simply men paid to do it full time. Add in the tradition of the Hue and Cry — the requirement that all able bodied men help catch a thief when someone raises the hue and cry (or be held liable for his future crimes) and you have a system that makes more sense than the shenanigans you Brits put up with today.

  • Mr Ed

    Stonyground , I tried to post about this earlier but the Captcha beast got in the way. The offence in question in England and Wales is the common law offence of Misconduct in Public Office, which carries a maximum life sentence. It’s used to prosecute police and prison officers for shagging on duty (usually prisoners). Wilful neglect of duty is the gist of it.

    And the way to do it is by a Voluntary Bill of Indictment in the Crown Court, which bypasses preliminarily stages in the Magistrates’ Court. The public prosecutor the CPS can take over such a case and discontinue it, so you rinse and repeat, indicting them for abusing that power.

    Strange that in the USA the common law (outwith Louisiana) doesn’t seem to have this concept.

  • bobby

    “Strange that in the USA the common law (outwith Louisiana) doesn’t seem to have this concept.”

    In our defense, private prosecution was ended here (federally, at least) out of regard for the rights of the accused. It was felt that the state would be more mindful of those rights than would private for-profit entities.

    Having worked with several private deputized bounty hunters, I can attest that this concern has merit. Those guys are animals.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby
    Having worked with several private deputized bounty hunters, I can attest that this concern has merit. Those guys are animals.

    Oh, I know all about those guys… I mean I’ve watched the TV shows and that movie Jennifer Aniston was in….

    The question is more along the lines of: given the pros and cons of the two alternatives: “socialist courts and police” or “private courts and police” which is better? The reality is that some are better at one thing and some at the other. One need only look at some of the scandalous behavior of some plaintiff lawyers which are something akin to a private prosecution to think that your concern is merited. But one need only look at some of the horrible inequities of the current socialist judicial system to think that concern on the other side is very much merited.

    PLs do serve a useful purpose, DAs also serve a useful purpose. The police serve a useful purpose and private security firms serve a useful purpose. However, in the wrong hands they are horrifyingly abusive. Since they all rely on using the State’s monopoly on force there is every reason for such things (public and private) to be HEAVILY regulated.

  • Itellyounothing

    Most of the problem with the Police is well upstream. We’ve had a very long period of Conservative rule in the UK, yet most of the laws, mandatory procedures, strategy documents, CPS charging standards, Home Office justice backed schemes, prison sentencing guidelines written since 1997 look identical.

    No Police service can go their own way and see if locking up bandits drops the rate of crime.

    Funding comes from hate crime initiatives, cyber crime, treating criminals as victims and generally holding no-one to account.

    We kept letting scum bag politicals, scum bag lawyers, apologist judges and underclass parasites get away with it.

    We gave up the space to argue against it in public and we kept voting for slack wimps. How much law, procedure etc do you expect a 20 year old constable to break and be sacked for when most “conservative” Brits do literally nothing to show their displeasure.

  • Eric

    And my real question is… how long before plod crushes this new private police service since they are showing them up so badly?

    The one thing the cops will always show up for and prosecutors will always prosecute is embarrassment of the state.

  • police officers arrived on the crime scene, decided the case was a “civil” matter

    That would seem to be strictly false in law.

    most of the laws, mandatory procedures, strategy documents, CPS charging standards, Home Office justice backed schemes, prison sentencing guidelines written since 1997 look identical (Itellyounothing, March 16, 2020 at 9:52 pm)

    Our swamp is deep (state). Cummings seems to have some understanding of this and I hope Priti’s experiences are making her hostile to the deep state. The clean-out needed is great.

    Deep Lurker (March 16, 2020 at 4:28 pm) et seq, yes, 18th century London did indeed rely on private prosecution and private willingness to respond to hue and cry – and juries’ willingness to find guilty when the punishment was hanging, and the state’s willingness to enforce that sentence. (Which was not as great as you might thing. During the middle period of the 18th century, the old Bailey court sentenced some 6000 to hang of whom some 1500 were actually hung; a few died awaiting their hanging of course – prison sanitary conditions were not that great in the period, though having little access to doctors who would bleed you was probably on balance a benefit – but the state was profligate with commutations.)

  • NickM

    MadRocketSci,
    Is the World of Neuromancer, say, actually dystopian? I’d say it ain’t. Gibson owes fair bit to Raymond Chandler. In much the same way Chandler portrays a criminal underworld so does Gibson. In the World portrayed by Gibson the likes of Case and Molly are very unusual. Most people live lives which are dull and not entirely dissimilar to now, really.

  • Paul Marks

    This is an international movement – in many countries (including the United States) the left are trying to, essentially, decriminlise “minor” theft – by “minor” the left mean any theft that is not from them.

    This is indeed the SOCIAL JUSTICE moverment – I make no apology for pointing out (yet again) that “Social Justice” is theft – it is plundering and tyranny. Either the tyranny of out of control government – and/or criminal gangs. For example, in some Latin American countries taxes appear fairly low – till one remembers tht Social Gangs can just turn up and steal everything you have got (and murder you if you resist). !00% is not “low” taxation – and, from the point of view of the victim, it does not matter if the plunderers are from the govenrment or from (say) MS13 (motto “rape, murder, control” – which is SOCIAL JUSTICE).

    In Italy when “minor” theft was essentially decrininalised the left said “we are not like Ameria where someone can be sent to prison for stealiing food” – accept that if people are NOT punished for stealing food there will be no food in the shops (or anywhere else).

    And in “liberal” parts of America the same practice is being followed – it does not surprise me that in parts of the United Kingdom the police are treating STEALING as a “civil matter” (which it is NOT). Years of “training” and “education” have driven Common Sense (Common Law principles) out of society – and the police are not imune from this.

    The rich leftists (the Emily Thornberry types – recently busy lying about President Trump in the House of Commons) do not really care about this – indeed they are ardent supporters of SOCIAL JUSTICE.

    When they themsemlves are plundered they will change their minds – but it will be too late then.

    The rich leftists of, for examplem, Los Angeles and San Francisco will (one day) be plundered themselves – the Social Justice gangs (“rape, murder, control”) will come for them – and will come for their families.

    And the rich leftists will cry out for help – but there will be no “Red Necks” left to help them. The rich leftists will have driven out the very people they depend on to defend them – and to defend their families.

    No doubt, as they and their families are being torn to pieces by Social Justice mobs, the “education” of the rich leftists will be a great comfort to them. After all their “education” teaches them that Social Justice (as opposeed to its opposite – to-each-their-own justice) is correct.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Before Robert Peel formed the Bobbies, this is how ALL prosecution was done. If someone robbed you, you hired a private thief catcher.

    And of course, Britain was not alone in this. One reason why i regard the Sagas of Icelanders as a Bible is that they show how a system of completely privatized law enforcement can work — at least for a few centuries, until it turns into a cartel.

    Also of interest is the experience of Sicily. Apparently, what made Sicily a fertile ground for organized crime was the Sicilian code of omertà, which dictates that one must never turn to the police for help, and of course one must never cooperate with the police. That suggests that Britain and parts of the US have become fertile ground for organized crime — but then, some parts of the US always have been.

    I have often idly wondered why private law enforcement was more successful in Iceland than in Sicily. Could it be because in Iceland there wasn’t a police force to interfere with it, while in Sicily there was? The question is relevant, because clearly in the UK the police are interfering with private law enforcement.

  • Robbo

    It’s one thing for multi-billion dollar corporation Boots to get a private prosecution through by employing legions of lawyers and retired police, but it doesn’t make it possible for your corner Mom and Pop store to get protection from shoplifters. That worries me.

  • RobinGoodfellow

    Perhaps this worked out OK this time, but what about next time? What happens when the businesses and private citizens dispense with the bobbys altogether, and just hire goons with baseball bats?

    You know, the return of the vigilance committees. It won’t be pretty.

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