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To be “well-intentioned but ill-informed” is not enough for an officer of the law

“Police under fire for telling dad he can’t play with his kids in his own front garden”, LBC reports.

I found myself with a certain sympathy for the cop lady. Daniel Connell, the man who made this recording, gave her an unnecessarily hard time by pretending to misunderstand what she meant by “special powers”. But his pretended misunderstanding of her powers was not nearly as serious as her actual misunderstanding of them. As the title of this post says, it is not asking too much that those entrusted with the police power should have some basic knowledge of what that power does and does not entitle them to demand.

South Yorkshire Police released a statement on Twitter, saying: “This encounter was well-intentioned but ill-informed and we’d like to apologise for the way it was handled.

“We’ve spoken to the officer concerned and made our approach absolutely clear.

“Again, we apologise for any inconvenience caused and will continue our work to support the NHS.”

77 comments to To be “well-intentioned but ill-informed” is not enough for an officer of the law

  • Stonyground

    Why was she ill informed? Does she not know anything about her job? I’m a retired engineer. My job required me to know something about engineering. I would have though that was the least my employer would expect.

  • Itellyounothing

    The law has for a long time been so complicated nobody including judges understand it……

    There are something like 15,000 criminal offences in UK law.

    Not an excuse, but that doesn’t changing the facts, making a visit from Mr Cockup, now video’d on smart phone a certainty.

  • Lee Moore

    Run of the mill engineers are cleverer than nearly all policemen. Run of the mill fashion models are prettier than almost all Tesco cashiers. That doesn’t make policemen and Tesco cashiers untermenschen – it just means horses for courses.

    Most policing can be done by people of average intelligence and average education. Perhaps above average sense of duty / conscienciousness. Perhaps even above average courage. It’s unreasonable to expect them to have a deep understanding of the law. I remember being startled to discover that an acquantaince who I had known as a young man, fifteen years previously, and who I had marked down as one of the dullest witted fellows I’d ever met, was now a police Superintendent.

    I believe Charles Murray made a related point in the Bell Curve. Society has become more complicated. Partly by natural evolution, but also by the intellectual elite deliberately complexifying it. Instead of simple rules like “no sex before marriage” which pretty much anyone can understand, there are now rules that are positively seething with nuance – of course sex before marriage is OK, but not as part of an exploitative relationship, or one with a power differential, or one in which children may result without someone to care for them etc etc. No doubt the intellectual elite, or at least some of them, thoght these nuances were all for the best, and in any event perfectly understandable. And they are understandable – to smart people.

    But society has become more puzzling to the dull, and even to the bumblngly average. It should hardly come as a surprise if the law is getting to be a bit of a puzzle to the average PC or WPC. There’s a lot more of it, and a lot more nuance, than there was forty years ago.

  • Duncan S

    Apologies to the Samizdata management, but in response to Itellyounothing’s comment that

    The law has for a long time been so complicated nobody including judges understand it

    , here is the actual law/regulation we’re talking about.

    Rocket science, it is not. Even for a slow reader, possibly 5 mins tops.

    The relevant points, for the police person concerned, is section 6, subsection 3, which sets out what constitutes “the place were someone is living”. She was bang out of order.

    Statutory Instruments
    2020 No. 350

    Public Health, England
    The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020

    Made

    at 1.00 p.m. on 26th March 2020

    Laid before Parliament

    at 2.30 p.m. on 26th March 2020

    Coming into force

    at 1.00 p.m. on 26th March 2020

    The Secretary of State makes the following Regulations in exercise of the powers conferred by sections 45C(1), (3)(c), (4)(d), 45F(2) and 45P of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984(1).

    These Regulations are made in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health which is posed by the incidence and spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in England.

    The Secretary of State considers that the restrictions and requirements imposed by these Regulations are proportionate to what they seek to achieve, which is a public health response to that threat.

    In accordance with section 45R of that Act the Secretary of State is of the opinion that, by reason of urgency, it is necessary to make this instrument without a draft having been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.
    Citation, commencement, application and interpretation

    1.—(1) These Regulations may be cited as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 and come into force at 1:00 p.m. on 26th March 2020.

    (2) These Regulations apply in relation to England only.

    (3) In these Regulations—

    (a)“coronavirus” means severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2);

    (b)a “person responsible for carrying on a business” includes the owner, proprietor, and manager of that business;

    (c)“vulnerable person” includes—

    (i)any person aged 70 or older;

    (ii)any person under 70 who has an underlying health condition, including but not limited to, the conditions listed in Schedule 1;

    (iii)any person who is pregnant.
    Revocation and saving

    2.—(1) The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020(2) (the “first Regulations”) are revoked.

    (2) Notwithstanding the revocation of the first Regulations, they continue in force in relation to any offence committed under the first Regulations before these Regulations came into force.

    (3) A designation made in exercise of powers conferred by regulation 4(1) and (2) of the first Regulations is to be treated as it had been made in the exercise of powers conferred by regulations 8(12)(a)(iv) and 11 of these Regulations.
    The emergency period and review of need for restrictions

    3.—(1) For the purposes of these Regulations, the “emergency period”—

    (a)starts when these Regulations come into force, and

    (b)ends in relation to a restriction or requirement imposed by these Regulations on the day and at the time specified in a direction published by the Secretary of State terminating the requirement or restriction.

    (2) The Secretary of State must review the need for restrictions and requirements imposed by these Regulations at least once every 21 days, with the first review being carried out by 16th April 2020.

    (3) As soon as the Secretary of State considers that any restrictions or requirements set out in these Regulations are no longer necessary to prevent, protect against, control or provide a public health response to the incidence or spread of infection in England with the coronavirus, the Secretary of State must publish a direction terminating that restriction or requirement.

    (4) A direction published under this regulation may—

    (a)terminate any one or more requirement or restriction;

    (b)terminate a requirement or restriction in relation to a specified business or service or a specified description of business or service.

    (5) In this regulation, “specified” means specified in a direction published under this regulation.
    Requirement to close premises and businesses during the emergency

    4.—(1) A person responsible for carrying on a business which is listed in Part 1 of Schedule 2 must—

    (a)during the emergency period—

    (i)close any premises, or part of the premises, in which food or drink are sold for consumption on those premises, and

    (ii)cease selling food or drink for consumption on its premises; or

    (b)if the business sells food or drink for consumption off the premises, cease selling food or drink for consumption on its premises during the emergency period.

    (2) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a), food or drink sold by a hotel or other accommodation as part of room service is not to be treated as being sold for consumption on its premises.

    (3) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a)(ii) and (b), an area adjacent to the premises of the business where seating is made available for customers of the business (whether or not by the business) is to be treated as part of the premises of that business.

    (4) A person responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service which is listed in Part 2 of Schedule 2 must cease to carry on that business or to provide that service during the emergency period.

    (5) Paragraph (4) does not prevent the use of—

    (a)premises used for the businesses or services listed in paragraphs 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 of that Part to broadcast a performance to people outside the premises, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast;

    (b)any suitable premises used for the businesses or services listed in that Schedule to host blood donation sessions.

    (6) If a business listed in Part 1 or 2 of Schedule 2 (“business A”) forms part of a larger business (“business B”), the person responsible for carrying on business B complies with the requirement in paragraph (1) if it closes down business A.
    Further restrictions and closures during the emergency period

    5.—(1) A person responsible for carrying on a business, not listed in Part 3 of Schedule 2, of offering goods for sale or for hire in a shop, or providing library services must, during the emergency period—

    (a)cease to carry on that business or provide that service except by making deliveries or otherwise providing services in response to orders received—

    (i)through a website, or otherwise by on-line communication,

    (ii)by telephone, including orders by text message, or

    (iii)by post;

    (b)close any premises which are not required to carry out its business or provide its services as permitted by sub-paragraph (a);

    (c)cease to admit any person to its premises who is not required to carry on its business or provide its service as permitted by sub-paragraph (a).

    (2) Paragraph (1) does not apply to any business which provides hot or cold food for consumption off the premises.

    (3) Subject to paragraph (4), a person responsible for carrying on a business consisting of the provision of holiday accommodation, whether in a hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast accommodation, holiday apartment, home, cottage or bungalow, campsite, caravan park or boarding house, must cease to carry on that business during the emergency period.

    (4) A person referred to in paragraph (3) may continue to carry on their business and keep any premises used in that business open—

    (a)to provide accommodation for any person, who—

    (i)is unable to return to their main residence;

    (ii)uses that accommodation as their main residence;

    (iii)needs accommodation while moving house;

    (iv)needs accommodation to attend a funeral;

    (b)to provide accommodation or support services for the homeless,

    (c)to host blood donation sessions, or

    (d)for any purpose requested by the Secretary of State, or a local authority.

    (5) A person who is responsible for a place of worship must ensure that, during the emergency period, the place of worship is closed, except for uses permitted in paragraph (6).

    (6) A place of worship may be used—

    (a)for funerals,

    (b)to broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast, or

    (c)to provide essential voluntary services or urgent public support services (including the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions or support in an emergency).

    (7) A person who is responsible for a community centre must ensure that, during the emergency period, the community centre is closed except where it is used to provide essential voluntary activities or urgent public support services (including the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions or support in an emergency).

    (8) A person who is responsible for a crematorium or burial ground must ensure that, during the emergency period, the crematorium is closed to members of the public, except for funerals or burials.

    (9) If a business referred to in paragraph (1) or (3) (“business A”) forms part of a larger business (“business B”), the person responsible for carrying on business B complies with the requirement in paragraph (1) or (3) to cease to carry on its business if it ceases to carry on business A.
    Restrictions on movement

    6.—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.

    (2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need—

    (a)to obtain basic necessities, including food and medical supplies for those in the same household (including any pets or animals in the household) or for vulnerable persons and supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household, or the household of a vulnerable person, or to obtain money, including from any business listed in Part 3 of Schedule 2;

    (b)to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household;

    (c)to seek medical assistance, including to access any of the services referred to in paragraph 37 or 38 of Schedule 2;

    (d)to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006(3), to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;

    (e)to donate blood;

    (f)to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living;

    (g)to attend a funeral of—

    (i)a member of the person’s household,

    (ii)a close family member, or

    (iii)if no-one within sub-paragraphs (i) or (ii) are attending, a friend;

    (h)to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions, or to participate in legal proceedings;

    (i)to access critical public services, including—

    (i)childcare or educational facilities (where these are still available to a child in relation to whom that person is the parent, or has parental responsibility for, or care of the child);

    (ii)social services;

    (iii)services provided by the Department of Work and Pensions;

    (iv)services provided to victims (such as victims of crime);

    (j)in relation to children who do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents, to continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children, and for the purposes of this paragraph, “parent” includes a person who is not a parent of the child, but who has parental responsibility for, or who has care of, the child;

    (k)in the case of a minister of religion or worship leader, to go to their place of worship;

    (l)to move house where reasonably necessary;

    (m)to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm.

    (3) For the purposes of paragraph (1), the place where a person is living includes the premises where they live together with any garden, yard, passage, stair, garage, outhouse or other appurtenance of such premises.

    (4) Paragraph (1) does not apply to any person who is homeless.
    Restrictions on gatherings

    7. During the emergency period, no person may participate in a gathering in a public place of more than two people except—

    (a)where all the persons in the gathering are members of the same household,

    (b)where the gathering is essential for work purposes,

    (c)to attend a funeral,

    (d)where reasonably necessary—

    (i)to facilitate a house move,

    (ii)to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person, including relevant personal care within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006,

    (iii)to provide emergency assistance, or

    (iv)to participate in legal proceedings or fulfil a legal obligation.
    Enforcement of requirement

    8.—(1) A relevant person may take such action as is necessary to enforce any requirement imposed by regulation 4, 5 or 7.

    (2) A relevant person may give a prohibition notice to a person if the relevant person reasonably believes that—

    (a)the person is contravening a requirement in regulation 4 or 5, and

    (b)it is necessary and proportionate to give the prohibition notice for the purpose of preventing that person from continuing to contravene the requirement.

    (3) Where a relevant person considers that a person is outside the place where they are living in contravention of regulation 6(1), the relevant person may—

    (a)direct that person to return to the place where they are living, or

    (b)remove that person to the place where they are living.

    (4) A relevant person exercising the power in paragraph (3)(b) to remove a person to the place where they are living, may use reasonable force, if necessary, in the exercise of the power.

    (5) Where the person outside the place where they are living without reasonable excuse is a child accompanied by an individual who has responsibility for the child—

    (a)the relevant person may direct that individual to take the child to the place where they are living, and

    (b)that individual must, so far as reasonably practicable, ensure that the child complies with any direction or instruction given by the relevant person to the child.

    (6) Where a relevant person has reasonable grounds to believe that a child is repeatedly failing to comply with the restriction in regulation 6(1), the relevant person may direct any individual who has responsibility for the child to secure, so far as reasonably practicable, that the child complies with that restriction.

    (7) For the purposes of this regulation, an individual has responsibility for a child if the individual—

    (a)has custody or charge of the child for the time being, or

    (b)has parental responsibility for the child (within the meaning of the Children Act 1989(4)).

    (8) A relevant person may only exercise the power in paragraph (3), (5) or (6) if the relevant person considers that it is a necessary and proportionate means of ensuring compliance with the requirement.

    (9) Where a relevant person considers that three or more people are gathered together in contravention of regulation 7, the relevant person may—

    (a)direct the gathering to disperse;

    (b)direct any person in the gathering to return to the place where they are living;

    (c)remove any person in the gathering to the place where they are living.

    (10) Paragraphs (4), (5), (6), (7) and (8) of this regulation apply to the exercise of a power under paragraph (9), as they apply to the exercise of a power under paragraph (3).

    (11) A relevant person exercising a power under paragraph (3), (5), (6) or (9) may give the person concerned any reasonable instructions they consider to be necessary.

    (12) For the purposes of this regulation—

    (a)a “relevant person” means—

    (i)a constable,

    (ii)a police community support officer,

    (iii)subject to paragraph (13), a person designated by a local authority for the purposes of this regulation, or

    (iv)a person designated by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this regulation;

    (b)references to a requirement include references to a restriction.

    (13) A local authority may only designate a person for the purposes of this regulation in relation to a requirement in regulation 4 or 5.
    Offences and penalties

    9.—(1) A person who—

    (a)without reasonable excuse contravenes a requirement in regulation 4, 5, 7 or 8, or

    (b)contravenes a requirement in regulation 6,

    commits an offence.

    (2) A person who obstructs, without reasonable excuse, any person carrying out a function under these Regulations commits an offence.

    (3) A person who, without reasonable excuse, contravenes a direction given under regulation 8, or fails to comply with a reasonable instruction or a prohibition notice given by a relevant person under regulation 8, commits an offence.

    (4) An offence under this regulation is punishable on summary conviction by a fine.

    (5) If an offence under this regulation committed by a body corporate is proved—

    (a)to have been committed with the consent or connivance of an officer of the body, or

    (b)to be attributable to any neglect on the part of such an officer,

    the officer (as well as the body corporate) is guilty of the offence and liable to be prosecuted and proceeded against and punished accordingly.

    (6) In paragraph (5), “officer”, in relation to a body corporate, means a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate.

    (7) Section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984(5) applies in relation to an offence under this regulation as if the reasons in subsection (5) of that section included—

    (a)to maintain public health;

    (b)to maintain public order.

    (8) For the purposes of this regulation, references to a requirement include references to a restriction.
    Fixed penalty notices

    10.—(1) An authorised person may issue a fixed penalty notice to anyone that the authorised person reasonably believes—

    (a)has committed an offence under these Regulations;

    (b)is over the age of 18.

    (2) A fixed penalty notice is a notice offering the person to whom it is issued the opportunity of discharging any liability to conviction for the offence by payment of a fixed penalty to a local authority specified in the notice.

    (3) The local authority specified in the notice must be the local authority (or as the case may be, any of the local authorities) in whose area the offence is alleged to have been committed (“the relevant local authority”).

    (4) Where a person is issued with a notice under this regulation in respect of an offence—

    (a)no proceedings may be taken for the offence before the end of the period of 28 days following the date of the notice;

    (b)the person may not be convicted of the offence if the person pays the fixed penalty before the end of that period.

    (5) A fixed penalty notice must—

    (a)give reasonably detailed particulars of the circumstances alleged to constitute the offence;

    (b)state the period during which (because of paragraph (4)(a)) proceedings will not be taken for the offence;

    (c)specify the amount of the fixed penalty;

    (d)state the name and address of the person to whom the fixed penalty may be paid;

    (e)specify permissible methods of payment.

    (6) The amount specified under paragraph (5)(c) must, subject to paragraph (7), be £60.

    (7) (a) Unless sub-paragraph (b) applies, a fixed penalty notice must specify that if £30 is paid before the end of the period of 14 days following the date of the notice that is the amount of the fixed penalty;

    (b)if the person to whom a fixed penalty notice is given has already received a fixed penalty notice under these Regulations—

    (i)sub-paragraph (a) does not apply, and

    (ii)the amount specified as the fixed penalty is to be—

    (aa)in the case of the second fixed penalty notice received, £120;

    (bb)in the case of the third and subsequent fixed penalty notice received, double the amount specified in the last fixed penalty notice received by that person, to a maximum of £960.

    (8) Whatever other method may be specified under paragraph (5)(e), payment of a fixed penalty may be made by pre-paying and posting to the person whose name is stated under paragraph (5)(d), at the stated address, a letter containing the amount of the penalty (in cash or otherwise).

    (9) Where a letter is sent as mentioned in paragraph (8), payment is regarded as having been made at the time at which that letter would be delivered in the ordinary course of post.

    (10) In any proceedings, a certificate—

    (a)that purports to be signed by or on behalf of the chief finance officer of the local authority concerned, and

    (b)states that the payment of a fixed penalty was, or was not, received by the date specified in the certificate,

    is evidence of the facts stated.

    (11) In this regulation—

    (a)“authorised person” means—

    (i)a constable;

    (ii)a police community support officer;

    (iii)a person designated by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this regulation;

    (iv)subject to paragraph (12), a person designated by the relevant local authority for the purposes of this regulation;

    (b)a “chief finance officer”, in relation to a local authority, means the person with responsibility for the authority’s financial affairs.

    (12) The relevant local authority may only designate a person for the purposes of this regulation to issue fixed penalty notices where the alleged offence relates to the contravention of a requirement or restriction in regulation 4 or 5.
    Prosecutions

    11. Proceedings for an offence under these Regulations may be brought by the Crown Prosecution Service and any person designated by the Secretary of State.
    Expiry

    12.—(1) These Regulations expire at the end of the period of six months beginning with the day on which they come into force.

    (2) This regulation does not affect the validity of anything done pursuant to these Regulations before they expire.

    Matt Hancock

    Secretary of State for Health

    Department for Health and Social Care

    At 1:00 p.m. on 26th March 2020

    Regulation 1
    SCHEDULE 1Underlying Medical Conditions

    1. Chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or bronchitis.

    2. Chronic heart disease, such as heart failure.

    3. Chronic kidney disease.

    4. Chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis.

    5. Chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, a learning disability or cerebral palsy.

    6. Diabetes.

    7. Problems with the spleen, such as sickle cell disease or removal of the spleen.

    8. A weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy.

    9. Being seriously overweight, with a body mass index of 40 or above.

    Regulations 4 and 5
    SCHEDULE 2Businesses subject to restrictions or closure
    PART 1

    1. Restaurants, including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members’ clubs.

    2.—(1) Cafes, including workplace canteens (subject to sub-paragraph (2)), but not including—

    (a)cafes or canteens at a hospital, care home or school;

    (b)canteens at a prison or an establishment intended for use for naval, military or air force purposes or for the purposes of the Department of the Secretary of State responsible for defence;

    (c)services providing food or drink to the homeless.

    (2) Workplace canteens may remain open where there is no practical alternative for staff at that workplace to obtain food.

    3. Bars, including bars in hotels or members’ clubs.

    4. Public houses.
    PART 2

    5. Cinemas.

    6. Theatres.

    7. Nightclubs.

    8. Bingo halls.

    9. Concert halls.

    10. Museums and galleries.

    11. Casinos.

    12. Betting shops.

    13. Spas.

    14. Nail, beauty, hair salons and barbers.

    15. Massage parlours.

    16. Tattoo and piercing parlours.

    17. Skating rinks.

    18. Indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools, bowling alleys, amusement arcades or soft play areas or other indoor leisure centres or facilities.

    19. Funfairs (whether outdoors or indoors).

    20. Playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms.

    21. Outdoor markets (except for stalls selling food).

    22. Car showrooms.

    23. Auction Houses.
    PART 3

    24. Food retailers, including food markets, supermarkets, convenience stores and corner shops.

    25. Off licenses and licensed shops selling alcohol (including breweries).

    26. Pharmacies (including non-dispensing pharmacies) and chemists.

    27. Newsagents.

    28. Homeware, building supplies and hardware stores.

    29. Petrol stations.

    30. Car repair and MOT services.

    31. Bicycle shops.

    32. Taxi or vehicle hire businesses.

    33. Banks, building societies, credit unions, short term loan providers and cash points.

    34. Post offices.

    35. Funeral directors.

    36. Laundrettes and dry cleaners.

    37. Dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health.

    38. Veterinary surgeons and pet shops.

    39. Agricultural supplies shop.

    40. Storage and distribution facilities, including delivery drop off or collection points, where the facilities are in the premises of a business included in this Part.

    41. Car parks.

    42. Public toilets.
    EXPLANATORY NOTE

    (This note is not part of the Regulations)

    These Regulations require the closure of businesses selling food or drink for consumption on the premises, and businesses listed in Part 2 of Schedule 2, to protect against the risks to public health arising from coronavirus, except for limited permitted uses. Restrictions are imposed on businesses listed in Part 3 of Schedule 2, which are permitted to remain open. The Regulations also prohibit anyone leaving the place where they live without reasonable excuse, and ban public gatherings of more than two people. The closures and restrictions last until they are terminated by a direction given by the Secretary of State.

    The need for these restrictions must be reviewed by the Secretary of State every 21 days, with the first review taking place by 15th April 2020.

    No impact assessment has been prepared for these Regulations.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I’m a retired engineer. My job required me to know something about engineering. I would have though that was the least my employer would expect.”

    Do engineers never make mistakes? Is the pass mark on every engineering exam 100%? Does engineered machinery never fail? Don’t engineers calculate risk levels and allow for design/construction/component failures?

    It’s easy to attack a bridge designer, or building designer, or car designer for not being perfect. Lives are at risk, the value of a life is infinite, and so infinite pains should be taken to prevent loss of life, they say. But that then makes everything infinitely expensive. So the rule is to keep the inevitable errors and failures down to an acceptable level, trading the cost of the error against the cost of preventing it.

    Real systems are never perfect, and never risk free. So the question is not whether there is zero risk, but whether the non-zero risk is at an acceptable level, for an acceptable price. Have we got the trade-off right?

    Isn’t that how engineers do it?

  • Mr Ed

    Stonyground

    Quite right and ignore the troll. If a police officer claims to have a power, then they have to be right about the extent of it. Anything else is lawless tyranny.

    Meanwhile the list of police who should be in jail or unemployed grows.

    Asked about suggestions that police were patrolling the supermarket aisles to see what people were buying, Downing Street said people were allowed to buy whatever they wanted from shops permitted to be open.
    “We set out a list of shops which could remain open and if the shops are on that list then they are free to sell whatever they have in stock,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.
    Police in Cambridge had to clarify a social media post – since deleted – by an “over-exuberant” officer who suggested they were monitoring aisles of “non-essential” goods in supermarkets.
    “The force position, in line with national guidance, is that we are not monitoring what people are buying from supermarkets,” they said.
    On Thursday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was “not appropriate” for police to be checking people’s supermarket trolleys after Northamptonshire Police threatened to introduce the measures.
    Chief Constable Nick Adderley said the force would consider roadblocks and searches of people’s shopping if the public did not follow the rules. He later called his remarks “clumsy”.

  • Stonyground

    As the police seem to be giving a pretty high priority to enforcing the lockdown, I would have expected that they would need to familiarise themselves with at least the basics of these regulations. It’s a shame that the guy in the video didn’t have a copy to hand.

  • Stonyground

    Of course I’ve made mistakes but I knew my job well and mistakes were very rare.

  • Duncan S

    What Stonyground said (at 2.52pm).

    I did try posting the whole text of the regulation, but it was, quite rightly, smited.

    It’s here if you want to read it.

    It’s not rocket science, it’s not a long read.

    The key point in relation to the police person’s actions is Section 6, subsection (3):

    (3) For the purposes of paragraph (1), the place where a person is living includes the premises where they live together with any garden, yard, passage, stair, garage, outhouse or other appurtenance of such premises.

    Perhaps she struggled with “appurtenance”. But, more likely, it is because the public health headline is “Stay home”, which some (most?) will interpret as “stay in your house”, whereas the regulations do not mention “home”, using instead the legalese “the place where they are living”.

  • bobby b

    The patrolling officer is the lowest of the rungs in the police organization. We generally pay police less than we pay plumbers. The average IQ in our societies is said to be 100, and we draw our police from those societies.

    In light of these three factors, I think drawing sociological conclusions from the individual acts of individual officers is mis-aimed. Sure, this one cop screwed up. But she’s working within a screwed-up paradigm right now, one in which no one has a firm grasp of what ought to be happening. Not her bosses, not their bosses, and so certainly not her.

    She got sent out on the streets with a mandate, which was likely self-contradictory and ill-considered and poorly communicated, and now she’s infamous. Better to talk about the top of the police chain – or their bosses – than the bottom rungs.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Of course I’ve made mistakes but I knew my job well and mistakes were very rare.”

    Indeed. So the question is not whether a mistake was made here by the police, but how often it’s happening. Is it very rare? Or is it happening lots?

    We also need to know the cost of preventing it, for the trade-off. So, we could for example send all the coppers in the country on a five day course to learn about the new regulations, all the exceptions, edge cases, stuff the legislators didn’t think of, how to explain it, when to apply common sense and make exceptions, and how precisely is the wording going to be interpreted by the courts. Then you put them all through an examination to test their knowledge, and those who don’t score highly enough get to go back and do it again. And then you need to give them refresher courses at intervals to keep their knowledge current. You’ve got to design the courses, train the trainers, and ensure the training quality is sufficient which means inspections and training assessors and so on. You’ve got to book the venues, and filter all the coppers through the system while maintaining coverage on the streets. That all costs. You need to recruit/employ people bright enough to understand law, ethics, and conflict-avoiding negotiation skills, which obviously costs more. You’ve got to do the management for that, get a budget, get it approved, ensure it’s subject to proper scrutiny and accountability. And you need to set up and implement this entire system instantaneously, because the lock-down is starting imminently.

    This whole thing has been done in a rush, with no preparation, and very limited resources. Mistakes are going to happen, coppers are going to have only a hazy idea of what they’re supposed to be doing. The law is brand new, and was rushed through. We’re all begineers at this; both the public and the police. We’re all going to have to learn ‘on the job’, by experience. I would expect the failure rate to be quite high initially, and to fall with time.

    So how often is this sort of thing happening? Are the police learning from it, and correcting their mistakes? Are we operating a lenient system with limited consequences for mistakes – engage, explain, educate first, and only enforce if all else fails? How does our monitoring system work? Do we only detect the failures, or are we also counting all the successful encounters where the police did it right?

  • APL

    Duncan S: “I did try posting the whole text of the regulation, but it was, quite rightly, smited.”

    Could we put all potential legislation through the Samizdata smiting machine before it gets laid before Parliament?

    NiV: “Is it very rare? Or is it happening lots?”

    No, Yes.

    NiV: “Are the police learning from it, and correcting their mistakes?”

    No, No.

  • Duncan S

    NiV,

    The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England)Regulations 2020 is 12 pages long (probably why it was smited when I tried copy-and-paste) – with a lot of white space. (the Scotland version is the same length, just Scottishy)

    A link to the version applicable to England is in my earlier comment.

    It’s actually written in pretty plain english (okay, appurtenance is one of the exceptions).

    It doesn’t need a 5 day course to explain it.

    If a police officer were to read it, and then to go out and tell someone they can’t be in their own front garden, then that police officer is not intelligent enough to be in the job.

    But I suspect that her Chief Constable didn’t hand out the actual regulation, instead gave some sort of wishy-washy PR type of instruction.

    Maybe it’s just me, but if I was a police officer, and was told to enforce this new, hastily written, regulation, I’d be damn sure I found it on the internet, and read it, before I started getting in someone’s face about it.

    But maybe that’s just me 😉

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England)Regulations 2020 is 12 pages long”

    The Navier-Stokes equations are only two lines long. That doesn’t mean it is easy to interpret. 🙂

    “If a police officer were to read it, and then to go out and tell someone they can’t be in their own front garden, then that police officer is not intelligent enough to be in the job.”

    OK. You’ve read the regulation. So *without looking* can you tell me what three actions follow: “Where a relevant person considers that three or more people are gathered together in contravention of regulation 7, the relevant person may…”?

    Memorising 12 pages of legalese is not trivial. Interpreting it is harder.

    It would probably make sense for all the coppers to carry a copy of the regulation, to check. That would be one way to reduce the incidence of this sort of thing. But mistakes are going to be made.

  • Stonyground

    I think that a big part of the problem is the unseemly zealotry with which these half baked rules are being enforced. That combined with a complete absence of common sense. The whole point of the exercise is to prevent a virus from spreading. People are being hassled when there isn’t the slightest risk of them infecting anyone. In this case the police woman was the only potential problem.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I think that a big part of the problem is the unseemly zealotry with which these half baked rules are being enforced.”

    Certainly. There’s no argument that in this case the police’s enforcement was wrong and over the top. The police force themselves agreed. Downing street agreed.

    However, I’m conscious that we’re only seeing a small and very selective part of the picture. I’ve seen no statistics on the number of police-public interactions, how many of them go perfectly fine, for how many the public are in the wrong, and for how many the police are in the wrong. It’s not rationally possible to judge without that information.

    Is it one interaction in a thousand? One in a million? Or one in ten? Is it more or less than the usual rate of police screw-ups? Nobody’s presented any proper numbers. Anecdotes are not data.

  • James Doran

    This is not a minor mistake, it’s a complete failure to understand the powers you have as a police officer and to understand why it’s important both to understand them and apply them with proper judgement. That’s as intrinsic to the role of a police offer as the principle of do no harm is to a doctor.

    My question is was she briefed by her superiors on how to apply the new legislation and what she could or could not do? And by the way, well intentioned Is irrelevant, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  • Chester Draws

    Duncan — So in order to show how simple the law is, you post a massive text. And highlight the relevant bit so we don’t miss it!

  • Nullius in Verba

    “That’s as intrinsic to the role of a police offer as the principle of do no harm is to a doctor.”

    Good example.

  • “The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England)Regulations 2020 is 12 pages long”

    The Navier-Stokes equations are only two lines long. That doesn’t mean it is easy to interpret. 🙂(Nullius in Verba, April 10, 2020 at 4:07 pm)

    If the regulations were written in Chinese characters, they’d be a lot shorter, but that no more affects what one may reasonably expect the policewoman to know than the fact that equations are shorter in maths notations than their text descriptions would be – and about as incomprehensible to most Britons. Policing requires common sense.

    If the policewoman had been hung, drawn and quartered for her error then discussion of the fact that mistakes, even stupid ones, will happen would be relevant. As it is, turning this incident into police awareness that publicity will attend egregious overstretch is both good generally and a very proper thing to praise on a libertarian blog. The officer has been ‘spoken to’. The natural trend of a libertarian is to think that our liberties deserve a bit more protection than that. It would seem bizarre to suggest less should be done.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “If the regulations were written in Chinese characters, they’d be a lot shorter, but that no more affects what one may reasonably expect the policewoman to know than the fact that equations are shorter in maths notations than their text descriptions would be – and about as incomprehensible to most Britons.”

    Agreed. Most Britons find legalese as incomprehensible as equations, or Chinese, which is why they rely on simple slogans like “Stay at Home.” You obviously have a higher expectation regarding the intelligence of our police force than I do! 🙂

    “If the policewoman had been hung, drawn and quartered for her error then discussion of the fact that mistakes, even stupid ones, will happen would be relevant.”

    If they were hanging, drawing, and quartering people who broke the regulations, even stupidly, I’d consider that proportionate.

    “As it is, turning this incident into police awareness that publicity will attend egregious overstretch is both good generally and a very proper thing to praise on a libertarian blog.”

    Absolutely. I’ve no problem with that. *Publicity* about it, to get the problem corrected, is good. In exactly the same way as *publicity* about people breaking the quarantine, to get the problem corrected, is good. So long as both sides learn and change, we don’t need to do any more. We want to keep it friendly. We want to keep it voluntary. Crucifying anyone who makes a stupid mistake is going to result in them feeling the same way. It’s not a war. We’re supposed to be on the same side.

    But my main issue is over the issue of demanding perfection, and operating on the basis of anecdote. It reminded me of the tactics of GreenPeace, showing video of oiled-up seabirds and demanding the oil industry be shut down and its executives and management shot. Or PETA, showing video from some slaughterhouse of rule-breaking, and demanding the meat industry be shut down. If you ask the oil industry whether it’s OK to cause the suffering and death of seabirds, they will of course say ‘no’. They will say they don’t want it to happen, they take considerable measures to prevent it. But at the end of the day, it’s a cost/benefit trade. You spend so much on preventing errors, but perfection has an infinite cost, and beyond a certain point you lose more than you gain. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible to spend too little on protecting seabirds or animals – it is. And people publicising problems has a role to play. But you can’t treat *any* issue as if there was only one side to the balance.

    It depends as well if you are an anarchist or minarchist. The Harm Principle argues that society has a legitimate interest in preventing harm to others – which is what the regulations aim to do. If you’re a minarchist, you would probably accept that there is a role for the police in law enforcement to prevent harm being done to others, as on murder or poisoning or whatever. It’s the same sort of thing. Do the police sometimes overstep the bounds in their efforts to prevent murder? I’m sure they do. If the alternative is more murders, and perfection is out of reach, there’s a libertarian point on *both* sides of the argument.

    We need a balance, and we need good evidence on which to make a valid decision. We don’t want to be using the same sort of one-sided, anecdotal, irrational, emotional tactics as the likes of GreenPeace or PETA.

    Finally, I would make the point again that libertarianism has to apply the same principles of justice and least harm and minimum constraint to *everyone* in society, all the same, *including* people like the police. Including our political opponents, and people we disagree with. In exactly the same way that Free Speech applies to people we disagree with, and Free Trade applies to our competitors. We treat them the same way we would want to be treated ourselves. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. People only learn by example, from the society they live in. In just the same way that after every revolution against the tyrants, the downtrodden always become the vengeful new tyrants because that’s all they know. If people who break the rules are to be crucified – hung, drawn, and quartered – if that’s the sort of society we choose to live in, then that’s what will happen to us too.

  • Phil B

    You are all missing the point. Had the police orificer (no NOT a spelling mistake) not been recorded and a fuss made, then man would have been taken to court and put to the expense and inconvenience of hiring a lawyer and, knowing the British courts, likely to have been fined for not breaking the law.

    Repeat in chorus, all together now …

    THE PROCESS IS THE PUNISHMENT.

    The Police are well out of control and have been for a long time.

  • NickM

    Well, Cressida Dick being promoted to become the de facto most senior police officer in the country after the case of Jean Charles de Menezes says all we really need to know about our boys and girls in blue – at least at the managerial level.

  • NickM

    NiV,
    Following on from my previous comment it just occurs to me that a big difference between PETA or Greenpeace and the Rozzers is the former can’t stick 11 hollow-points in you in plain sight and get away with it.

  • Nessimmersion

    Phil B has it absolutely, if the police were not fully aware their actions were being recorded, charges would have been laid.

    More generally – How often is the charge made of ” Ignorance of the Law is no excuse” so sauce for the goose and all that, the police officer who peelian principles state is no more than a member of the public, needs to be prosecuted for attempted extortion.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “You are all missing the point. Had the police orificer (no NOT a spelling mistake) not been recorded and a fuss made, then man would have been taken to court and put to the expense and inconvenience of hiring a lawyer and, knowing the British courts, likely to have been fined for not breaking the law.”

    Nonsense. She asked him to stop indoors, he went indoors (after a long argument/discussion on the doorstep), she walked away. That was the end of it.

    She got it wrong about the law on going out in your garden, but she did NOT arrest him, prosecute him, or fine him. Nor would she have. The strong guidance is that that they don’t if people comply. And last week I watched the Parliamentary committee hauling all the Chief Constables up in front of them and asking each in turn whether they had been following that guidance, and making it very clear to them that unnecessary prosecutions would not be tolerated.

    Every incident like this severely embarrasses the government and makes their case even harder. What do you expect happens to people who embarrass senior government ministers in front of the entire nation?

    “Following on from my previous comment it just occurs to me that a big difference between PETA or Greenpeace and the Rozzers is the former can’t stick 11 hollow-points in you in plain sight and get away with it.”

    When they stick 11 hollowpoints in somebody for standing on their front lawn, call me back and I’ll agree with you!

    (And I was comparing GreenPeace to *us*, not the rozzers.)

  • APL

    NiV: “Nonsense. She asked him to stop indoors, he went indoors (after a long argument/discussion on the doorstep), she walked away. That was the end of it.”

    That was the end of it, … because she was being recorded.

    Always, always, make it clear and explicit that you are recording any and all interactions with the police.

    NiV: “Nor would she have.”

    You can’t possibly know that. If she wasn’t being recorded, she could very well have notched up another ‘Breach of the peace’ charge. A bored Policeman’s/woman’s favorite catchall charge.

  • G Wilson

    I’m not seeing the “well-intentioned” part. Her intention appears to have been to step outside of the law to bully someone.

  • Mr Ed

    This incident took place in Rotherham, which is frankly, mainly associated with ‘grooming gangs’ i.e. industrial mass rape, of which the police were aware, and in respect of which they did nothing for years. So why the change from not enforcing the law when there is a clear breach, to making up the law on the basis of, at best, your own stupidity?

    There really needs to be a clear-out of officious police officers, one strike and you are out, with pension forfeited. What we need is a simple impeachment process, put a case before a volunteer jury, sitting on Saturday mornings, with aggrieved ‘citizens’ putting a case to a jury, no judge, and one hour for each case. Here, just show this video, ask the officer to explain the power that they acted under (on oath) and if the jury finds against, removal from office and forfeit of pension and salary from the date of the incident, and a compensation order from the individual officer if warranted, with imprisonment for debt if not paid at the point of conviction. Also ban those convicted from public office or employment for life.

    A simple, cheap process and a way for juries to make a difference. You might then find some of the more exhibitionist Chief Constables winding their necks in.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “That was the end of it, … because she was being recorded.”

    No, that was the end of it, because those were her instructions. As it is with everyone else being approached by the police.

    Greater Manchester Police has warned people not to breach lockdown rules over Easter after it had to break up 660 parties during the pandemic.

    Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said “each and every one of us need take this seriously”.

    There were 1,132 coronavirus-related breaches reported between 25 March and 7 April, the force said.

    That included 494 house parties – some with DJs, fireworks and bouncy castles – and 166 street parties.

    One woman in Bury became the first person in Greater Manchester to be charged under the Coronavirus Act 2020 after police had to repeatedly shut down one of the gatherings.

    The force, which has released updated figures, also had to deal with 122 different groups gathering to play sports, 173 more gatherings in parks and 112 incidents of anti-social behaviour and public disorder.

    660 parties – complete with bouncy castles! – and *one* woman in the entire Greater Manchester area got charged because she did it repeatedly. You don’t get charged if you listen and stop breaking the rules.

    “I’m not seeing the “well-intentioned” part. Her intention appears to have been to step outside of the law to bully someone.”

    She had no intention of stepping outside the law – she herself misunderstood the law. And she had no intention of bullying anyone – the intention is get people to comply with the regulation to save lives by reducing the transmission of disease to a level the health service can cope with.

    It’s like the way during the days shortly after a number of people with knives hijacked airplanes and flew them into buildings, killing thousands, they asked people not to carry knives on airplanes. It’s not because they wanted to bully people innocently carrying knives. It’s not because they got wet over any excuse to order people around. It’s because they didn’t want any more thousands of people to die with hijacked airplanes. And if it turns out that the regulation excluded a particular sort of knife, and the police wrongly asked somebody to turn it over when that wasn’t legally necessary, that doesn’t mean the intention to stop people flying planes into buildings was a bad one.

    We’ve just had the equivalent of nearly three 9/11s packed in to the last three weeks. The United States has had six. And the number was (and possibly still is) accelerating. Do you remember how people reacted after 9/11?

    Libertarians should (and do) object to the enforcement of regulations aimed not at preventing harm to others, but forcing people to live a certain way because those in power think it is the only right and proper way to live. That doesn’t mean libertarians object to all regulation, any more than the non-aggression principle means libertarians are pacifists. Should the police enforce the borders, and deport illegal immigrants? Should the police arrest and jail murderers and rapists? Should the police hunt and stop jihadi terrorists? Libertarians (apart from the hardcore anarchists, who have their own alternative) are not absolutely opposed to the police on principle.

  • APL

    NiV: “No, that was the end of it, because those were her instructions.”

    Very good, now we know the police constable was instructed to act ultra vires.

    She had no authority to act in the way she did, and her superior had no authority to instruct her to so act.

    Fire them both, two birds with one stone, so to speak.

    NiV: “660 parties – complete with bouncy castles! ”

    Which has nothing to do with this particular incident. But sterling attempt at misdirection.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Very good, now we know the police constable was instructed to act ultra vires.”

    🙄

  • llamas

    It’s a fact of policing life that, no matter what powers are granted to the police, or for what good and obvious purposes they are put in place, commanders and officers will immediately find ways to apply them at the very extreme limits of their effect, and often beyond, or to claim that this-or-that regulation gives them a power that it does not.

    Officers routinely claim powers and authorities which they do not, in fact, possess, relying on a combination of ignorance and intimidation to get people to do what they want in the moment. There’s also a solid culture of nailing one’s colours to the mast – once a claim of law or regulation has been made, no matter how outrageous, it will be asserted and defended no-matter-what. And – as noted – the process, is the punishment, and much-more-so in the UK.

    As has also been noted, the relevant regulation is not complex. What it is, is very long. I’m sure that, at that morning’s parade, the sergeant did not read out all 12 pages of the regulation – it got boiled down to a few sentences. Which automatically creates a very wide latitude for individual interpretation and over-zealous enforcement. As we see here. The officer almost-immediately starts lecturing the citizen on her ideas of the medical characteristics of the epidemic – which are none of her business. In other words, she’s interpreted the regulation to support her ideas of what people should be doing, instead of what it plainly (but tediously) says.

    And – contrary to the assertions of others – I say it’s a 99.98745% certainty that, had the citizen not (eventually) complied with her instruction, the matter would have escalated. Asserting that ‘that was the end of it’, as though everything ended well, kind-of glosses over the fact that it only ended that way because the citizen was intimidated by the officer into complying with an entirely-illegal and unjustified instruction. I say that’s a very-bad outcome. I see all the usual excuses being trotted out – oh, it’s a new situation, the police only have a hazy idea of what the regulations mean, we all have to learn as we go along, mistakes will be made, and I say – b*ll*ocks to that. You’re restricting people’s fundamental liberties in completely-draconian ways – you’d better get it close to perfectly-right, right from the get-go.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It’s a fact of policing life that, no matter what powers are granted to the police, or for what good and obvious purposes they are put in place, commanders and officers will immediately find ways to apply them at the very extreme limits of their effect, and often beyond, or to claim that this-or-that regulation gives them a power that it does not.”

    And it’s a fact of policing life that even when they don’t, people will say they do.

    “And – as noted – the process, is the punishment, and much-more-so in the UK.”

    And, as noted, they’ve been told not to use the process if they can possibly avoid it.

    “As has also been noted, the relevant regulation is not complex.”

    The whole thing is, actually, quite complex. Even skimming through a few paragraphs of it casually, I picked up half a dozen different ambiguities and opportunities for confusion. Legalese can be very hard to interpret, and very easy to misinterpret, which is why we employ lawyers. If you pick out the one specific paragraph relevant to this case, then yes, that’s pretty easy, but it’s easy for it to get lost in all the rest.

    “I’m sure that, at that morning’s parade, the sergeant did not read out all 12 pages of the regulation – it got boiled down to a few sentences.”

    Obviously. And had the entire thing been read out, it would have been entirely useless, because normal humans can’t remember that much detail at one hearing.

    Yes, the regulation can be boiled down to “Stay at home”. The instructions were to go *talk* to people, to *explain* to them why it was necessary, to *encourage* them to comply voluntarily, and only use enforcement as a last resort. People are interpreting that as best they can, which is particularly in these early stages sometimes not very well.

    “And – contrary to the assertions of others – I say it’s a 99.98745% certainty that, had the citizen not (eventually) complied with her instruction, the matter would have escalated.”

    Yes, probably. That’s what’s supposed to happen if a copper see someone breaking what they believe to be the law.

    “Asserting that ‘that was the end of it’, as though everything ended well, kind-of glosses over the fact that it only ended that way because the citizen was intimidated by the officer into complying with an entirely-illegal and unjustified instruction. I say that’s a very-bad outcome.”

    Of course it is. And action needs to be taken to stop it happening again, by *explaining* again to the police on the streets exactly what the rules are, and how they are to be interpreted, and asking them to be careful about getting it right. If the police don’t comply with that instruction, then matters ought to escalate. If even after this incident, it’s found that the police are still saying people can’t play in their gardens, then yes, heads should roll. But demanding flawless perfection of the police is like GreenPeace demanding perfection of the oil companies. It’s only accounting for one side of the trade-off.

    “You’re restricting people’s fundamental liberties in completely-draconian ways – you’d better get it close to perfectly-right, right from the get-go.”

    It’s a two-sided trade-off. You have the risk to people’s liberties on one side. You have mass death on the scale of a new 9/11 every few days (that has the potential to escalate to a new 9/11 every few hours) on the other side. The rational trade-off point is a balance between the two risks. If one risk increases massively, the risk you need to accept on the other side of the balance necessarily increases also.

    I think the fundamental problem here is that people don’t understand or accept the risk posed by COVID-19. If you don’t think it’s a danger, you’re not going to agree with the trade-off the rest of society has set. But that’s a different problem.

  • Mr Ecks

    LLamas is correct.

    What is required is the right to defend oneself against costumed thugs acting illegally. As if you were defending yourself against ordinary thugs. With provisions to ensure the usual bluebottle retaliation is prevented.

    It would of course require lots of people acting together to force these laws upon the scummy state. There are rather too many state arse-kissers around.

    So a good beginning might be what is happening on a small scale privately in the US. I believe there are a number of organisations–still only a very few–to whom you pay a yearly fee. In return, if cop trouble hoves into view you press a button on your phone ( or a ring say, that activates yr phone without cops having an excuse for shooting you while you reach for your phone) which sets off an anti-cop response. You are tracked by the phone, a network of lawyers are set in motion and police are notified that others are involved and that you have resources backing you so any dirty cop tricks will come to light.

    Akin to an anti-cop version of the old Friendly Societies.

    A good idea that might be adapted for UK use as well.

  • staghounds

    This is a lot of talk about

    “There’s a quarantine, go ten feet to the inside of your own door.”

    (Full disclosure as the youth say, the whole shutting down is a vast waste and pointless destruction of liberty and treasure for no real gain. We are mobilised like it is 1944, but our enemy is Belgium.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “We are mobilised like it is 1944, but our enemy is Belgium.”

    Good one!

    Here’s the total army battle casualties (fatal and non-fatal) of the US army in the second world war, month by month. As you can see, the peak month in 1944 was December, with about 18,000 deaths over the month. There are 31 days in December, so that’s an average rate of 581 deaths per day.

    According to Johns Hopkins University, 2,108 Americans died in the past 24 hours from COVID-19.

    And the predicted peak rate of deaths, under the (unrealistic) joint assumptions of taking no measures to slow its spread and no increase in mortality due to an overloaded health service, is 50,000 deaths per day. With the overload, you could probably multiply that by five – potentially about four hundred times the death rate in 1944, albeit only for a month.

    Good job the Allies didn’t declare war on Belgium, eh?

  • Schrodinger's Dog

    The public might be a bit more willing to cut them some slack, were it not for the zeal with which they have seized on the lockdown regulations, allied the thuggish incompetence that seems to be the hallmark of the contemporary British police.

    For the longest time, in a lot of places in the UK, you were seemingly more likely to meet Big Foot than a policeman. And good luck getting the police to investigate a burglary. (“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t have the resources to investigate that.”)

    Now though, when it comes to enforcing the lockdown regulations, they seem to be absolutely everywhere, possibly because they know they are going to be dealing with the kind of people who don’t tend to fight back.

    Clearly the British police have abundant resources and, once the coronavirus pandemic is over, I expect them to use those resources to turn Britain into a crime-free paradise.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The public might be a bit more willing to cut them some slack, were it not for the zeal with which they have seized on the lockdown regulations, allied the thuggish incompetence that seems to be the hallmark of the contemporary British police.”

    The public *are* willing to cut them some slack. The small number of people who aren’t are particularly highly concentrated among commenters here!

    According to a YouGov survey, 14% think the police should take even tougher action, 42% fully support their action (total 56% in favour), 32% support the police but think a few are going too far, and 6% and 2% say the police have been too heavy-handed or should not be doing this. 72% are comfortable with people being arrested for not complying with instructions to return home, with 22% uncomfortable, and only 7% very uncomfortable.

    If what you’re saying here is that your issue about this is mainly because you don’t like or trust the police, based on their past behaviour, then I don’t have any problem with that. That’s not what I’m arguing about.

  • APL

    NiV: “The small number of people who aren’t are particularly highly concentrated among commenters here!”

    Poor old fellow, shocked to find yourself among Libertarians on a Libertarian blog.

  • mickc

    Yes, indeed they are out of control.

  • mickc

    Of course the process is the punishment. Ask Dave Lee Travis…not guilty on all but a minor charge…no doubt the jury felt they’d best do something after all those charges….but almost bankrupted..

  • Stonyground

    So being in a minority makes us wrong does it? I wasn’t aware that reality worked that way.

  • mickc

    Funnily enough, “some slack” probably doesn’t include overt bullying…

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Poor old fellow, shocked to find yourself among Libertarians on a Libertarian blog.”

    Who said anything about being shocked? 🙂 I was just noting that this group is not, as some seem to believe, representative of the public mood.

    And, without meaning to be rude, there are of course numerous different types of libertarian. 🙂

    “So being in a minority makes us wrong does it?”

    It only makes you wrong about claims to represent the view of the majority of the public.

    On the rest of the argument, as I explained above, it’s the complete lack of statistical backing and any acknowledgement of the need to balance competing risks that makes you wrong. Anecdotes are not data. 🙂

  • APL

    NiV: “On the rest of the argument, as I explained above, it’s the complete lack of statistical backing and any acknowledgement of the need to balance competing risks that makes you wrong. Anecdotes are not data.”

    Are you are going to cite the tiny number of successful prosecutions of Police officers, by the IPOC as evidence that the Police are beyond reproach.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Are you are going to cite the tiny number of successful prosecutions of Police officers, by the IPOC as evidence that the Police are beyond reproach.”

    No. And the police are not beyond reproach, on this or anything else, as the police themselves have acknowledged.

  • APL

    NiV: “Anecdotes are not data.”

    OK.

    Data.

    Data.

    and if you include the subject instance, that’s three instances where the police have been either criticised or a civil prosecution brought because the Police have exceeded their authority. Sixty seconds with google, for god’s sake.

  • Nullius in Verba

    APL,

    Sample size of… 3, right?

    Non-random selection of all police-public interactions, yes?

  • APL

    NiV: “Sample size of… 3, right?”

    Yes, in this instance. But then I’ve got better things to do with my Easter weekend that dig up data to refute your assertions.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Fair enough.

  • I think the fundamental problem here is that people don’t understand or accept the risk posed by COVID-19. (Nullius in Verba, April 11, 2020 at 11:30 am)

    No, the fundamental problems here is that the policewoman did not understand and accept a ridiculously-easy-to-grasp aspect of the regulations. It is very proper for contributors to a libertarian blog thread to echo (and anticipate) Home Secretary Priti Patel and other commenters in telling such policewomen to limit themselves to enforcing only such liberty-restricting regulations as have actually been enacted.

    (This is logically independent of whether one thinks the shutdown is or is not excessive in relation to its justification, and/or that the amount that is still unknown permits a range of views on how likely that justification is itself to prove true or false.)

    The public *are* willing to cut them some slack. (Nullius in Verba, April 11, 2020 at 4:12 pm)

    I disagree; I think the public feel no sympathy when insect authority exceeds the already onerous restrictions. In any event, the public now have the Home Secretary and the policewoman’s superiors to quote at any officer who tries it again.

  • Chester Draws

    after it had to break up 660 parties during the pandemic.

    660 alleged parties. This is an example of how the press play two rules. A man guns down people in the street in plain view, and he is an “alleged” terrorist. The police say 660 parties, and we’re good to go.

    A bunch of boys were stopped by police because they were congregating to play football. As it turns out, they are the international boarders at a local school and only included their “bubble” — which just happened to be a big one. This being NZ the rozzers went away satisfied, but it will still be recorded as the Police attending people playing sport.

    I’m picking an enormous number of those Manchester “parties” weren’t parties at all. Some will have been parties, but legal ones (our neighbours had one yesterday, beer pong and all). And a small number will have been the sort of people who break laws habitually, so were in breach. The coppers want to make it look like they need to crack down, so cite the number of call outs, not the number of actual offences.

    Our way we get idiocies like this: https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/national/pursuit-crash-wouldnt-have-happened-if-driver-obeyed-lockdown-police/ar-BB12s2Hx?li=BBqdk7Q

    Yeah, if people obeyed the lockdown they wouldn’t steal cars. There’s calls for tougher penalties for fleeing from the Police during the lockdown. But the sort of people who steal cars do it regardless and it’s got nothing to do with the lockdown at all. Not a jot.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “No, the fundamental problems here is that the policewoman did not understand and accept a ridiculously-easy-to-grasp aspect of the regulations.”

    I think I may be talking about a different problem. The problem with the policewoman was that she didn’t remember, or had mentally muddled up the regulation, or had been working from a summary or something. That’s not a matter of dispute. The police agree with you. Downing Street agreed with you. I agree with you. She got it wrong. Action is needed to better educate the police patrolling the streets. That would solve that particular problem. But the problem I was talking about in the statement you quote was the one in *this* discussion, where people are jumping from a tiny handful of anecdotes about fallible humans making errors to broad statements about “lawless tyranny” and “costumed thugs” and how people are definitely and inevitably being charged and dragged through the courts for perfectly legal behaviour, and the police need to be vengefully prosecuted. (Like, this is how we would use the law if *we* were in control.) It all sounds a bit mentally ill and paranoid, frankly. It is, as I say, the same fallacy commonly used by single-issue campaigners on the other side. Like a feminist who wants all males locked up because “all men are rapists”, and proves her claim by presenting a handful of anecdotes of men behaving badly she picked up in her oh-so-unbiased feminist Twitter feed. I thought we were supposed to be better than that. (You can take that as a compliment, if you like.)

    I *know* people here are well aware of the problems with arguing from a tiny number of anecdotes, and only considering one side of a trade-off, because when political opponents do it it’s quickly identified. And we castigate the other side for their intellectual dishonesty in doing it, and hypocrisy in doing it selectively only when it is to their political advantage.

    But I think people only spontaneously notice the trade-off problem as an issue when they are *aware* of there being risks on both sides. If someone had a very strong belief that one of the risks wasn’t real, and indeed had made a big point of denying it recently, complaining about the way the world had accepted this false belief uncritically, then I think it might be possible for them to *honestly* fail to see that there is a trade-off to be made, or that the balance to be struck wasn’t obvious. I’m still a bit puzzled why they’re still unable to understand the point even after I’ve pointed it out, though, but people are like that I find. Frequently inexplicable.

    I’m constantly amazed at the number of ridiculously-easy-to-grasp concepts people don’t know/understand/accept. 🙂 And not just in political arguments. The same applies to maths and science, or economics, or law, or history. But they often don’t. It’s human.

    “I disagree; I think the public feel no sympathy when insect authority exceeds the already onerous restrictions.”

    But on what evidence do you think so? Or is this one of those beliefs based on a feeling?

    “In any event, the public now have the Home Secretary and the policewoman’s superiors to quote at any officer who tries it again.”

    True. But they already had the regulation itself to quote, which I’m certain, like us, everyone in the country has already downloaded and printed a copy of, although why they would then hold street parties and house parties with DJs and fireworks and bouncy castles after reading it, I’m sure is a mystery. Surely “no bouncy castles” is a ridiculously-easy-to-grasp aspect of the regulations? 🙂

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I’m picking an enormous number of those Manchester “parties” weren’t parties at all.”

    Oh? That sounds like it may be genuine counter-evidence. Tell me more! So, how many of them weren’t parties, and if they weren’t parties, what were they? And what’s with the bouncy castles?

  • the other rob

    Funny that you should mention student parties and bouncy castles, NiV. Yesterday, I was talking with a chap whose buddy owns and operates a bounce house (as they call them here) rental business.

    Apparently April and May are normally his busiest time, the two months when he makes the money that carries him through the rest of the year. It’s all the graduations and such.

    So he’s pretty much fucked, even here in west Texas, where the Clampdown is less heavy handed than many other places.

    Still, it’s only bouncy castles. It’s not like it was how he fed his family and kept a roof over their heads. Oh. It was.

    People like him were on my mind when conversation turned to that skank in Michigan (who has neither the warmth nor the depth to be a cunt) and the GF made an argument as to why garden centers should be considered essential. I held that that was the wrong argument to make, because it conceded to the statists some kind of right to decide what otherwise lawful activity may or may not be deemed “essential” and permitted or prohibited, at whim.

    Rather, I said, the correct argument might be closer to something along the lines of “Fuck you. You don’t have the right. I will murder you.” Though naturally I would prefer that it should not come to that.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Yesterday, I was talking with a chap whose buddy owns and operates a bounce house (as they call them here) rental business.”

    My sympathies.

    “Rather, I said, the correct argument might be closer to something along the lines of “Fuck you. You don’t have the right. I will murder you.” Though naturally I would prefer that it should not come to that.”

    Yes. The problem is that there are a lot of *other* people out there who set the trade-off point between liberty and survival on the other side, who want the quarantine enforced, and when people start talking about their right to continue spreading the plague, killing them and their loved ones, because that’s my business at stake, their response is “Fuck you. You don’t have the right. I will murder you.” They often seem to think their grandparents’ lives are more important than your business hiring out bouncy castles. People can get emotional about things like that. So you end up with a shooting war between one side lynching the quarantine-breakers, and the other side fighting to overthrow the tyranny of the quarantine-enforcers, with a pandemic going on. The result is both lots more people dead, and lots more businesses destroyed. If you get rid of the state, you need to set up an alternative mechanism for resolving disagreements over policy and conflicts between differing interests. Not impossible, of course, but it would be a bit difficult to set it up before next week, when we need it.

    The problem with “Fuck you. You don’t have the right. I will murder you.” is that the other side will say exactly the same thing about you. And at least some of the time, they’ll win. When proposing any measure of social control, always, always, always think about what happens when your enemies apply the same mechanism to *you*.

    There is no such thing as the state – there are just people. ‘The State’ is just a fiction to describe a particular set of people who currently have control. JS Mill said “Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyranny – society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it – its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries.” There is still a lot of ‘vulgar dread’ around here. There are just people. Getting rid of the state doesn’t get rid of the people, and you still have to deal with them, and the fact that a lot of them disagree with you. The government is just people. The police are just people. They act like they do because they’re people, and that’s how people act.

    And people have a built-in authoritarian streak. They want the world to work as they will it, and if the rest of the world proves uncooperative, it makes them angry, and makes them want to enforce their will on the world. The world can either fight or submit. Either way, somebody is going to lose. History has been the story of different factions fighting for supremacy, and widespread suffering due to either war or oppression. It never stops, because as one tyrant is overthrown, those overthrowing them just set up a new tyranny. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.” It’s just that we take turns wearing the boot. Thus, it is not the state you need to fight – that is just overthrowing one tyrant to set up another one – it is the authoritarian streak in humanity that you have to defeat: our collective tendency to want to enforce our will on others by force. To control society, and prevent it being authoritarian, we first have to learn how to control ourselves.

    The police are human. Most of them are kinda OK. They’re just people doing a job. Often they’re not the smartest of people. They can sometimes get a bit ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’ if you get into an argument with them, and they show all the usual human incompetence and fallibility that you can get from anyone else, along with all the glutinous limitations of cost-cutting bureaucracy and jobsworth rules, but it is their job to be helpful. And quite a lot of the time they’re scared shitless, because they know that they’re on their own in the middle of a crowd that could tear them apart if it chose to. They’re doubly scared in the current circumstances, both because their exposure to lots of other people puts them at high risk of catching the bug, and because they know that the lock-down is an extremely touchy, volatile subject. They are painfully aware they are *absolutely* dependent on public cooperation and goodwill to police this, and they know it, and it’s their highest priority at the moment to keep relations friendly. This is not the tiny 1% of malcontents they normally have to deal with, and can throw their weight around with. This is the 100%. So they’re scared, and people who are scared don’t always think clearly. Fortunately, 90%+ of the population understand, and support them in this. The police have messed up several times (and the public have expressed their displeasure about that), as have many members of the general public, but we’re all trying to keep relations friendly. We’re all human, we’re all fallible, we’re all learning.

    So long as that’s the case, the general public retain the power. The police can’t continue this for any longer than the public let them, and while there’s cooperation they’ve got no excuse or motive to obtain that power. If there was more widespread resistance, they might argue for its necessity in the emergency, and get the backing of the majority to do so, which would be incredibly dangerous. So I think it’s far better for liberty to maintain *voluntary* cooperation for the duration of the emergency, in order to make sure it *stays* voluntary. As well, we want to demonstrate that a voluntary response is possible, and not confirm the belief of Hobbesian authoritarians that the people are savages that are only tamed by the firm hand of government.

    The public support the lockdown, and the public support the police. 90%+. While that’s the case, the public will likely take the state’s side in any conflict. But the state is just a bunch of people, and its the authoritarian streak in people generally that we really need to worry about. We need to show that there is another way.

  • Nessimmersion

    And as if by magic, how to get the public not supporting the lock down very quickly.
    The police need to be personally liable when breaching guidelines “Ignorance of the law is not an excuse”
    https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/police-say-sorry-after-video-18078933

  • Paul Marks

    Duncan S. may be correct about the present regulations – but they can be changed at any time.

    There is a lot of debate over whether or not the various orders pushed by the State and Federal authorities are Constitutional under the United States Constitution or the various State Constitutions.

    But there is no Constitution here in the United Kingdom – so the government (the Civil Service and so on) can do anything it likes. There might be some tears in Parliament – but they are not going to vote against an expansion of government (although they might vote against a reduction of the state – if some government proposed such a thing). The tears annoy me – if you are going to doing something bad just do it, do not cry and then do it.

    It used be said that there was an “unwritten constitution” limiting what Parliament could do. There was even a network of Constitution Clubs all over the United Kingdom. And a million people in Ulster signed the Covenant pledging to defend their liberties, if need be, AGAINST Parliament.

    But few would entertain such principles today.

    This is now the nation of Thomas Hobbes, David Hume and Jeremy Bentham – of the doctrine that rights come from the state, that there are no rights AGAINST the state.

  • SteveD

    ‘I found myself with a certain sympathy for the cop lady.’

    How can telling someone they can’t play with their kids on their front law possibly be well intentioned?

  • bobby b

    SteveD
    April 12, 2020 at 9:32 pm

    “How can telling someone they can’t play with their kids on their front law possibly be well intentioned?”

    If they truly believe that playing on their front lawn exposes the kids to a deadly plague, you might as well ask “How can telling someone they can’t play with their kids in the busy street possibly be well intentioned?”

  • Nullius in Verba

    “How can telling someone they can’t play with their kids on their front law possibly be well intentioned?”

    Because the intention is to prevent the spread of disease, to save lives.

    The idea is to prevent the spread of disease by eliminating (as much as feasible) all potential for contact between households. Some measures are based on the direct prevention of transfer (e.g. standing two metres apart, hand washing, etc.), and others are based on reducing the density of people outside to make that possible, to prevent people accidentally getting too close. If you told everyone they could go out to parks so long as they kept well separated, everyone would go out, the parks would get packed, and the disease would inevitably spread more. Rather than try to come up with some complicated rule conditional on how many people are around, which would be very difficult to both explain to the public and manage in practice, they instead kept it simple and just said people should not leave their homes, except for the ‘bare essentials’.

    Keeping it simple, and hence easy for people to remember and for thick people to comply with, was evidently seen as a higher priority than maximising the boundaries within which people could move. The closer and more complex the boundaries, the higher the risk. Bearing in mind that 40% of the British think the sun orbits around the Earth, it has to be very simple indeed.

    The aim is to give the simplest possible instruction to prevent contact between households, which is for everyone to stay home as much as possible. Now, the regulations define “home” to include your garden, stairs, balconies, etc. That does raise a slight possibility of garden-to-garden transfer – if, say, kids in neighbouring gardens are playing, or someone coughing in one garden spread aerosol droplets across into the next – but it was presumably judged small enough that we didn’t have to go that far. Gardens could be considered part of “home” for the purposes of “stopping at home”.

    However, the policewoman had evidently understood “home” to mean “in your house”. While the relevant paragraph of the regulation is clear about this, if you’ve been asked to memorise the entire 12 pages of legalese it would be easy to forget, confuse, or miss it, assuming she had even seen the thing, rather than a summary. Think about the kids doing a spelling test or a history test. They’ve been presented with, say, fifty facts to memorise for homework, how many can they remember several days later? The revision paper clearly said “37. The Battle of Waterloo was in 1815”. That’s not hard to understand. So why can’t your kid remember it along with all the other 50 dates five days later? Humans are human, and make mistakes.

    That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable or right. It just means we’re all human, and sometimes things go wrong. People miss the sign, get lost, get stuck in the wrong lane, drop the vase, forget to post the letter, can’t remember the date of the Battle of Waterloo. A certain level of breakages is inevitable.

  • Bearing in mind that 40% of the British think the sun orbits around the Earth, it has to be very simple indeed. (Nullius in Verba, April 12, 2020 at 10:52 pm)

    I find it revealing that you, apparently, believe that statement as phrased. 🙂

    However if one really believed that police staff cannot be expected to see that two members of a family in their own garden are nowhere near 6 feet of where others were or are (except maybe the questioning policewoman) or will be, then I concede it’s a great argument for having laws that are very few and very simple, which is a libertarian goal. How unfortunate then, for libertarianism, that both her superiors and the home secretary have rejected this belief and instead think she should have known. 🙂

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I find it revealing that you, apparently, believe that statement as phrased.”

    Oh? Why?

    Because it shows I’m fallible and sometimes phrase things badly? Why is that a revelation?

    “However if one really believed that police staff cannot be expected to see that two members of a family in their own garden are nowhere near 6 feet of where others were or are”

    But that wasn’t the issue being questioned. The issue was what does the phrase “Stay at home” mean?

    “How unfortunate then, for libertarianism, that both her superiors and the home secretary have rejected this belief and instead think she should have known.”

    She should have known. We all agree on that. But her superiors and the home secretary would also I think argue that it was more likely a well-intentioned error of understanding rather than malice, that the number of such incidents is tiny compared to the number of police-public interactions the vast majority of which are amiable and successful, and there is a balance to be struck between risks that means that neither risk can ever be reduced to zero and a certain number of failures is inevitable.

    The question is not “was it an error?” The question is “Is it ever reasonable to demand absolutely no errors?”

  • Lee Moore

    1. Congratulations to Nullius in Verba for defending his (or her) wicket with such gusto and determination.

    2. However, the policewoman had evidently understood “home” to mean “in your house”.

    I’m pretty confident that’s right.

    3. While the relevant paragraph of the regulation is clear about this, if you’ve been asked to memorise the entire 12 pages of legalese it would be easy to forget, confuse, or miss it, assuming she had even seen the thing, rather than a summary.

    I’m not a lawyer, but long long ago, in a galaxy far away, I had a financey job that had a heavy tax component. Consequently, quite often when the government decided to change the law, I was obliged to stare at the new law (relevant to my area of business) to try to figure out what it meant. In those far off days, the government might satisfy itself with two or three pages of law, backed up by a five or six page Schedule – ie fewer than a dozen pages. No doubt these days they wouldn’t be content anything less than forty. But then was then.

    The point though is that while I could do a quick skim in a couple of hours to get the general gist, it might take a whole day to break the back of it if it looked like it mattered. And even then you certainly wouldn’t “know” it, you’d just have a bit of a mental map. And if it really mattered, then it could take much longer.

    And one of the things you learn is that while having a long list of definitions in the law does make the thing more precise, and saves space on the statute book, it does not help you get the rules into your noggin any faster. You have to forget, say, that in the stated rule, “home” doesn’t mean home – it means something else, as defined.

    Now I bet that in those far off days, though probably not now, I was smarter than the average policewoman – nor was my main job to plod a beat. I had a nice warm office and a nice warm computer, with the new law sitting on my desk, and a tax expert on the other end of the phone if I needed one.

    So the notion that the average policewoman, already expected to have a good working grasp of the whole body of law relevant to her beat plodding, could reasonably be expected to skim and digest a new twelve page regulation, and then carry it round in her head, without screwing up occasionally, strikes me as eccentric.

  • Mr Ed

    LM

    So the notion that the average policewoman, already expected to have a good working grasp of the whole body of law relevant to her beat plodding, could reasonably be expected to skim and digest a new twelve page regulation, and then carry it round in her head, without screwing up occasionally, strikes me as eccentric.

    So when you are carted off to a GULAG, you won’t say it’s illegal? Not hyperbole, if she is saying you have broken the law, she must always know which law, chapter, verse, line and sub-section to the letter. If not, ‘the law’ is whatever she makes up as she goes along. She is asserting that she has a duty to enforce the law, and the power to do so. She should face a charge of misconduct in public office, and a potential life sentence, because she broke the law by asserting powers that she did not have, a law that she is paid and more importantly attested to enforce. If she is too thick to know the law, or too lazy or incurious to learn it, she should resign forthwith, or arrest her senior officer for inciting her to break the law, as the case may be. She always had the option of checking.

  • Nessimmersion

    As ignorance of the law is no excuse, the only way to save our police from prosecution for making up laws willy nilly is to keep all laws simple enough for those on the thick blue line to comprehend.

  • suburbanbanshee

    The policewoman was a Karen. She didn’t believe in some confused interpretation of the law; she believed in her Karen powers, and conflates them mentally with the majesty of the law.

  • She always had the option of checking. (Mr Ed, April 13, 2020 at 8:35 pm)

    While even I (Niall hang’em-and-flog’em Kilmartin 🙂 ) do not echo Mr Ed’s severer suggested penalties, this point does seem to me very relevant. She was in a very unusual position for a patrolling policewoman if she lacked a radio and the ability to ask over it, “Does ‘home’ in ‘Stay at home’ include the garden?” and get an answer quite quick enough for the incident. Her determination not to do so, but instead to compel the householder and child inside on threat of penalty, suggests not true ignorance but rather arrogance – that of insect authority to whom the rules are always what they just said.

    That said in support of Mr Ed (whom, however, I otherwise advise to consider whether his quality of mercy should be quite so strained in this in-itself small and soon remedied case), I am very content to end my thread contributions with mine above (Niall Kilmartin, April 13, 2020 at 2:08 pm). I think we should all recognise that anyone who can write

    Bearing in mind that 40% of the British think the sun orbits around the Earth (Nullius in Verba, April 12, 2020 at 10:52 pm)

    (and not have an alarm bell go off in their head) is not likely to be persuaded to hear an alarm bell over this policewoman’s little incident – not by any eloquence that I can command, anyway. Time to agree to disagree, I think.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “… She was in a very unusual position for a patrolling policewoman if she lacked a radio and the ability to ask over it, “Does ‘home’ in ‘Stay at home’ include the garden and get an answer quite quick enough for the incident?” Her determination not to do so…”

    Had the householder quoted chapter and verse of the relevant regulation, and thus given an indication that he knew what he was talking about, then she might well have done. As it was, she had no specific reason to suspect she’d got it wrong, and therefore no specific reason to check.

    “I think we should all recognise that anyone who can write […] and not have an alarm bell go off in their head”

    Why would alarm bells go off? I’ve long had experience of the scientific ignorance of the general public!

    Consider the number of definitive statements and assertions made in full confidence even on here, where we’re all smarter than average, that on a cursory check of the actual statistics turn out to be laughably wrong. Humans are fallible! They constantly make mistakes. There’s no shame in it. I suppose in a way, the persistent human belief that not only is it possible for a human to never make a mistake, that perfection is a standard we can reasonably demand, but that in their own opinions they themselves never do, is one of the best examples that universal human failing, despite all the scientific evidence demonstrating its falsity. Possibly even an example of that “well-known symdrom [sic] of insect-authority arrogance”?! 🙂

  • Lee Moore

    While we’re on the subject can someone explain how we know that the Earth goes round the Sun, rather than the other way round ?

    I have a feeling that it’s something to do with the difference between inertial and accelerated frames of reference, and orbits involving acceleration. But the details escape me.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “While we’re on the subject can someone explain how we know that the Earth goes round the Sun, rather than the other way round?”

    It’s an excellent question! As you intimate, it’s a more complicated question than it appears.

    For most people, the basic answer is “Because physicists say so.” Teachers, textbooks, and popular science media repeat the same thing. The story of Galileo Galilei and his dispute with the Church about whether the Earth or Sun is at the centre of the universe is a staple of science education. Most people will have been told it as some point, although for many that would have been many years ago, and if they don’t have any particular interest in science media they might not have been reminded for a long time.

    But what’s the evidence? The initial reasons were primarily based on simplicity. With the Earth at the centre, you needed an incredibly complicated series of wheels inside wheels inside wheels, to explain the way the planets seemed to slide backwards and forwards across the sky. If you put the sun at the centre, all the planetary motions seemed to resolve into simple circles, each turning at its own constant speed. The match wasn’t perfect, but the vast simplification was deemed worth it. This would imply the Earth was, like the other planets, going round the sun. But basically the only reason for thinking so initially was that it was mathematically easier to describe.

    Another issue with the sun and planets going round the Earth is the force needed to get them to do so. If you spin a heavy weight on a rope around yourself, it pulls outwards, and the further away the weight is, the faster it is going, and the more force is needed to keep it going in a circle. Again, without any knowledge of what might be out there or what its limits might be (remember, the mechanisms were supposedly built by God, who could do anything), but it didn’t take much calculation to realise the forces involved must be titanic, and whatever the transparent celestial spheres were made of, it couldn’t be any ordinary sort of matter we’re familiar with. Again, not definite, but it made things a hell of a lot easier to explain if the Earth was spinning, and the sun and planets were moving at far more sedate speeds.

    Then along came Newton, who calculated the forces that would be needed, and realised that if you assumed the force of gravity between objects was inversely proportional to the square of the distance separating them, not only did the actual motions of all the planets exactly match their predicted weights, but it also explained all the other little anomalies and differences from circular motion that had been messing the neat circular Copernican picture up. We moved from a mess of wheels within wheels, to just six simple wheels (only six planets known then) and comets doing weird unexplained stuff, to one simple law that unified and explained everything.

    Newton’s laws took their simplest, most symmetrical, most mosthematically beautiful form if you assumed a background space in which the sun was roughly stationary in the middle and the spinning planets orbited around it. You could, in fact, work out what it would look like in the Earth’s rotating frame of reference, and you could actually get Newton’s laws to work in such a frame, but the maths then required the introduction of a new set of forces – the centrifugal, Coriolis, and Euler forces – that broke the neat uniformity of the pure Newtonian picture. The centrifugal force was directed inwards towards the polar axis of the Earth, with a cylindical geometry. The Coriolis force depended not only on where an object was but also on how fast it was moving! It was certainly possible to model it, but it was a mess! Assuming God was perfect, and not likely to construct such a bizarre and ugly bodge, it was much easier to believe the Earth was spinning, and the solar system simple and beautiful.

    There were still some very big holes and awkward questions in the Newtonian picture – I alluded to one of them in a recent comment here, where Newton himself said instantaneous action at a distance, required by the theory, was so absurd that no competent scientist could possibly believe it. And there are plenty more stinkbombs buried deep in the mathematics, and even some observations that didn’t quite fit, like the shifting orbit of Mercury. Nevertheless, it was still a huge leap forward over what went before.

    Following this, there were a bunch of physics experiments to detect the rotation of the Earth directly, such as Foucault’s pendulum, which did indeed show the expected effects as if the Earth was rotating once a day, which when corrected for would leave the sun stationary. There are more, like detecting the slight shift in the position of the distant stars every six months and then back again as the Earth moves around its orbit. You can pick up the Doppler shift in the light of distant stars. Our relative velocity with respect to the stars wobbles to exactly match our orbit. If we’re stationary and they’re all moving, it takes a pretty bizarre mechanism to have all the stars moving around with exactly the same movement, perfectly synchronised. A lot of evidence has mounted up, and it all seems to confirm the simple Newtonian picture.

    However, more recently we’ve gained a much more sophisticated understanding, which has opened up the question again – or more precisely questions whether the question even makes sense. This follows from the development of General Relativity, and Albert Einstein’s quest to explore the implications of Ernst Mach’s theories about relativity. In General Relativity there is a principle that requires that all reference frames have to be equivalent, with exactly the same laws of physics applying in each of them, even the rotating/accelerating ones. It’s a bit complicated and I probably can’t explain it properly, but in this picture you can define a reference frame in which the Earth is stationary and the whole universe is rotating around it. The rotating mass of the distant stars twists space and time around with it, in a phenomenon called “frame dragging”. It turns out that this frame dragging effect is precisely what’s needed to generate the centrifugal, Coriolis, and Euler forces we experience in what Newton would consider a ‘rotating’ frame of reference!

    So in General Relativity it is in fact entirely legitimate to consider the Earth as stationary and the rest of the universe rotating around it. The complicated extra forces required to explain it are then generated by the complicated postulated motion of the rest of the universe. There is no absolute, singular, ‘right’ answer. It is a choice. A question of what definition you choose to use.

    It is, of course, still mathematically far simpler to treat the universe as roughly stationary and the Earth spinning, even in General Relativity. (For a start, the stars would have to move far faster than the speed of light to make it all the way around in a day!) But it’s actually a more subtle and unobvious question than generally assumed by those who think it is ridiculous that anyone could possibly not know the answer. 🙂

  • Lee Moore

    I obviously got stuck in 1905.

    Good presentation.

  • Sam

    Lee Moore, April 13, 2020 at 7:22 pm…

    So the notion that the average [person], already expected to have a good working grasp of the whole body of law [given that ignorance thereof is not a valid defense], could reasonably be expected to skim and digest a new twelve page regulation, and then carry it round in her head, without screwing up occasionally, strikes me as eccentric.

    /Fixed it for you. Now go back to Big Momma – your mandated NHS-supplied teat is getting cold.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “[given that ignorance thereof is not a valid defense]”

    It is in the case of this law. Didn’t you know?

  • Sam

    Yes, crazy to expect a Law Enforcement Officer be aware of the Law they are currently Enforcing. Fucking crazy talk I tell ya.

    Here is the tear I will shed if your house is raided by armored Law Enforcers because you allegedly had too many people over for wine and brie:

    Do you see it? It’s there, I promise. Squint if you have to.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “armored Law Enforcers”

    ?!

    Why would they be armored?

    “because you allegedly had too many people over for wine and brie”

    That *would* be illegal.

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