The power to imprison is not about preference - Monocolumn | Monocle


A daily bulletin of news & opinion

21 August 2012

Why are there not more people in jail? On most streets there is someone who should be manhandled to the floor, handcuffed and locked away for a very long time. Give me a uniform and a bit of encouragement and I could soon clean up these mean streets.

A week ago, just 100 metres from Monocle’s front door, was the first candidate for a life behind bars. Two men came running towards me, the latter shouting and puffing. I couldn’t quite make out what was occurring at first – a friendly game of tag? No. It transpired that man one had stolen man two’s phone but sadly man two was not very fit and had to give up his chase. He walked back towards me cursing his loss.

A few days later I was walking along the road and watched as two men exchanged cash and a bag of green leaves (I don’t think it was fresh basil needed for a late night tricolore salad). I walked past them. I could have had you too, I thought.

The next candidate for arrest I unfortunately never got to see. It was Sunday evening and hot and the windows at my house were wide open. I was sitting by one of those open windows reading the paper when there was a sudden whistling sound. At first I thought a bird must have flown in but as I looked around I saw that some hooligan had chucked an egg through the tempting open window and it must have just missed my head. To be honest, I might have only cautioned this miscreant (once apprehended after thorough house-to-house searches) as I was secretly rather impressed by the skilled trajectory he had found as well as the accuracy of his delivery. Plus, thankfully, the yoke wasn’t on me).

By now I was beginning to wonder why I had not been made a special constable by my local police station because I was obviously rather good at spotting all sorts of bad behaviour on London’s streets. I was better at this than Miss Marple.

I could no doubt have also have helped hunt down the person who stole the plant pots from my neighbour and mysteriously pruned a bush without permission. They’d definitely be sent down. I was witnessing a crime a day! The world was full of bad people!

Now it seems unlikely that I will be granted the right to arrest anyone at the moment. But you can see how tempting it must be to get a little carried away once you have been given the power to take people you don’t like the look of off the streets. It must be a delicious temptation to have people behind bars for any infringement of the law; well, your laws.

There’s a man in Moscow who has my same itch to arrest and who has also been given the powers he desired. Now it seems he has got a little carried away. He’s used his writ to have political opponents and wayward oligarchs detained. Apparently he’s also behind the imprisonment for two years of three gloriously spikey women who sang a rude song about him in a church. Can you imagine what he’d do to an egg-thrower?

Perhaps it’s best that I leave the policing to more temperate souls. I am not sure I trust myself. You for one would be very lucky to continue your life of freedom. Yes you letting your mind drift and not reading intently would be in for a very long period behind bars.


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