Monday, 7 January 2013

Handcuffs, candles and a pasty

Today I encountered a few local events which are a sad reflection on what is happening to poor people in the UK.  And the worst of the welfare cuts are yet to happen.

First I saw an obviously poor and ill man being led away in handcuffs by three police officers from my local M&S supermarket.  I'm not sure why it took three police officers to lead this passive, unwell man away from the temptations of stealing food, but maybe he was just unlucky (and to be fair, I only saw the tail end of the action).  One of the police officers managed to set off the store security alarm, not once, but twice.

Then immediately afterwards I saw a homeless man who was aged about 20 shivering outside Barclays Bank with his possessions in carrier bags.  I bought him a Cornish Pasty which he demolished as he was so hungry.  He wasn't begging and was being advised by a local christian.

Now perhaps he wasn't begging because of the arrest by a plain clothes police officer and subsequent conviction by the magistrates of a local man for the offence of begging, (yes it became a criminal offence in 2003 - one of David Blunkett's many legacies to social justice).  On New Year's Eve, the local paper, crowed on about how he was fined and made to pay a victim surcharge totalling £55 which was "seven times the amount he had scrounged" off members of the public.  Doubtless the local police and magistrates feel they did their public duty by dealing with this case so robustly during the Christmas holiday.  Well done too the journo for making such good use of your education and training that you manage to use the "s" word in your article - a career with the Daily Mail beckons!

Then today there's an article in the local paper about how people have been stealing cash, rosary beads and votive candles from a local catholic church.  The priest commented that "I’m sure the thieves must be using them for warmth and so they can read". 

Things really have become dire when impoverished people are fined for begging and are resorting to stealing church candles to keep warm.  And it's happening in a typical Middle English town.  It could easily be your town.

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