Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Andrew Phillips makes citizen's arrest - of a 10-year-old

You don't want to get on the wrong side of the Lib Dem peer and former Jimmy Young Show "legal eagle" Andrew Phillips. Even if you are only 10 years old.

The East Anglian Daily Times reports that the incident took place in Sudbury town centre yesterday. In Lord Phillips's own words:

“I first saw the youngsters biking along the narrow path from the Borehamgate Precinct and told them that they couldn't ride there as it could be dangerous for young mums with prams.

“They swore at me but it was nothing more than small change from some silly boys. But when I saw them then throw my bike on the floor, I thought 'I'm not having that'."
Phillips grabbed one of the offenders by the scruff of the neck and asked a passer-by to call the police. The paper reports that the police arrived within 10 minutes and spoke to the youngsters.

As a commenter on the paper's website says, Phillips is lucky that he did not spend a night in the cells himself, but I think he did the right thing.

The sociologist Frank Furedi has written about the decline of what he calls "adult solidarity":
Adult solidarity is one of those used to take for granted. Most of the time, in most places, adult solidarity is practised by people who have never heard of the term. In most communities throughout the world adults assume a modicum of public responsibility for the welfare of children even if they have no ties to them. When the local newsagent or butcher scolds a child for dropping a chewing-gum wrapper on the road, they are actively assisting that boy's parents in the process of socialization. When a pensioner reprimands a young girl for crossing the road when the light is red, he is backing up her parents' attempt to teach, her the ways of the world. These displays of public responsibility teach children that certain behaviour is expected by the entire community, and not just by their mum and dad ...

As every parent knows, in Britain today, fathers and mothers cannot rely on other adults to take responsibility for looking after their children. British adults are hesitant to engage with other people's youngsters. This reluctance to assume responsibility for the welfare of the young is not simply a matter of selfishness or indifference. Many adults fear that their action would be misunderstood and resented, perhaps even misinterpreted as abuse. Adults feel uncomfortable in the presence of children. They don't want to get involved and, even when confronted by a child in distress, are uncertain about how to behave.
So all power to Andrew Phillips for standing up for that solidarity. In an earier age you could just have told the children off, but sadly I don't think that would work today.

I found this story via the Tory blogger Ellee Seymour. Thanks to her, but I was puzzled by her observation that Phillips was awarded the OBE for setting up the Citizenship Foundation and implication that there is some conflict between this work and his actions yesterday.

She writes:
I wonder why Lord Philips doesn’t try and engage these young lads with the ethos of citizenship, let them learn and benefit from his experience with the foundation’s support? ... I wonder whether Lord Philips simply got out of bed the wrong way yesterday.
This "hug a hoodie" stuff really goes deep with today's Tories, doesn't it?

Incidentally, there was something deeply depressing about the statement on the matter by Suffolk Police:
“With the introduction of Safer Neighbourhood Teams right across the county, our aim is to target, in partnership with other agencies, anti-social behaviour and incidents which cause problems for local problem [sic]. We also want to bolster our high-visibility, frontline presence in towns right across Suffolk.”
It's not exactly George Dixon, is it?

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