Sun. May 22nd, 2022

Isle of Wight Observer News

The Island's Free Newspaper

HOLMSEY: Confessions of a master criminal

3 min read

Colours from the 1970s, like The Sweeney's bronze Ford, are back in fashion

Despite my criminal past, three times in my life I have assisted police officers when the person they were arresting resisted violently. My shameful arrest was particularly embarrassing because several family members were police officers; my mother worked for the Met too.

In my youth, unsure about what to do for a living, I briefly considered joining the police, imagining myself as Jack Regan, recklessly speeding around London in fast cars, nicking villains while continuously scowling. In the ’70s, our family knew someone who did exactly that – John Allport, a regional Crime Squad officer. He once chased a bandit vehicle in his private car with his kids in the back and, as The Sun reported, was ‘gunned down’ for his trouble. Sitting up in his hospital bed afterwards, Allport – a good thief-taker – said he was more afraid of what his wife would say than facing a sawn-off shotgun.

Anyway, aged 17, I stupidly tried to help my employer, our local publican, when his wife was required to produce her MOT certificate and didn’t have one. She was upset about it and asked for help. A mate claimed he could get blank ones for a tenner so, foolishly, I bought one and passed it on to her. When she took it to the local station, they immediately knew it was stolen and threatened to arrest her for receiving. In fear of her pub license, she grassed me up and I was charged with receiving stolen goods, namely an MOT certificate. The magistrates fined me a nominal sum and, afterwards, I went straight – but that juvenile record prevented my joining the police.

In adult life, I’ve known many serving police officers and, sadly, none of them seemed to enjoy the job very much. The modern service has most of them on edge, fearful of breaking internal rules or being the subject of petty complaints from the public. In the ’70s cops knew that their colleagues would cover their backs; there was an unshakable camaraderie that no longer exists. Sure, before recorded interviews and CCTV on uniforms, fit-ups were commonplace, but I’d argue overall, the law-abiding public were safer!

Cops back then knew who the local villains were, and drugs hadn’t yet become endemic. 20 years ago, when I discovered drugs were freely available in my kids’ school, I attempted to do something about it, but soon realised no-one else was bothered enough to stop it happening. I can only imagine things have got a lot worse since, the number of daily stabbings and drug-related murders across the nation seems to confirm this.

I don’t view policing through rose tinted glasses; after all, in the ’60s the Krays and Richardsons ruled the capital city with fear and brutality. Miscarriages of justice were common, but no system can ever be 100 per cent reliable. Recent decades have seen police services cut and virtually all stations closed. Criminal investigations are rare and on-line fraud is a virtually ignored booming industry.

Many of us haven’t a clue what cops actually do, but we know that, in London, they don’t bother investigating 90 per cent of burglaries. The Met employs 43,000 officers and staff; it’s a huge organisation and events of recent times have really shaken our faith in it, particularly the horrendous murder of Sarah Everard and the Met’s conduct towards those attending her vigil afterwards. Inevitably, someone has to take responsibility for the catalogue of failures at the Met and the bizarre priorities of its management. Cressida Dick clung on but has now gone; hopefully Sadiq Kahn and Priti Patel will soon join her.