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February 01, 2007

We will fight them on the beaches: Christie Davies explains why the police should have immediately and vigorously protected the cargo of the container ship Napoli that went ashore in Devon

Posted by Christie Davies

Christie Davies says the police and the army should have got stuck in immediately and vigorously to protect the cargo of the container ship Napoli that went ashore in Devon, regardless of the "rights" of the thieves and looters. The rights of the owners of private property must always take precedence over those of criminals.

Many people seem to have regarded the looting of the containers from the wretched ship Napoli as something of a laugh, good old Dorset, Devon and Cornwall rustics exercising their ancient tradition of seizing goods that have come ashore after a disaster at sea. Just like Whisky Galore. Ho! Ho!

It can't have looked like that to the people who lost their possessions, in some cases personal heirlooms, items to which they were attached. It can't have looked like that to the South African wineries who lost production due to their special barrels being stolen or to the workers they had to lay off. Go and ask a now unemployed African worker what he thinks of the thieves. It can not have looked like that to those whose motor cycles disappeared. Anyone who has ever had to make an insurance claim for stolen goods will know about the frustration, the delays, the quibbling ….and how much better it would be to catch the culprits and give them a good kicking. Vigilante justice is better than no justice at all.

Worst of all is that looters of all kinds in Britain will be inspired by those scenes on television.

Next time a house is burned down or a warehouse damaged in a storm the rats will come out of their holes, the rabble will converge on it and seize and destroy everything. It might be your house. It might be your business. It was not just local villagers who were out on the beach taking the odd perk but professional criminals who had learned of the wreck from the television or the press or radio and, having no regular jobs, were able to make a quick trip to Devon. Expensive items have already entered the usual markets for stolen goods - ebay, car-boot sales, professional fences, dodgy garage owners.

You would have expected the Devon police and the local Customs officials to get stuck in immediately and stop and prevent such looting. They say they did not have the manpower but given the amount of resources they waste in other ways, I am not at all impressed with this argument. This is the same police force that in the same month charged with racially aggravated, intentional harassment an abusive drunk in the cells because he called the police surgeon who came to examine his injured back a "F****** Paki" .The Crown Court Judge in the case, Judge Paul Darlow called the prosecution "a nonsense" and added

I find it hard to conceive that it could be taken as seriously upsetting abuse.
He advised the accused,
Next time call him a fat bastard.
Whether the surgeon was in fact fat is not reported. I have to say I would be far more insulted to be called a "fat bastard" than a "fucking Welshman" by a drunk clearly under control by the police and not able to turn violent. The county of Devon is hardly on the brink of massive racial conflict and the surgeon did have the option of insulting the drunk in the cells with impunity, rather as the lower classes make fun of and enrage animals in their cages at the zoo. How about calling the drunk a "porcine gorah kafir" or suggesting the drunk's mother will drop her knickers on Bodmin Moor if offered a fiver. The lower orders really resent insults of that kind and this one was trapped behind bars.

The point, however, is that the Devon police had time and manpower enough for such silly pieces of trivia but not for sorting out the wreck. The fault lies not with the police of Devon, who are amiable plods and swedes who burr at you pleasantly, but with our old enemies, the lawyers. In the case of the metaphorically copulating, mounting, tupping Paki it was some cretin in that most inept and contemptible of all organisations the Crown Prosecution Service, who, as usual, did not realise that if you want to send a message you use email, not the courts. In the case of the "wreckers" the police probably took "advice" from some timid legal sniveller who said things like:

given that it is ship wrecked property, I am not sure what your powers are to prevent people going onto the beach or approaching the containers or to arrest looters. It might be an infringement of their rights.
So what? The important thing was to use common sense and to act first and worry about the silly niceties of legality and the human rights nonsense later. In the end the police had to seal the beach off anyway – it is the long delay in their doing so because of dithering that is disgraceful. As it was, the only person on the beach was a lone woman from Customs and Excise handing out forms and telling the looters that they must give their names and addresses and return the property, if requested by its owners within a stipulated time. It may well be that that is all she could do, but it would have been far better for the Devon police to be there, reinforced by members of other police forces and local army units simply to drive the looters away, regardless of the exact rules of the case.

Most of the would be looters would simply disperse peacefully and those few who don't can be arrested for some trumped–up public order offences or simply loaded into a van and dumped down somewhere remote in Dartmoor. The Met used to do that in London with would-be muggers hanging around Oxford Street to prey on the shoppers - they were unlawfully seized, put in a van, deposited far out in a suburb to walk home. As for those who had turned up in Devon with vehicles onto which to load the loot, well why not say they are causing an obstruction and clamp them or tow them away. If anyone objects, you simply tell them

OK, and so what are you going to do about it?
Let the looters who deserved it be handed out the insolence of office and the law's delay that is the regular experience of many ordinary respectable citizens for no reason at all. Policing in Britain is not by consent but by outbursts of coercion.

Property rights must come first since they are the very basis of our society. Our personal property is an extension of ourselves and an attack on it is a form of violence. Commercial property lies at the centre of all that allows our economy to function, that feeds us, sustains us, pays the salaries of the Devon police and the wretched human rights lawyers. Property, property, property - that must be our order of priorities.

To show how far we have departed from this, let us consider how the authorities act in other circumstances. Let us suppose that the looters had been in serious danger of injuring themselves because the containers were unstable. The Health and Safety enforcers would have had the entire area fenced and cordoned off in no time at all. It would seem that we have the right to help ourselves to other people's possessions but not to take risks. Can you imagine a would-be risk taker ever winning a human rights case against a Health and Safety restriction? Or look at the extraordinary powers that Customs and Excise possess and use against some minor trader suspected of evading VAT. Why is state revenue protected with so much more vigour than the property of individuals? The entire Devonian incident shows how little emphasis is now given to property rights in Britain and reveals the utter moral rottenness of a society in which this is the case.

Professor Christie Davies is the author of The Strange Death of Moral Britain, a history, which describes and explains the breakdown of public order and of property rights in the UK during the last sixty years.

To read Professor Jeremy Black's take on the looting of the Napoli's cargo, see Ungovernable in Devon: looting on Devon beaches bodes ill for civic peace.

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