To some actions they are reactions, and to every reaction there is an outcome. Two things have happened recently, a woman saw a man waving her down, whose car appeared to have broken down. She stopped, went over to help, another man appeared and held and stabbed her and the two men ransacked her car. The other thing was the analysis on television and in the newspapers of the Shannon kidnapping. I am not fully aware of all the aspects to comment. So instead I would like to describe a scenario, like a TV film, press the pause button, and then assess the cause and the outcome, because I think they are most important. The scenario is a woman, who is short of cash, and has criminal tendencies, which are generally accepted, but not acceptable. The kidnapping in Portugal, with the offer of at least a million to help the cause, gave this woman the idea of obtaining money, by engineering a fake kidnapping, and getting paid by the media for interviews, if not also subscriptions to the cause. Let us assume that a great number of the police spent a long time searching for the child, and have discovered suspicious circumstances. It is at this point I press the pause button
There are aspects of this which I believe show up weaknesses in the police system, and give a serious warning for the future. When I was a boy in the early 30s, we knew a number of policeman quite well, who were permanently in our district, some even living there. There were those that we saw four times a day when they helped us through the traffic, like the lollipop men of today. The policeman talked to the residents. I remember the night, in Belfast in 1949, when I was walking home at two in the morning having taken Sophie to the nursing home to deliver our second daughter, a policeman stepped out from a gateway, demanded to know where I was going, and when he discovered that he had seen the taxi passing earlier suggested that we went for a walk together. I cite this because being a policeman on a regular beat can be boring and to relive that the constable will chat with passers-by they know. If in our scenario, there were police on the beat, I suggest that when this woman stated that her child had been kidnapped, at the age that the child was, I suspect that the policeman on the beat would have known the woman, her past, and her propinquities, so that some doubt would have been placed on her initial assertion, and more attention given to this aspect, than the wide ranged hunting for the child. The outcome of this of course, if the scenario turns out to be the case in fact, there will be a level of doubt across the board when the next parents cry kidnapper, which would be a natural reaction, understandable, but nonetheless serious in a legitimate case. There is something to be said for community policing, a trust between the community and the police, and a more detailed knowledge of the community by the police.
With the publicity in the other case, of the woman who was attacked, the outcome of that is more than likely to be that if you breakdown in your car, now, you’re on your own. It is sad to say that when these type of things happen we become more isolated, less community minded, indeed, and the repetition makes us more casehardened.