Friday 13th May 2011
I STOPPED off for a quick pint after work last Sunday in The Woodman in Batley Carr and got talking to an old rugby pal who was still recovering from an attack he suffered a few weeks previously.
He’d been for a drink with friends in the Bath Hotel on Halifax Road and was nipping back up through Northfields on a route he’d taken countless times before. Locals will be familiar with the ‘ginnel’ which comes out on Willans Road.
This time, he wasn’t so lucky. He didn’t quite make the ginnel, because his next stop was Dewsbury District Hospital. As he walked along minding his own business he was suddenly felled by a blow, pretty much out of nowhere, to the head.
He hasn’t got an exact memory of who, what with, or how many young men were responsible for the beating he got, but he clearly remembers hearing the war chant which accompanied it as he lapsed into semiconsciousness.
“Effing white bastard…” etc etc.
He still has pain in his head, neck and shoulder, and not much feeling in his jaw and cheek. He was released from hospital the next day.
The police were very good, he explained. He could only tell them there were four young Asian men, as he best estimated, and that they jumped into a dark coloured saloon leaving him slumped on the ground.
But they took photographs of his injuries, a statement, and apparently he’s been contacted by someone from the Criminal Injuries Board, so there might be a bit of compo.
“I don’t recall the police putting out a public appeal for information,” I inquired after listening to the details. He shrugged his shoulders. Probably, understandably, he had other things on his mind.
“Did the police ask you if you wanted this making public?” I persisted. Again, he couldn’t recall such a conversation. Indeed he seemed mostly preoccupied with relief at not having had a knife put through his ribs.
Thank the good Lord for small mercies, eh?
He was troubled, angered, that his attackers hadn’t even the courage of their gang cowardice to confront him up front, so as to give him a choice of fight or flight. I suspect that’s an oldfashioned notion.
I’m not saying that a public appeal by the police would have led to an arrest, although my pal did say that he would recognise the face of one of the young men quite clearly. They were all aged about 1820.
But why wasn’t there an appeal for information from anyone who’d seen this group hanging about in that area. It isn’t as if it’s a busy neighbourhood. They would have been noticeable.
I’ll tell you why. Because if these random gangs of racehate prowling youths are intrinsically cowardly, it’s a ‘quality’ shared by the institutionally terrified West Yorkshire Police.
Not that the lads and lasses on the beat aren’t brave enough when confronted by villains – not at all – it’s more that their bosses are criminally negligent in trying to conceal the truth of the danger facing people every day on our streets.
Catching criminals, locking up attackers like this, are still absolutely part of the police officer’s brief.
I’m certain that frontline PCs and sergeants want as many of these toerags off the streets and behind bars. Those four ought to get two years apiece for that because it’s not a victimless crime. This is one ‘lucky’ blow away from someone getting killed.
And the message the police hierarchy give to these mobs every time they bury a racerelated incident like this, is that it’s acceptable behaviour. A lowrisk social pastime. They’d say there are no such things as ‘no go areas’. I say rubbish.
Unless that victim comes directly to someone like us and we ask awkward questions, then as far as the police are concerned it gets buried in an anonymous log.
It takes someone to be killed for the welloiled ‘serious’ crimesolving operation to slip smoothly into mediasavvy mode and then, boy, but are they full of concern, compassion and gungho “we’ll get em!” zeal.
I have seen this all too often over the past 10 and more years for it to be coincidence. Indeed a member of my own family was walking along minding his own business when a car pulled up, out jumped a similar gang, and he got a hiding and his mobile phone and one of his new trainers stolen.
The police actually took his other trainer and some clothes away for ‘DNA’ evidence. And that was that. The family never heard another word. Never even got the lad’s clothes back.
Alert the media? Ask for witnesses and information? I should cocoa.
Trying to subdue the fear of crime and disguise its levels remains top of the police force’s public agenda. Locking up villains is just a byproduct and an occasional bonus.
So if you find yourself walking though Northfields in that area after dark, just be mindful of your safety if you see a group of youths hanging idly about. Don’t be embarrassed to do a uturn and take a longer way home.
It should be the police advising you of that, not me. Unfortunately your safety is less important than their fairytale reality.
WHEN the BBC’s Andrew Marr lifted the superinjunction he’d taken out to keep secret an affair, I confess to being surprised. With a head like a badly boiled cabbage, I’d have thought he’d be taking out full page adverts to brag about it, not spend tensofthousands hushing it up. The delightful irony in Marr’s case was that the illegitimate kid he’d been paying maintenance on for some years turned out to be someone else’s. Sweet!
Now it’s every week that a famous actor, Premiership footballer, MP even, hightails it to the courts to cover up their wandering ways. For goodness sake, how stupid are these people? If your face is on telly half the week, you won’t get away with dipping your wick on the ‘QT’ for long – especially when the ‘love’ (pronounced ‘lust’) wears off and you decide the missus wasn’t a bad bet after all. And not when the Big Brother contestant you were enjoying kneetremblers with has the number for the News of the World on speeddial. Anyway, it’s time a brave editor paved the way for truth.
I LIKE the ‘new’ Labour recruit Andrew Hutchinson, ex of the Lib Dems and prior to that the Tories. I’ve known him many years and he cares about the district, does Andy.
I’m not sure how his political conscience sleeps at nights, but it clearly does. On some acceptable level he’s rationalised the fact that people he presumably hadn’t the time of day for not long ago, are now happy bedfellows.
I suppose that’s modern politics; not a cig paper to put between them in terms of belief or political substance, just a constantly morphing window of opportunity for people soinclined to those activities.
Khizar Iqbal, having had his tilt at Shahid Malik as an independent, is suddenly warmly back in the Tory fold.
At heart I know both men want to get things done for this end of the Calder valley.
A lot of their colleagues do too – though I still think many of them are in it for their vanity and the money.
But with each passing year, I see a procession of either the same tired old faces and the occasional new one, and nothing changes. Huddersfield flushes, Dewsbury, Batley and Spen choke in the bottom of the toilet bowl.
If all these people care about the secondrate treatment of our towns – and they say they do – then they should paradoxically take a lesson out of the book of Andy Hutchinson and all make the jump – to a new party which really does put the interests of local people at heart.
Ten years ago I was just finishing my tenure as editor of the Lancaster Guardian series of newspapers.
It was the most fun I ever had editing a paper, largely because they’d had a political awkwardsquad sick and tired of the grandees lording it in Lancaster’s magnificent town hall.
As with Kirklees, it had geographical favouritism at its core and thus came together the Morecambe Bay Independents, a passionate collective of people with past leanings from all parties, who in no time at all had seized control of the council.
It can be done. But do Paul Kane, Robert Light, Shabir Pandor, Martyn Bolt and Kath and Andrew Pinnock care enough about their downtrodden secondclass commnities to set aside their party allegiances and actually do something about it?
In three years the Spen and Calder Independents could be running Kirklees.
Or is the comfort of the party blanket and the selfserving attitude of “our turn driving the bus next” trump all?
I think we know the answer to that.