Letters: Encounters with dedicated officers show the Met is not beyond fixing
SIR – Baroness Casey is right to point out the major problems in the Metropolitan Police, but reading the reaction to her review, one would think we have a police force that terrorises Londoners and makes the lives of its own officers a living hell. This is not the Met I recognise from my encounters with it.
Recently I was accosted by a gang of young people on my way home from work. One of them sprayed a can of beer all over me, while the others threatened to “slice me” with a knife. This all took place on a busy high street in front of countless people who just walked by, despite me asking for help.
Fortunately I was able to call 999 and within minutes a police car arrived. The officers were sympathetic, polite and understanding of the distress I was feeling, and put me in one of their vehicles for safety. They took my statement and made arrests, before driving me home and making sure I was OK before leaving.
Over the next few months I was kept up to date on how the case against the youths was progressing. I felt as if the Met was doing all it could to ensure my needs were met and not ignored.
Sadly the case didn’t reach the courts due to the Crown Prosecution Service citing a lack of evidence. Once again, when the officer told me this, he was understanding and sympathetic.
Nobody would say that the Met is perfect, but I would like to thank it and appreciate the way it treated me.
SIR – Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London since 2016, has had ample opportunity to address criminality in the Met, which is ultimately his responsibility.
His reaction to the Casey Review has been entirely predictable. Since his tenure began, he has failed miserably to take any responsibility for failures of governance. He always tries to deflect criticism by becoming the arch critic himself.
Sir Mark Rowley, the Met Commissioner, has committed to rooting out, prosecuting and dismissing individual officers guilty of criminality. He admits how huge this challenge is. He must be given time to complete the process.
I’m sure that those individual officers guilty of criminality will be dealt with, but I’m also sure that those who had the greatest responsibility to command and influence the force will escape censure or prosecution for allowing criminals to operate with impunity on their watch.
Ashby Magna, Leicestershire
SIR – For Sir Mark Rowley not to accept that his force is “institutionally racist” merely reflects his position as part of the institution and thus that he is the root cause of the problem.
He says that he accepts the conclusions in the report and then denies the truth of one of those findings. This is sheer, mealy-mouthed hypocrisy.
John Lewis menswear
SIR – Diluting its partnership is no way for John Lewis to proceed (“Why does John Lewis want to scrap its near century-old partnership?”, Business, March 20). All it needs to do is carry the right stock.
I may be a boring dresser, being in my mid-70s, but I still need clothes. John Lewis’s menswear department is full of trendy garments aimed at those in their 40s, while it has almost no standard grey business suits – still needed for formal events – or dinner-suit trousers for smart ones.
It stocks cheap and nasty sweaters instead of the top-quality cashmere ones that those of us with purchasing power really want. Even if it did, there are too few staff to help us find them.
In contrast, Slater Menswear seems to be thriving on conventional clothes while keeping its overheads low by clever management, hardly advertising and relying on word-of-mouth recommendations.
I despair of those who target the “younger shopper” while ignoring the more conventional purchaser.
SIR – I have been a medical practitioner for 50 years, and a GP for 40.
Last week was the first time I personally needed help. I have been telling patients to ring 111 for a while. On Tuesday I realised how difficult it is to get anything out of 111. I was asked to press this and that button and then told the service was very busy and the waiting time was one hour.
This is just to talk. Who would stay on hold for an hour? Now I see why frustrated people end up in A&E.
It’s time to bring back well-funded out-of-hours services as the responsibility of individual practices or groups of practices.
Dr S C Bhatt
SIR – Charles Moore discusses the risk of a bank run by reference to a scene in Mary Poppins in which alarmed customers try to get all their money out (“Give us boring banks that keep our money safe”, Comment, March 21).
In the early 1980s, when living in Singapore, I rented a video of that film to show my young daughters. It came as no surprise to find that all the scenes related to the bank run had been cut out by the censor.
SIR – Did we really have a prime minister who needed to be told whether or not he had broken his own rules (report, March 21)? If so, he wasn’t fit to be prime minister.
Hunters and poachers
SIR – With the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill – which would block British hunters from bringing home game souvenirs such as heads and pelts – passed, as expected, through the Commons (report, March 18), it next needs to pass through the Lords. However, even at this late stage, I feel that MPs simply don’t understand what is being proposed.
I have lived in Tanzania for the past 65 years. Early on, as a young man, the thrill of the African bush – hunting, shooting and fishing – filled most weekends when I worked first as a tea planter, then later as a cattle rancher.
In those days, with the population of Tanganyika at nine million compared with 60 million now, wildlife was abundant. Elephants had to be controlled to prevent them wiping out a small village’s annual food supply in one night, and there was no worry about reducing game populations. I took my sons into the wild to hunt and fish, where they came to know and love the bush and its animals. We stopped in the 1970s after illegal poaching became widespread.
Times have changed and the family are now conservationists, working to combat the poaching that plagues the game reserves and “controlled areas” that do not receive protection. These vast areas were once leased out as hunting blocks and it was in leaseholders’ interest to keep game numbers sustainable and to control poaching themselves – much as they do in Scotland. The hunting industry paid for the protection the Tanzanian government could not afford.
To many – myself now included – the thought of killing wild animals is horrifying. But controlled, sustainable hunting benefits communities and generates government revenue. The only alternative is to train the well-equipped and managed game scouts needed to patrol these vast areas.
Those who have voted effectively to exclude British hunters must be prepared to provide the funds necessary to enable the Tanzanian government to protect game areas outside the country’s national parks.
SIR – I believe a factor in the growing sick-note crisis (Comment, March 17) is the change from letters to emails. Previously, letters would arrive and one would have a week or so to consider the matter and reply. Today, emails arrive with the expectation of a reply within hours, creating enormous pressure and possibly absenteeism due to mental illness.
I recently retired after 40 years as an architect and, in later years, felt the weight of this newer system. When designing buildings, there are many matters that should not be decided in this rapid manner.
SIR – Unlike Francis Caton (“Age of excitement”, Letters, March 21), my heart was strangely warmed to find that my breakfast cereal had been not merely manufactured but “lovingly created”.
Why players aren’t the only victims of red cards
SIR – While it is essential to reduce head injuries in rugby by punishing dangerous play (Letters, March 21), a red card is an unsatisfactory sanction.
Ticket prices are high and supporters pay to see two evenly matched teams. A contest disrupted by the red card is akin to paying to see a play where a leading character is removed. The whole plan and pattern of play is thrown out of the window and the spectacle is ruined. Also, neither team will ever know whether the outcome of the game would have been different with a full complement of players on the pitch.
Rugby authorities should instead consider awarding points against the offending team, in the same way that a referee can award a penalty try.
This, in conjunction with a yellow card to give the opposing team a short-term advantage, would be a much fairer sanction for teams and spectators alike.
Pagham, West Sussex
SIR – Though I agree wholeheartedly with John Smith on the contrasting behaviour of rugby and football players (Letters, March 21), statistically, our offspring are unlikely to play either sport at elite level.
However, most parents will have registered the head injury suffered by Hugo Keenan during Ireland’s Six Nations victory over England.
I suggest that will be a major influence on which sport our children pursue.
In stout defence of alcohol-free Guinness
SIR – In an attempt to reduce my alcohol consumption I have recently switched to drinking alcohol-free draught Guinness (Letters, March 21).
Some purists would argue that the words “Guinness” and “alcohol-free” should not appear in the same sentence, as it is a clear contradiction in terms.
However, after significant research, I can now safely say that alcohol-free Guinness is a stroke of brewing genius. Moreover, I defy anyone to tell the difference between that and the alcoholic version.
East Malling, Kent
SIR – Nicky Samengo-Turner (Letters, March 21) says that alcohol-free beers are sold at the same price as those containing alcohol.
In my experience, they are considerably more expensive in pubs.
During a current period of medically enforced abstinence I have been paying £4.45 for a 330ml bottle of alcohol-free Heineken, making it nearly £8 a pint.
Was I wrong to believe the Government was encouraging us to drink less alcohol?
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