IAN HART Failure of civil liberties

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THE recent sickening vandalism at a local churchyard is, unfortunately, not the first time these actions have been perpetrated in our community.

Going back almost a decade, we had the “Jedi Knights” and their wanton destruction of gravestones in Durrington Cemetery, actions which the gang ultimately videoed on their mobiles phones, which, bizarrely, eventually led to their arrest and subsequent conviction, to which I will return.

Then, just over three years ago, war graves were attacked and damaged over a weekend in Broadwater Cemetery.

Major Tom Wye, working alongside the local police, got in touch with me on the Monday, and asked I if could assist him in a certain way.

Basically, myself and four other local businessmen, Ashley Carter, Michael Jones, Peter Mott and Dave Chapman, put up a £5,000 reward leading to the conviction of the people responsible.

To be fair, such was the local feeling I needed only to make four calls – I could have been on the phone all morning to numerous other people and ended up with a serious five-figure reward.

At this point, I have to say the police were very helpful in the advice they gave, stipulating the reward should not be paid out to any individual members of the gang responsible and in certain cases members of their immediate family.

The Herald reported both the crime and the reward on the following Thursday, and within 24-hours one of the gang had walked out of his school (well, at least he went that day) and turned up at the police station and offered up a full confession as well as naming the other members at the gang.

At the interview, it is alleged he asked if he now qualified for the reward money.

Thankfully, he was immediately informed of the original conditions of the reward.

When he and the rest of the gang ended up in court, due to their age and their “civil liberties” their anonymity was protected, and the punishments meted out.

A couple of supervision orders and some paltry fines, in view of the offences, were frankly laughable.

Returning to the Jedi Knights, when they were convicted the same conditions applied, although I know the then Herald editor, Jon Buss, had wanted to put names and photos on the front page, only for the do-gooders to trot out the “civil liberties” stance, and “win the day”.

Strange, that.

You can go into a cemetery, smash up graves, perhaps the lowest thing you can do outside physically hurting someone, yet the “nanny state” will do everything to protect your identity.

What a crazy world we live in.

Back to the present day.

Having visited the church in question a number of times over the years, there’s no doubt I could have rung the aforementioned people along with a number of others and put up yet another substantial reward, which probably would have helped “smoke” the scumbags out.

Then again, if all they get is slap on the wrist and keep their identities secret, what’s the point?

A politician once famously said, “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime,” in some cases clearly not . . .