Dean Brooke | Opinion
The recent riots in the UK have exposed significant problems in our system.
The protests in this country that have taken a violent turn have been facilitated by the authorities, who did essentially nothing to stop them.
Firstly, the obvious point here is that many of the protests have resulted in violence and vandalism to national memorials and other points of historical interest, and it’s really more accurate to refer to them as riots.
Secondly, the protests have often seen hundreds and sometimes thousands of people gather together in one place. Whether we agree with the lockdown or not, it’s obvious that this is a significant breach of lockdown rules.
As conservatives, law and order is (or should be) fundamental to us as a foundational principle.
This is because the rule of law (to which the government, of course, is also subject) is the primary means of guaranteeing the safety and security of the people who live in our nation, and also the means by which we provide the certainty that people need in order to actually have the desire to improve their lives, start families and businesses, and all the other aspects of Western civilisation that are ultimately foundational to its prosperity and continuation – and, therefore, are also foundational to the strength and security of the nation as a whole.
This means that Western civilisation and all its important institutions (such as the family, for example) fundamentally rely upon the values of law and order, as set out for us in the UK by English common law along with the modern statute book.
Since the start of the Black Lives Matter protests in the UK (which have resulted in criminal damage and riots), one of the most important observations I have made is that the rule of law is being allowed to erode.
For example, there is the obvious point that, according to the government’s own rules on social distancing:
“That is why you should stay alert and follow social distancing guidelines. You must not:
– gather outdoors in groups of more than six people with people you do not live with”
The same page also states:
Key parts of these measures are underpinned by law, which sets out clearly what you must and must not do – every person in the country must continue to comply with this. The relevant authorities, including the police, have the powers to enforce the law – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.”
So, with that in mind, why exactly have we seen police officers tolerating and even participating in the protests?
The most obvious and famous example of this is the police officers who “took a knee” during a BLM gathering.
However, irrespective of what the police actually think or the validity of issues regarding the protesters’ intentions, the fundamental point here is that the protests were illegal because they were a breach of the social distancing laws.
Regardless of whether we agree with the social distancing laws or not, the bottom line here is that the police have facilitated the breaking of these laws by tolerating and even participating in the protests.
It also sets a terrible example to the nation, because it appears that police officers are willing to tolerate a protest as long as they agree with it, even if it is a breach of active laws on social distancing.
Again, regardless of what we think of social distancing and lockdown laws, the bottom line is that it is the law. And, as such, the police are responsible for enforcing it.
Moreover, after the initial spree of violence, it emerged that the police had deliberately allowed the riots to take place in a manner of their own determination.
“You might wonder why we didn’t intervene and why we just allowed people to put it into the docks. We made a very tactical decision that to stop people from doing that act may have caused further disorder, and we decided the safest thing to do in terms of our policing tactics was to allow it to take place.”
So, up to now at least, the riots have been accommodated by the police, not only in breaches of lockdown and social distancing legislation, but also in the violent attacks on Britain’s historical monuments.
If the police will not enforce the law (or rather, only enforce the law as and when they agree with doing so), then this degrades the entire principle of the rule of law within the UK, because it appears that the police are willing to make “special exceptions” to the law for certain groups, laying off enforcing the law completely when it comes to policing those groups.
We must ask why this is the case.
We must also point out that we cannot have one rule for some and another rule for others under the law.
As such, the fundamental issue exposed here by the BLM protests is the breakdown of the rule-of-law principle within the UK – largely because the police are taking a highly selective (and, I would argue, biased) approach to the enforcement of it, based on who is breaking the law and why.
The police have a case to answer over this, and we must not allow them to be seen to encourage violence or suggest that they will not challenge people who break the law. Of course, they must not be seen to sympathise with people who break the law either.
This is a recipe for the breakdown of policing and, furthermore, the breakdown of law and order within the UK.
We must take a stand and demand tougher actions to prevent violence and disorder on this basis, and demand that the law is enforced fairly and equitably.