Every so often a case comes before the court that leaves me shaking my head in disbelief.
One such case has been discussed in a piece in today's Derby Telegraph.
Before proceeding it is worth mentioning that Rob Warner is the author of the Crimebodge website. That being the case he regularly challenges the behaviour of the police, often when there is good cause to do so. Had this story involved someone totally unfamiliar with the police, it may never have made the headlines. You've got to fancy, given his interest in the police, that Mr Warner has promoted his story to the media in an effort to embarrass Derbyshire Constabulary.
Mr Warner was charged with an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, namely that he used threatening or abusive words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress as a result. This is a summary offence, which can only be dealt with in the Magistrates' Court, and the maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale (currently £1,000).
The charge arose from an incident that took place outside the school where Mr Warner was picking up his young daughter. There appeared to be some confusion over where his daughter actually was, which understandably caused him to become agitated.
A nearby police officer, who could see Mr Warner's agitation, approached to enquire what the problem was. During the conversation the police officer said "I can see you're angry", to which the concerned father replied "no shit I'm angry". It is important to stress that the comment was a response directed at the police officer. Nobody else expressed any concern about the casual remark at the time.
Mr Warner's daughter was located and he left the scene thinking nothing more about it.
Three weeks later the 45 year-old received a letter from the same police officer, inviting him to attend the police station to discuss an alleged public order offence. Mr Warner, who has some understanding of the law, refused to attend the police station.
The police officer attended Mr Warner's Alvaston property to ask for his voluntary attendance at the police station, but was greeted by another refusal shouted from the upstairs window.
A point alluded to but not directly mentioned in the Derby Telegraph article is that a postal requisition was issued to Mr Warner. That requisition was not received, as it was delivered to the wrong address. Having failed to receive the requisition, Mr Warner failed to attend court and a warrant was issued for his arrest. That arrest was effected by the armed officers mentioned in the article.
Mr Warner denied the charge against him, so a trial date was set. At the recent trial the police officer recounted events exactly as described above, including the "no shit I'm angry" comment. When questioned about whether anyone else had been offended by the comment the officer suggested that members of the public had voiced their concerns, but the prosecution had offered no evidence to that effect.
Weighing everything up the Magistrates arrived at the all too obvious conclusion that no-one was likely to be harassed, alarmed or distressed as a result of Mr Warner's throwaway comment. That being the case the prosecution had failed to discharge the burden of proof and Mr Warner was quite rightly found not guilty of the offence.
Assuming the accuracy of the article, I am flabbergasted that this actually got to court. It was probably a police led prosecution, which may have had something to do with it.
I can't imagine anyone but the most prudish of people being offended by the phrase "no shit" casually dropped into conversation. It is a term of acknowledgement and not an insult. On a scale of profanity, it barely registers. You hear far worse on television and walking along the street every single day, yet people are not recoiling in distress at those utterances.
I would certainly be very concerned if a police officer claimed to be offended by the response "no shit", when he instigated the conversation in the first place. Any police officer in that situation is probably not cut out for the more demanding aspects of the role.
In my opinion Derbyshire Constabulary has shown a lack of judgement in pursuing this most meritless of cases. It has also scored a glaring own goal by targeting such a high profile critic.
One can only imagine what Derbyshire Constabulary's motives were for trying to make an example out of the author of the Crimebodge website.