I did admit that I was worried about being stopped and breathalysed even though I hadn’t had a drink. Over the years one reads of some very dodgy happenings that somewhat knock ones faith in the rule of law. I had been convinced that that bounder of a Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell had got his comeuppance, lucky not have been arrested. Then it now seems that he has been the victim of a fit up by some politically motivated Coppers – albeit sub-judice at present, my faith has been knocked.
However I question whether much has changed, we hear all about the jolly policeman of our childhood who would sort the Yobs out with a clip round the ear. That must be from people whose memories are better than mine. If I think back to the sixties I was a witness in a court at West End Central. I was told that I would not be required for an hour or so, so I wandered into one of the courts and sat in the public gallery. The case was being heard by a Stipendiary Magistrate. The prisoner in the dock was charged with burglary was a rather scruffy, weedy little man and a short stocky man who looked to be under the minimum height for the Met Police. He identified himself as Detective Sergeant Harold Challoner.
He took the Oath and said in a very tortured plodding police jargon “As a result of information received I went to the greasy spoon cafe (not really its name) in Fulham Road where I found the prisoner sitting at a table. I told him that he answered the description of a person seen leaving a burglary in Eaton Square, I am arresting you and you will be taken to West End Central Police Station where you will be charged with burglary. I then cautioned him and he was arrested”
The Stipendiary (that’s a paid Magistrate who sits alone) asked the prisoner if he had any questions of the officer. He said “No not really, he said Hello Jonno! I’ve been looking for you, you’re f***ing nicked, get in the motor!” The Beak looked over his specs and said “Well that’s basically what the officer said”. I listened to the rest of the case and saw the prisoner remanded in custody. I left thinking that I had witnessed a fit up.
A couple of years later there was a real scandal when during a demonstration outside the Grosvenor Hotel where the King of Greece was staying on a State visit. Student was arrested (and apparently hit) by one Detective Sergeant Harold Challoner and three of his colleagues. Challoner had picked on the wrong man; the man was a cartoonist for Peace News and a member of the National Council for Civil Liberties. The man alleged that Challoner shouted “You’re f***ing nicked, my beauty. Boo the Queen would you?” and hit him on the head
At the Police Station he was told that Challoner had found half a brick in his pocket and he was charged with having an offensive weapon.
It transpired that forensic evidence proved that the man’s suit had never been in contact with any brick dust and the piece of brick could not be fitted in any of the pockets. OOPS!
Detective Sergeant Harold Challoner had served in the SAS during World War II and had been awarded the Military Medal; he had earned the reputation as the craziest soldier in the Regiment. Taken prisoner twice and escaped twice. After the war he joined the Force where he earned the reputation as a chancer. His luck ran out when he was charged with his three colleagues with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and corruption offences.
The three other officers were sentenced to prison for three years, while Challoner was found mentally unfit to plead and spent some years in a secure mental hospital. There was strong feeling in the media that he had been spared jail because he had known where the bodies had been buried. The whitewash allowed police corruption to continue within the Metropolitan Police unabated. Doing a Challoner became police slang expression for avoiding punishment and prosecution through retiring sick from the force.
Challoner died in 2008 after a comfortable retirement in Cornwall.
It’s strange that it doesn’t take much to bring my old memories to the surface. Did you know that Cop was derived from Constable On Patrol. Not that appropriate these days when it is reported that the average time actually spent on patrol is less than 8 minutes in each hour, “Evening All!”