Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Police State?

This morning I was woken up by someone in the House of Lords quoting Pastor Niemöller with regard to the 42-day hold without charge debate. Always a grand way to wake up. I was then reading about a police curfew that has been placed upon a Devonshire village for the under-16s.

Now whilst on the face of it, this would seem OK - after all, we are not going to condone violence or intimidation - what it does do is remove any idea of 'innocent until proven guilty'. By virtue of apparent age, apparent being something I will come back to, a 15 year old kid can be in trouble with the police for being out of his house during the summer holidays at 9.05pm. What a very strange world we live in? I wonder what provision is made for those children returning from evening activities such as sports clubs, hobbies or just visiting relatives? Will police snatch squads stalk public playing fields with a stopwatch, as lads try to have a kickabout during the long nights? No longer the chance to go to the cinema for a snog in the back row, as you will have to be back in your house by 9pm! Rules like these criminalise the innocent and I can imagine a number of other police authorities looking at it and wondering whether it would work for them?

Just to reiterate, thats a curfew in operation on British soil effecting innocent British citizens.

And this is apparently a good thing?

Remember I said 'apparently' before was operative in all of this? Well, this lead me to thinking about another of my favourite bugbears at the moment. Task 25.

I was in Morrisons last week and saw that in order to buy alcohol, if you look under 25, you will have to produce proof of ID. Again, it seems innocent enough but what is the logic behind it? The legal age for the purchase of alcohol is 18. Not 21. Not 25. Its 18.

So you go into Morrisons and you look, say, 22. Obviously older than 18, probably not more than 25. And you have to produce ID? Why? The assistant can see and accept that you are older than 18 (and thus the sale is legal) so why not make the sale?

To make matters worse, I'm pretty sure that Tesco Extra operate the same policy for anyone who appears under 30!

One the one hand, I find this arse-covering at an insane level. If the supermarkets are honestly saying that they cannot tell the difference between someone in their mid-20s and someone who is 17, then I suggest they need to look harder! Regardless, what makes 26 or 31 suddenly an age without any qualms about sale? Its arbitary and illogical, at best.

Either we push towards a society where we all carry ID and it is used all of the time for various things (ie. like in California, where you are ID'd for your first drink in every bar, no matter how old you are (at least in my experience!)) or we do not. These self-imposed halfway houses create ludicrous paradoxes.

To whit, imagine the problems the police in the curfew town are going to have with all of those ambiguously aged youths? If a supermarket cannot tell the difference between a 17 year old and a 30 year old, how the hell can the police be expected to tell the difference between a 15 and a 16 year old. Or 17? Or 18? Or 21? How many innocent adults are going to be 'dispersed' by the police?

Maybe David Davies is right? Maybe there is an erosion of our civil liberties that is happening in this country? Maybe we are just letting it happen because it makes us feel safer.... until we are the ones that are fingered with being the danger and then we will have let it all go too far.

Remember the words of Pastor Niemöller ...

First they came for the Socialists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left
to speak up for me.


Anonymous said...

Okay, two things here. I have slightly different view on.

With respect to the curfew, I find it odd. But then I find the demonising of our youth worrying generally. Your entry has just beat my entry to be honest on a similar topic. Consider when I was young I represented the intelligent, good kids yet we would knock on people's doors and run away, make ramps for our bikes in the car park and the street and jump over each other, career around the whole of seaton like a biker gang on Reliegh Grifters. At times, we'd even jump over fires we'd started. We were the good kids. I suspect, by and large, the teenages of today are more responsible and better behaved than we were when kids. I know all the ones I know are. It's a few screwing for a whole generation it would seem.

Now, the alcohol thing. I don't see the problem. I like the fact that in the US they 'card' anyone who might even be remotely close to the legal age. Why not? If you're over the legal age it's not a problem and you can be rest assured the company is doing the right thing to not sell to under age people. It's okay to say 25 or 30 is ridiculous, but it's about a culture of 'carding'. If you're going to card you will by necessity card well over expected age to make sure. I think the attitude to under age drinking has to be changed as at the minute it seems to be promoted, not enforced as 'wrong'.


Vodkashok said...

I concur wholeheartedly with your first point. I was the same. I've said many times that for the antics I used to get up to, as the golden child of my village, I would have been ASBO'd on a number of occassions nowadays.

And I have no problem with carding but I do have a problem with the arbitary nature of the carding. Either do it wholesale or not. Not some wishy washy middle ground. I can only imagine my fury if I was 28 and I was refused the sale of beer because I had left my passport at home. I would be clearly over 18 and therefore legal, but this shop has chosen to change the law to suit its PR needs. That sucks. Actually it would just mean I would shop elsewhere!

I think my anger at these things stems from my being unidentifiable for many years. No driving licence. No passport. Apparently we don't have an ID card system in this country ... but I beg to differ. If you haven't shelled out for one or both of these, life can be pretty damned difficult at times.


Anonymous said...

"And I have no problem with carding but I do have a problem with the arbitary nature of the carding. Either do it wholesale or not."

-- Neil

Not sure what you mean there?

It is done wholesale as in the law is not to supply under 18's with alcohol. I believe it's even part of the law that the individual supplier, the actual cashier (not the company) can get into trouble if they supply.

The problem is the culture of alcohol in this country and, historically, the fact the 'cashier' would supply. Now, that is changing, and hence the guidelines from Morrisons.

Legally it should already be happening, and if you accept this, even without guidelines, then the 'cashier' will 'card' and she will 'card' on the buffer she believes she needs to be sure she doesn't get caught out.

It's a culture change, but it should already be consistent. Morrisons are not 'making their own laws' they are issuing guidelines to staff. Guidlines they'd all create themselves anyway if they followed the law.


redben said...

I think there's a world of difference between carding people who look under 21 and carding people who look under 30. Like Neil, I had serious problems proving my age until getting my provisional last summer which could potentially have placed me in a situation where I was refused an alcohol sale despite in being in my 30's (not to sound conceited or anything but it's tough to place someone's age to more than a range of a few years meaning a cashier could easily have thought I was under 30).

Challenge 21 is a different kettle of sea monkeys. Its essentially asking the shopper not to be offended if asked to produce ID on the reasonable grounds that a 17 year old could pass for older. It still forces anyone up to their mid-twenties to carry proof of ID and age if they want to purchase alcohol and this is where I believe the policy is wrong. Just as with 'innocent until proven guilty' it should not be the responsibility of a 22 year old to prove they are over 18 if they look over 18 (if they look under 18then different story). Nor do I believe doing this is effectively curbing underage drinking.

Selling alcohol to people who look underage is the problem. I never had any problems buying booze as a 15 year old and I in no way looked 18 (which links back to the other point of what we got up to as kids). This is what needs to change. Challenge 21 is fiddling around the margins and causing as much harm as it does good.

Vodkashok said...

OK, imagine this situation. What if your local Odeon started asking for proof of age for 18 rated films for anyone who looked under 30?

What if you were denied the ability to vote because you were not able to prove your age and looked around 25-ish?

What if you were stopped from buying petrol at age 23 because the shop assistant wasn't sure you were over 17 and able to drive?

It isn't about underaged drinking. Its about being denied things which you are legally entitled to because a shop or other entity decides that it cannot risk being wrong.

We should be able to exist in this country without having to carry a passport or a driving licence. Both of them cost a considerable amount of money to purchase, making identity into a commodity that is denied from the poor.

Anonymous said...

30 is pushing it.

We'll have to disagree on the 21 or 25 borderline, whether a corporate rule or due to a practicality of a cashier being ultra-sure, I don't think it's a problem.

After all, as soon as you consistently enforce the limit you will be carded if over that limit due to a cashier's relative assessment of age, perception of risk and a whole host of other things.

It's about changing attitudes and these things often depend on a whole fabric of things. In that context I don't think changing the attitude of a 'right to buy' to 'understanding I may be carded' is a bad thing.

It will happen anyway if they are enforcing the 18 limit.

Anonymous said...


The point at which we differ is this.

If we have a law that says you have to be over a certain age to purchase something (cinema ticket, alcohol, etc) and it is the job of the seller to enforce that rule then I'd be fine and expect to be carded.

I can agree 30 is pushing it, but either guidelines are given to employees or they assess to their own ability (risk, conscientiousness, etc, etc).

The result is people will get carded or queried and should expect to do so if they are over that age on occassion.

If we all raise a fuss and moan and say it shouldn't happen I'm 19, 20, 21..whatever in a way were saying drop the rule as you're disrupting the ability to enforce it.

The rule will result in people over the age limit being carded.

So, what are we saying:

(1) We shouldn't have age restriction as it results in people above it being carded?

(2) Just the ridiculous nature of check someone 10+ years over the rule?

Or something else? The ultimate expression of freedom means dropping the age limit altogether? Surely?

Anonymous said...

"Demonising Children" Well maybe a lot of people (not just Daily Mail readers Neil) believe that the basic family unit has broken down to such a degree with some children because of the bad parenting they've had that radical steps need to be taken to protect the vunerable in society from the outrages which are perpetrated by these thugs who have little respect for a civilised society.

Society needs mechanisms and plans in how to move towards a more respectful and law-abiding culture than the cess-pit that we currently find ourselves.

The Conservative's offer this at the very least. If you read carefully some of the recent speeches by David Cameron over the last week you'll see genuine ideas and proposals on how to address some of society's current woes.

The lefties are on the way out Neil. You've had your chance, and 10 years of power, now the people are ready to vote for a change.

Don't let the door hit you on the ass as you leave power... ;-)

The election can't come soon enough!

Viva the Tory Revolution!

(20 point lead!)


Vodkashok said...


First, it is all about the insanely high level that the ages have been set in these measures and the way that it couls be applied. It reeks of sanctimonious bullshit perpetrated by companies to make them look good in the press rather than actually tackling the problem. I'm actually in favour of an ID card - as long as it is free, but I like my laws and the enforcement of such to be done by government and police and not tweaked by supermarkets!

And Dave... first, lets not confuse a Labour government with a left wing government. Thats like confusing a 3am kebab with a fine slow cooked lamb shank....

Second, my complaint isn't about action against bad parenting. I'm quite a fan actually. Its about the criminalisation of innocent people for going about their daily business. Curfews - and thats what this is - are one of the tools of repressive states around the world. This one will punish, possibly, the young carer returning from visiting his gran in the same way that it does the young thug. That isn't bad parenting, its bad policing and a terrible message to be sending to young people. These are law-abiding young people being branded as criminals because of the actions of their peers.

And I read of David Cameron's recent lurch to the right - hug a hoodie is out, fuck a fattie is in apparently. Personal responsibility is fine, but its what comes after that which is important. So, if you are fat, what does that personal responsibility mean? That you take responsibility say, for your own healthcare? That you are choosing to opt out of the NHS? That you are denied services that are available to good, clean, less than 20 BMI people....

Do we extend this thinking? I am sorry, road traffic accident victim, but it was your choice to be driving the car. You could have taken public transport. You could have been saving the environment. Sorry, no NHS for you. And you, the sportsman? Did you REALLY need to play that game of football? No. So no NHS for you either.

If politicians want to play the personal choice card then they should do it across the entire spectrum of choice and not just the nice, media friendly areas where they can score brownie points.

How about this one? You contracted AIDS through having unprotected sex? Outside of marriage? Your choice. No retroviral drugs for you. Should have thought about that sooner, shouldn't you?

I actually welcome the inevitable Conservative election win. I think it cannot come soon enough. Why? Because it will allow people to see that some things aren't quite as easy to fix as they appear. Cameron will not be able to suddenly drop the price of oil, nor make more food appear in places that need it. He will not be able to solve the 'credit crunch' nor deliver peace in the Middle East. He will not be able to wave a magic wand and deliver peace to a country that fears its own youth, nor deliver good strong family values to people who have rejected them. He will not suddenly make a massive spike in exam results, he will not please the Captains of Industry with the quality of graduates or suddenly reverse climate change.

So in a few years time, when nothing has really changed and George Osbourne has been found trussed up in a cellar with ostrich feathers rammed up his ass and things start going a bit pear shaped, maybe - just maybe - we as a country might decide not to look to one party or another for a magic wand for our ills and start to look to ourselves instead.

THATS the sort of personal responsibility I can handle.

Anonymous said...

The entire alchohol and getting carded at 30 thing is all Andrew and his fellow Lawyers fault.

And insurance companies fault.

And accountants fault.

And capitalisms fault.

The lawyers demand high wages for legal cases, making companies have to take out all kinds of insurances.

Insurance companies make the most money when the DON'T pay out.

Which in turn is the insurance companies trying to maximise the returns to their shareholders and policyholders by minimising risk.

The people who hold the shares and the policies are long term investers who want the highest possible returns on their capital and demand that the Insurance companies do all they can to maximise returns.

The people who own the most shares in the UK are large institional Pension Companies who are trying to meet the demands.


Pensioners demand returns,

So the Pension comany demands the highest returns,

thus the Insurance comany demands the least payouts and hikes insurance costs and places punative clauses into the contracts to try and get out of paying out.

Thus the Lawyers (who think getting out of bed in a morning is an unsafe idea) advise to sell to only those who *can't possibly* be sub-17..

And the accountants smile, as they don't give a shit, and this all means the cheques they have to pay out to the insurance company gets smaller.

Capitalism kills Sense.

Go figure.

Consider the economic incentives and the punative economic dis-incentives and suddenly the case for a company to not sell to someone who looks like they're under 30 suddenly starts to take shape.



p.s. as a large sidenote.... All of this also MAKES people WANT to get a National ID card to prove their age & identity doesn't it.

Nice way to get people to WANT to have National ID's cards, instead of wholesale rejection of the idea.

Not that I'm suspicoius at all.....

Vodkashok said...

I was going to say that I find it hard to believe that Morrisons and Tescos are in cahoots with the government to covertly create a welcoming atmosphere for an ID card.... but nowadays, I'll believe anything!


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't go as far as to say it's a deliberate strategy (but fuck it, I've read worse lately from reading 1960's and 1970's business history books. A LOT worse than that),

but certainly I can see the Labour minister in charge of trying to introduce the idea probably rubbing his hands in glee as he starts to envision hordes of "just turned 18 year olds" actually anxious and wanting National ID cards so they can start to buy bottles of white diamond at the local Booze Buster.


Vodkashok said...

Assuming they can get back home to drink it before they are shot on sight...yes. *wink*


Anonymous said...

It reeks of sanctimonious bullshit perpetrated by companies to make them look good in the press rather than actually tackling the problem.
It has nothing to do with being sanctimonious, trying to look good or trying to solve the problem.

It has everything to do with the risk of prosecution (it doesnt matter how old you look, it only matters how old you actually are). There is a real risk of losing your license if caught selling alcohol to underage kids.


Vodkashok said...

Do you honestly believe that someone cannot tell the difference between someone aged 29 and someone aged 17?


Vodkashok said...

I'll expand, rather than edit.

We only have Challenge 21/25/30 notices with regard to alcohol. Not glue. Not knives. Not pornography. Not any other single age related restriction. Just alcohol. Equality of operation would make this a little less murky!

The licencing issue is a smoke screen. This is about supermarkets who discount alcohol until it is cheaper than water finding a way to cover their asses by showing how sensible they really are. As Ben has said, Challenge 21 is perfectly sensible. Challenge 25 is stretching it a bit. Challenge 30 is a ridiculous exaggeration.

I wouldn't be shocked if there wasn't a study somewhere in Tescos regarding the average age of customers who shop at Tesco Extra actually showing that the age is over 30 and that this is a nice strategy to rage against a customer that they don't actually attract...

Sure, there is a real chance of losing your licence if you serve underaged people, but not blatantly legal people who just happen not to have brought their passport out when they go to buy a bottle of wine!


Anonymous said...

It has exploded. I don't think we are that far apart to be honest.

We have an age limit, the risk associated with selling to someone over that age limit (companies worrying about legal action, staff worried about losing their job, etc) will result in people being carded who are over the limit (or it bloody should) due to perceptions.

I think we can all agree 30 is pushing it.

As an aside, I've seen people get turned away from the cinema quite a few times due to age limits - across the spectrum.

The reverse argument about it being equally applied (to other age limits / products) is fine in a nice 'might not exist world' because enforcement on such things always comes down to perception and risk. I know when I was a kid it was dead easy to get cigarettes, they even split the packets up so you could buy them in singles.

My view (ridiculous 30 thing aside) is I would respect being carded, and like being carded because that at least means in one area, at least, someone is enforcing the rule. I don't hold much respect for the philosophy of wanting the rule while wanting the individual right to not be occassionally carded at the same time.


Anonymous said...

Damn, missed something from the above - it all assumes realistic assessments of age (I wouldn't expect to be carded at 37 for being over 18, but it happened very, very rarely it wouldn't bother me - I should be so lucky).

But if I was under 25...woulnd't bother me? Or if I was buying some theoretical good that needed me to be 35? Wouldn't bother me.

The carding age range would come down to risk / perception again or 'up lifted perception' due to corporate rules - which come about for reasons Dave and Andrew have suggested.


Anonymous said...

How old is Tobin.

How old does Tobin look.


Vodkashok said...

Thats what I mean.

There is no attempt at realistic assessment of age.

I have said throughout this, have a free ID card system. Allow anyone to be carded for anything. However, do it like the Americans do it and apply it to everyone. You are 60? Card please! That removes the ability for the shops to gain publicity capital out of something which is blatantly a smoke screen. There's no moral judgements then, it becomes simply part of the culture and can be equally applied to everything in the same method. You could even use them to differentiate between the innocent 15 year old children whose parents will be facing parenting orders for them being outdoors at 9.05pm on a dusky summers evening and the guilty 16 year old hooligans who are exempt from the curfew as soon as their birthday comes around! Score!

Going back to the original post, my real ire at this topic is the use of blanket curfews in the UK as a policing tool. What if they don't work? What next? What method of policing comes after that?

Do we take the children into care for daring be in the presence of adults? (Remember, there are millions of children in this country, a tiny minute percentage of which cause REAL trouble, rather than the perceived threat of trouble simply by existing)

Do we have child internment camps?

Do we have baton wielding riot police move the kids at Old Eldon Square on, for daring to congregate?

Given all of the methods which have failed in the past, what methods can be used in the future?

And one last thing *just* for Dave. Consider this. If the blame for the kids who are causing trouble now is blamed on the parents, and those kids are say, 12-16? Then the parents must be what? 28-32? (North Shields Parents aside) So under which government will they have grown up and gained their compass of morale values .....? *huge grin*

Stirring the pot since 1997

Vodkashok said...

That time Tobes got turned away from Yates was an interesting one in that age was not the issue. I talked to one of the door staff at work about it one night and they laughed and said it wasn't age. It was group size. Apparently its a classic tactic.

A large group of lads walk towards a bar. You don't want to give them entry. Rather than blocking the entire group you block one of them. It is HIGHLY unlikely that they will leave their friend alone outside, so they will leave. You can cite age, dress, demeanour or any number of other things, but you will, 9 times out of 10, at least split the group. I saw it done in Coventry and indeed at One Last Match in Newcastle (except I had the managers number....)

The other factor I would cite in Tobes' defence is that the pub was a declared '21' bar and he did look around 21-23ish. He certainly didn't look 17!


Anonymous said...

You have some strange views. On one breath you are moaning about being carded at 30, the next you say card everyone even if they are 60!

The Americans don't even do this. I've seen people obviously in their 40's not get carded. But Louise got carded at 28 - she viewed as a compliment.

It'll always come down to perception and risk. You will never have a situation where everyone is carded or only those under the age are carded in some strange 'fairness utopia' - there will always be a 'band of people' who get carded unecessarily (as a function of age).

I agree on the way we are treating kids though, and by and large these parents grew up under the conservative government. It's probably bit more complicated than that though, as we'll never know what the world would look like if some of those hard decisions didn't get made (and they could have always been implemented better).


Vodkashok said...

OK. As simply as I can put it:

1. You can perceive the difference in age between 17 and 30

2. Therefore this self-imposed rule must be there for another reason. It isn't there to reduce risk as there is no risk of mistaking a 29 year old for a 17 year old.

3. These schemes are not applied across the board. They are merely applied to the most prevalent social issue of the time (I can remember when signs were everywhere about glue and age)

4. I agree that shopkeepers should have the right to check peoples age if they suspect they are underage.

5. I disagree that shopkeepers should have the right to set ludicrous limits on purchases to appear 'pure' when it is blatant (to me anyway) that its their way of balancing their karma against their discount booze sales. Theres not much that can be done about it, I simply object...*g*

6. I have no problem with a free ID card system and I have no problem with mandatory presentation of such. BUT it has to be done all of the time, to everyone, regardless, as a factor of purchase and not simply as a publicity stunt.

7. Its not the carding thats the problem, its the abolition of common sense in favour of silly pseudo-legislation that appalls me. Sensible limits are fine, wide margins are OK, MASSIVE margins for no reason... less so.

Tying the two tracks of the thread together, I see a society where we do not quite know how to do things. We grow our children too quickly - turning play into crime (for the innocent) as an example - and yet we place little or no trust in our adults either, once they have grown up.

Its a strange old world!


redben said...

Can somebody connect this disconnect I'm experiencing for me. How does carding someone who looks 21 make society safer and or better?

And who here drank alcohol under the age of 18?

Anonymous said...

As to the first question:

Well, from a personal point of view I never stated it made society better. I was operating purely on the principle we had a law.

That law says under 18's cannot buy alcohol and the people essentially put in the position of enacting that law are the person accepting the purchase. Therefore it is only natural that people older than 18 will be queried or carded if the law is being enforced responsibly.

My view is I'm fine with that and if I was in that age bracket I'd be happy to get carded.

As for the second question:

Personally, no. But rather than be obtuse by asking a question just tell us your reason for asking?

Is that you believe there should not be an age limit at all? If so fair enough, but if you do think there should be an age limit, wherever you set it you're going to get people queried within a certain range of that age - unless it's not being enforced.


redben said...

The comments have focused almost entirely on the ID 21 issue since the early ones wherein a very pertinent point was made about the demonisation of modern youth and their behaviour in comparison to our own when we were that age. I purchased and drank alcohol underage. I broke the law. The majority of my peers did too. I don't feel comfortable telling anyone from about the age of 15 onwards not to drink as that would make me a hypocrite, something I detest.

Among all the debates I've been involved in around the wackily arbritary age limits we have in this country I've never actually considered whether 18 was a fair age to begin drinking.

In terms of 'its the law so it should be enforced'. There's a ginormous can of worms sitting over there which I'm not going to touch.

redben said...


This rather important point should have been added. How many people aged 17 or under have been ID'd because they look 21 and been refused a sale?

Asking a question not making a point.