Go Ahead, Rely on the Government for Your Protection

(I don’t have time for this, but…)

Mr. Free Market reports on another case where doing that resulted in the unnecessary death of a citizen. Doing a little Googling, I found this report on the case:

This frail ex-soldier was killed minutes after dialling 999 – but the police failed to respond

Sandy Clark was in fear of his life from a criminal with a violent record, yet as Daniel Foggo reports, his call for help was given the lowest possible status

Police failed to respond to pleas for help from a disabled Army veteran who dialed 999 minutes before he was brutally murdered in his own home. The operator at West Mercia police who took the call decided no action was required, even though it was the third time that day that Alexander “Sandy” Clark had told officers of his fears about the man who killed him.

Mr Clark, 63, who lived alone in Worcester, told the operator that he was being pursued by a man who had already stolen from him and who had stated, in an angry telephone call, his intention to come to his home and confront him. Instead of help being sent, Mr Clark was told simply to keep his door shut and dial 999 again if the man materialised. The call was officially logged as having the lowest possible status.

About 20 minutes later, Mr Clark was brutally beaten to death by Martin Rauwley, a career criminal who was the subject of Mr Clark’s frantic calls. Rauwley, 39, got into Mr Clark’s home and savagely beat him with his own walking stick, stabbing him to death with the fragments of the stick when it broke. His body lay undiscovered for more than 24 hours.

Mr. Clark’s assailant didn’t need a (prohibited) firearm or a (prohibited) knife to kill Mr. Clark. But Mr. Clark was denied the only weapon with which a frail 63 year-old man might defend himself from a strong, healthy 39 year-old assailant.

Mr Clark’s son Mark and daughter Andrée believe that the police decision effectively to ignore their father’s call cost him his life.

There’s more to it than just the police dispatcher’s decision. It’s a long, long chain of things. But remember, the State isn’t responsible for protecting any specific individual, just the public at large.

Although Mr Clark died two years ago, full details of his attempts to get help before his death have now been released by his family. They did not emerge at the trial of Rauwley, who had a string of previous convictions for fraud and violence. He was jailed for life for Mr Clark’s murder in October 2002.

On the day of his death, March 4, 2002, Mr Clark spoke to West Mercia police three times about his concerns about Rauwley. The two had met in a pub and become friendly, but two days earlier, Rauwley had stolen some of Mr Clark’s military medals. Mr Clark dialed 999 on March 2 to report the theft and was subsequently visited by officers.

Mr Clark first called 999 on March 4 at 10.53am to relate that Rauwley had pushed a note through his letterbox saying he was looking for him. The police later rang Mr Clark back but since Rauwley had not appeared, no more was done.

That afternoon, however, Rauwley telephoned Mr Clark and they argued about the medals. At 4.29pm, Mr Clark called 999 again and had a conversation lasting several minutes. Finishing the call, the operator assessed it as “grade four”, the lowest of the possible levels of response. It meant that the operator judged that no police presence was required. Mr Clark was on his own.

Within minutes, Rauwley had entered Mr Clark’s home and was beating the former soldier to death in his bedroom. Mr Clark, who had served 22 years in the Signal Corps, was suffering from a severe form of spinal rheumatism, Parkinson’s disease and a heart condition. He was no match for his then 37-year-old attacker.

Rauwley left having pocketed some more of his victim’s possessions. CCTV footage later showed him walking along a nearby street at 5.10pm. Mr Clark’s body lay undiscovered for more than 24 hours.

Boy, those CCTV cameras really prevent crime don’t they?

Rauwley, a drug-taking career criminal with convictions for fraud and violence, was quickly caught and convicted.

When Mr Clark’s family were told by the police of their father’s 999 calls, Mark and Andrée asked to see the transcripts. They were allowed to view them at police headquarters on the understanding that they could take no copies. Andrée, 43, said: “Reading them I could tell dad was scared and Mark felt the same.”

Apparently there’s no Freedom of Information Act analog in the UK. Why am I not surprised?

The brother and sister engaged a solicitor, Stephen Lodge, who arranged for them to view the transcripts again. On this second viewing, however, they appeared different. “The second time we got no impression that he was frightened,” said Mark, 39. “It was like there was something missing.”

Penny Fishwick, a solicitor for West Mercia police, explained the discrepancy in a letter to the Clarks’ solicitor. She said that after listening to the tapes with a colleague “I requested a few minor amendments with a view to improving the accuracy of the transcript.

Riiiiiight. I believe that.

Unsatisfied, Mark and Andrée asked for Mr Lodge to get access to the tapes of the 999 calls. This he was eventually allowed to do, but only after signing an undertaking not to let Mr Clark’s family have access to them, to spare them the distress of hearing their father’s voice in his final minutes. More mysterious, however, was an admission from the police that the beginning of the last, and crucial, call had disappeared.

That didn’t work for Nixon, why do they think it’ll work here?

In a letter to Mr Lodge dated August 14, 2003, Miss Fishwick said: “I have just listened to this [final] tape and noted that the first three lines of the conversation are missing. I am sorry about this but I doubt that the first three lines are in any way controversial.”

But we’ll never know, will we?

After hearing the tapes, Mr Lodge said that notwithstanding the missing beginning of the tape, the transcripts appeared accurate. He has since moved to another firm of solicitors and his replacement has stated that he sees no point in pursuing the police.

And there isn’t. They cannot be held responsible, as I’ve previously made clear.

Mark and Andrée, however, are anything but satisfied. “Now I suspect we will never know the full story since a part of the tape had just disappeared, which we find extraordinary,” said Andrée. “I believe this case raises issues over matters such as the police’s response to calls from vulnerable people.

“We feel, however, that West Mercia’s response has been arrogant. When we managed to get a meeting with a senior policeman he told us that all the policing would be done exactly the same given the same circumstances again.”

Yet the UK government requires its subjects to depend on the government for their protection exclusively.

And they cannot seem to understand why the violent crime rate in Britain is higher than in the the U.S. or the rest of Europe.

“We would still like to sue,” she said, “and I will be writing to the Police Complaints Authority to take this matter further. We will not let it drop.”

A spokesman for West Mercia said last week: “Following the death of Mr Clark, the grading of his calls to the police was reviewed. That review showed that the manner in which these calls were graded was appropriate in the light of the circumstances of the time. No formal complaint has been received by the force.”

Thanks for the pointer, Mr. Free Market.

And if the link works, read this article about the frustration of crime victims in England over the inability of the police to do anything effective. Read this one, too.

Now, back to work.

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