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A Copper’s Tale

“Thou
shalt not make fun of colleagues” is not one of the Ten Commandments, but a
former police constable in Gwent apparently thinks it ought to be.  As if to support his assertion, a tribunal
has just awarded him £440,000 in compensation for having been reduced to a
‘laughing stock’ by his fellow officers.

The
cause of their mirth was a traffic incident in 2009, when PC Baillon and a
colleague, on duty in a patrol car, pulled over a driver of a Range Rover for
not wearing a seat belt.  In the course
of his booking, the driver, a 74-year-old retired businessman named Robert
Whatley, drove off.  He later claimed he
thought the policemen had finished with him. 
There followed a 15-minute chase through country lanes until Mr. Whatley
finally pulled over.  What happened next
is what doomed PC Baillon to become the butt of ‘insensitive’ remarks from his
colleagues.

Baillon
got out of his patrol car and started hammering at the driver’s side window of
Mr. Whatley’s car with a baton, as the driver sat inside it.  Baillon’s unnamed colleague, meanwhile, had
clambered onto the bonnet from which vantage point he proceeded to smash in the
windshield.

Both
actions, it may be reasonably concluded, represented unnecessary force in
apprehending an elderly man, even if he had led them a merry little chase before
stopping.   Mr. Whatley, the officers
must surely have assessed, was unlikely to prove to be a hardened criminal.  And a rural backwater in Wales is a long distance, socially, from the mean
streets of, say, East London.

An
internal police enquiry, curiously, cleared both officers of misconduct.  But for the rest of Baillon’s brief remaining
career in the police, he endured constant taunts about the “Whatley Incident”.   Baillon finally couldn’t take the abuse and
resigned.  This amounted, the tribunal decided,
to ‘constructive dismissal’, a legal locution widely used in labour disputes in
Britain to describe forcing a person out of a job through means other than
actually firing them.

“The
ridicule from colleagues was getting to me,” Baillon said after he’d been
granted the tribunal’s award.  “It was every
single day.  They thought I had done
wrong and I was lucky to have got away with it. 
I just wanted my closure.”

All
I can say, admittedly in ignorance of the exact circumstances or any of the
personalities involved, is that his colleagues were right.  Smashing up a pensioner’s car in retaliation
for offences that in court would have incurred no more than a fine and
deduction of license points, must surely be regarded as excessive.  Other words come to mind: loutish, for one;
idiotic for another.

Baillon,
after being cleared by the enquiry, ought to have thanked his lucky stars that
he wasn’t dismissed, or at the very least suspended and committed to counselling.   Instead,
he wailed that it was his employer, not him, that had behaved badly.  “What has made this worse is the disingenuous
way the force has defended their actions. 
Their conduct has been reprehensible. 
It is a public disgrace.  I
couldn’t accept such treatment.”

I
dare say that Mr. Whatley probably came to the same conclusion about his own predicament.

Mine
is that our litigious society is steadily going bonkers – and nowhere more so
than in the supposed legal rights of miscreants who, having behaved
irrationally, perhaps even dangerously, finish up getting rewarded for it.     

 

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