As it has warmed up a little bit recently I decided to leave the confines of the office and accompany some of my team who were executing a search warrant.
The warrant was at the home of a family that are well known to us. It is a five bedroom council house occupied by mum, dad and five children. There are actually eight children but the eldest is in prison and the next two are being looked after by other relatives as the parents cannot cope with them. The remaining five are aged between 2 and 12. Neither mum or dad have worked for at least 15 years and live on benefits.
We had information that to supplement his benefits, dad deals cannabis and cocaine, largely to local teenagers. Apart from the serious risks to the users, this is undermining our reputation in the community, hence the search.
On arrival, the back door is open and we go in. There isn't a carpet anywhere. The house is filthy and absolutely stinks. There are two piles of dog faeces in the house and a recent pool of wee. The kitchen is disgusting with dirty dishes all over the place and stale food. The kids are sleeping on mattresses with a blanket or sleeping bag. Not a sheet in sight. Police officers will not think this is anything unusual and I have been in far worse houses.
Dad gets arrested with a bit of cannabis. There is not enough to consider a charge of dealing. But hopefully the message will get through to him.
I have mentioned before that I attend a regular meeting with partners where we discuss those young people that are causing problems in the community. Usually those committing crime and anti social behaviour. Two of the children of this family were on the next agenda. I felt it was appropriate to mention that we had executed a drugs warrant at the address and the state of the house. The Local Authority were very interested as they have been trying to get into the house to inspect it for over a year. Children's Services and the Youth Offending Team took a different view.
I was rebuked for judging people by my own values. Apparently, living in a filthy slum doesn't make them bad people or parents and if they choose to live like that we should not criticise their choice of lifestyle. Because I choose to live in a clean environment and wash up regularly and clean up dog poo immediately that does not make me a better person than them.
I pointed out that if the family chose to live in a filthy mess and their children were model citizens who were not being arrested almost daily and involved in local anti social behaviour. If the children attended school regularly and the parents were not drug dealing but set a good example they might have a point.
No I was told. They have just chosen a different lifestyle with different values and I must learn to understand and respect this. I was losing it at this point. They haven't chosen a lifestyle. They are lazy, idle people who have decided that a life of benefits and banging out children beats working. Setting boundaries and being a role model are vital facets of parenting. What are they teaching their children? Perhaps if these parents washed their children's clothes, they wouldn't smell and they would attend school as there would be less risk of them being ostracised by other children. Perhaps if the parents introduced a bit of order and discipline and put them to bed instead of allowing them to run around all night until they dropped they might stop committing offences and get some education and the chance of a job and a future.
I was stared at as if I was some right wing bigot for whom there was no hope. I was obviously never going to see this light that they have found. After a further brief conversation these services decided that the 'work' they were doing with this family was perfectly adequate and they didn't need to be doing any more. They are always 'working' with families. This usually means seeing them once every week or two and having a nice chat.
I hope to God that the new Government addresses the liberal (small l) cesspit that has been allowed to take over all levels of the criminal justice system and we get back to some common sense and reality as soon as possible.