There were at least 10 reasons why I jacked being a police officer. Number 8 on the list was Sophie.
Walking through Bacup park at 3am in August 2007 with her boyf Robert Maltby they encountered local drunken, teenage street scum who proceeded to beat Robert into a coma for no reason other than because he was dressed as a Goth or "Mosher". Instead of running away Sophie tried to prevent what was happening and when they'd beaten Robert unconscious she was sitting holding his head in her lap and crying hysterically. Two of the gang then turned back and kicked and stamped on Sophie's head putting her in a coma too. Paramedics on the scene said that Sophie and Robert were so badly injured that they couldn't tell which was male and which female.
3 weeks later Sophie died from her injuries in hospital.
The little turd perceived as the leader of this gang of feral rats was interviewed by the police and the Detective Chief Inspector had to pause the interview to take the solicitor outside and ask him to advise his client and his client's mother to take the matter seriously and not sit there laughing and joking with each other.
Found guilty of murder the judge laid down a minimum term of 18 years on the ringleader (a very rare thing to have happen and almost never handed down, it basically means he can't be parolled and has to serve the full whack) and described the gang as "worse than wild animals".
I never used to "get" the kind of people that would hang around outside the Old Bailey to hurl abuse and punch the police van as Maxine Carr was driven into court. This kind of cretinous lynch mob mentality just annoyed me. If you weren't involved, you didn't know the people it happened to then why get so worked up? Have an opinion, express it, but why treat the whole thing like an episode of Eastenders?
Then something happens that gets right into your own sense of injustice and you can empathise just a little bit more.
Until the age of 37 no news story had ever made me cry.
This one did.
Garry Newlove's murder, while disgusting was a man attacked by (and I use the word in it's loosest possible sense) other "men". Sophie was a young woman, no threat to anyone and was beaten to death for kicks by people who I honestly hope die in prison after sharing their cells with predatory, Viagra-fuelled rapists that bore them out every day they're in there.
I joined the police with high aspirations of protecting the weak and bringing justice to the world. I imagined myself emerging from burning buildings holding a puppy under one arm and a baby in the other, my body armour smoking heroically. As it was I spent most of my time giving motorists a hard time for having a dodgy rear light, just to generate paperwork.
A friend of mine runs a shop. A nice shop selling nice things like incense and crystals. Her and her husband are the nicest people you could ever meet (open a dictionary at the word "nice" and there they are holding a jar of chutney). The local Chavs seemed to gravitate to the shop like magpies to silver and reduced my friend and several of her 18-ish, female staff to tears through their theiving, swearing and general cuntish behaviour. I once threw three of them out for mouthing off and far from welcoming this off-duty intervention my friend said "please don't do that again. they'll just come back when you're not here". The poor cow would rather tread water than risk going under completely.
Noone could protect Sophie Lancaster that night. Not because of what happened but because society has shown too much compassion for the criminal for far too long. Gone are the days of my era when we would get someone over 18 to buy us booze and then head off to the cemetery or park to drink it, scarpering if challenged by an adult or worse a copper. Now the kids drink it openly on street corners, ineffectual, fat arsed PCSOs the only "police" presence they see and they know they can't arrest them.
We now have to "get inside the mind" of the wrongdoer. Try to empathise with exactly why they steal, fight, rob and hurt people and be understanding of whatever demons are perceived to have led them to commit crimes in the first place. The victim is left outside the circle of care, left to fend for themself. The gang that murdered Sophie were molly coddled by the local system. Given taxpayers' money to make a rap video advocating just how "hard" they were in their gang The Bacup Crew and allowed to roam the streets preying on the weak and helpless. Their lack of any sense of shame or even awareness of the gravity of what they'd done is a damning indictment of a modern society that refuses to let teachers smack kids, but allows the kids to abuse the system and hasn't protected the few decent people left.
My own sense of impotent rage is still with me over Sophie's death. Even though I was 300 miles away in another Force when it happened. What possible pleasure could anyone get out of doing this to a 20 year old female? And why were the people who did it to her allowed to devolve so far to become like wild animals?
Again, I hope that her killers and those that beat Robert die in gaol and every day they suffer at the hands and feet of bigger, stronger people. But I doubt they will. Three squares a day and taxpayers' money to keep them in there in moderate comfort. The ringleader will be younger than me when he's released and able to have a normal life in the outside world.
For the future, I hope what happened here will be a lesson so that this kind of crime will be a line in the sand and an epitaph for the Politically Correct bollocks that passes for policing and Justice in the UK.