A sweet way to enforce Law and Order

Boris, in Morocco, finds the police ready to shake hands and embrace a road-rager:  “First the cop spoke kindly to the taxi driver, and then leant forward closely and kissed him on the crown of the head. Then the 19-yr-old road rager made a short speech to the taxi driver, bowed and kissed him on the cheek. Then there was general shaking of hands and embracing by everyone except possibly the road-rager’s female passenger. And that – believe me – was it.”

Uh-oh, I thought, this is where it all goes wrong. The car in front of us screeched to a halt and the driver door slammed. Towards us he stalked, face pale, eyes blazing like coals, hands twitching from the sleeves of his Dolce and Gabbana blouson.

His oiled black hair stood up in shark teeth tufts from his trembling head. With his beaked nose and sulky mouth he had the air of a young medieval sultan who had just discovered a Frankish knight in bed with his wife.

As he flung wide our car door I half expected him to jerk some jewelled dagger from his white designer jeans. In the instant before he physically attacked our driver I remembered the cheery predictions of the guide book.

Morocco, chirped the guide, has very little crime. You may be offered all sorts of things at outrageous prices, but no one, said the guide book, will offer you violence.

In the course of two days strolling around the pink-walled city of Marrakesh, I found that this optimism was well-founded. Everybody smiled. Nobody so much as jostled us. No one even raised his voice, except the muezzin. Yes, I thought, he must run a pretty tight ship, this King Mohammed VI.

Which made it all the more surprising to see this eruption of rage, here on our last night, in the dust and darkness of the ring road. The young man, of about 19, shouted at our driver to come out of the car and then aimed a kung fu kick at his head.

As the guidebook had prophesied, however, the police were almost immediately on the scene.

Police arrived in a van proclaiming them to belong to the Surete Nationale. Out stepped a balding plainclothesman in a leather jacket, with a hint of Mukhabarat menace. Both sides began babbling their cases, the taxi driver complaining of assault, the kids protesting that the taxi had cut them up.

The policeman clapped his hands for hush. His brown eyes bored intelligently into mine. Tell me what happened, he said. The chap had indeed kicked at the taxi driver, I attested, though whether he had connected I could not really say.

Suddenly the policeman clapped his hands again and barked a flurry of Arabic at all present. That’s it, I thought: we are all going to be hauled off to the blooming station for an orgy of tedium. Then things got very odd indeed.

First the cop spoke kindly to the taxi driver, and then leant forward closely and kissed him on the crown of the head. Then the 19-year-old road rager made a short speech to the taxi driver, bowed and kissed him on the cheek. Then the road-rager’s male passenger also embraced the taxi driver and there was general shaking of hands and embracing by everyone except possibly the road-rager’s female passenger. And that – believe me – was it.

As we drove off for the remains of our evening, the taxi driver was exultant. He had been offered money by the young man, which he had magnanimously refused, but he had been given an apology. Honour, he felt, was satisfied.

Now what would we think if our police dispensed justice by ordering miscreants to apologise on the spot, to pay compensation (if required) for any injury done, and to complete the procedure by giving them a kiss?

We’d think it pretty bizarre. But think of the saving in police bureaucracy and form filling. Think of the economies we would make in legal fees and general public expense. And think of the improvement in the crime figures!

It was the great legal theorist Sir Henry Maine who pronounced in 1861 that the movement of progressive societies has been the movement from status to contract. It is no disrespect to Morocco to say that we in Britain, for better or worse, are quite a long way further down that road.

Maine’s idea was broadly that societies’ legal structures began by mimicking injury law rigor. Just as a son was expected to obey his father, so a subject was expected to obey his king. And there is no doubt that the king, in Morocco, is still a very big cheese indeed.

He personally appoints all ministers. He opens and dissolves parliament at his own initiative. He oversees virtually every policy. He seems to have no opposition to speak of. Whenever he is in town the streets are hung with Morocco’s gorgeous red flag, and he seems pretty popular.

He rules by virtue of his status as king and a descendant of the Prophet, and his emanation – the leather-jacketed cop – has an immanent authority that you don’t find in policemen in mature western democracies who don’t have the status to serve as one-man kerbside courtrooms. They have procedures, and rules, and quite right, too. The movement from status to contract is a good thing, in that it protects the individual against corruption and the arbitrary exercise of power.

But it has also introduced a great deal of complication, delay, expense and frustration. Ask anyone who goes to court, or to the police, to seek justice. What they want, very often, is not money or to punish someone.

What they want is vindication, a public acknowledgment that they have been wronged. What they want is an apology.

That is what the taxi driver got, pronto, and that is why he was so happy. He was so happy that he even cut our fare.

He still ripped us off, mind you. There is some way to go in the movement to contractually enforceable Moroccan taxi fares.

For the entire article read The Daily Telegraph

32 thoughts on “A sweet way to enforce Law and Order”

  1. We should have a ‘Hug a policeman Day’ – and see if that has any positive effect on law and order in the capital

  2. This is baloney – we are a colder nation in more than one sense and one cultivating a stiff upper lip. I can’t imagine any number of embraces making a shred of difference to the hooligans intent on creating trouble.

  3. You prat Boris. Our boys in blue might not go around kissing people on their heads, but don’t you realise they are sorting out minor incidents up and down the nation all day every day without resorting to the courts?

  4. Boris! I hardly recognised you in that photograph!
    If you could arrange it for me to get snogged by Rebecca Front in her role as DS Innocent from Lewis when I drive down the bus lane in Wandsworth then there is a fiver in it for you.
    Make it a tenner if she is in uniform.

  5. Come to think of it though, Boris, I have to admit that you have found a very powerful deterrent. I was considering a life of crime to help see me through my unemployed status – I blame Thatcher – but the thought of being molested by PC ‘Fancy’ Smith (Brian Blessed) has quite put me off the idea. Well done!

  6. I see that today marks the successful completion of the first phase of improvement work for the huge rail investment scheme in the Newport area, which will enhance the reliability of the 3m rail journeys made each year via Severn Tunnel Junction.

    At least Labour has made good on decades of underinvestment in the railways.

    Incredible that the Tory party valued them so low they sold them off!

  7. Have you taken into account the cost of elfen safety courses to administer the proposed kisses and the possible litigation (swine flu, herpes, etc. etc.) ? Is an unwanted kiss an assault? Need there be mistletoe? Are there to be statutory acceptable kissing zones? And prescribed methods of kissing? I think we should be told.

    I found this very funny, if bitterly funny.

  8. I love this story. Yes I think a lot of time and money could be saved if people were more prepared to adopt old fashioned courtesy and find the strength to apologise. ‘Losing face’ as they say in Chinese culture is a major fundamental issue and in any form of dispute resolution, whether small or large, even on an international historic scale, someone stepping in as objective observer and easing one party to make the first move towards an apology can do such a huge world of good. Yes it may sound trite but it works, as long as you are dealing with people of sound mind, not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I think there may be a mindset that stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the good of a simple kind or gentle gesture of good will in an awkward situation but we can all think of examples of arguments or incidents that were never properly resolved and stung due to the injustice of the situation. The power of acknowledgement is mighty – look at the reaction of the Birmingham Six to Tony Blair’s apology.

  9. Morocco is such a beautiful country, I absolutely love it. the people are so warm and friendly. They express their emotions instead of bottling them up, maybe that is why they do not have all the aggression and rage we have here.

    This is such a sweet article.

  10. With the vile weather we are having here, I wish we were all in Morocco, smelling the lemon trees and eating gorgeous cous cous, going to the markets, gazing at the ocean…..

  11. angela, what’s making this weather snap far more serious than the one in 1981 is that in the intervening years the Conservatives encouraged everybody to own and use a car, and ran-down public transport.

    The result is that the south-east is near breaking point the whole time.

  12. Well that’s it then. I’m going to kiss my way out of trouble from now on. Definitely the enlightened New Age way to go. Peace, Calm and Pixie Dust and if any of you disagree you can kiss my ahhh, is that the time? Must dash we have got a Command Performance for a Sultan – the Frankish Knight is held up in the snow and his wife has taken to her bed. Don’t know who with!

  13. The local bobby in my village is gorgeous. He walks past my manor every day without fail.

    Tall, fit, handsome with blue stubble, in his tight fitting uniform he looks like a lead character off Catherine Cookson’s. Ooooh, young man! Once he even stopped outside my manor, carefully position his pert ass at my upstairs window and bent down to pick up a sweet wrapping off the street. How sweet! Watching from my upstairs window, I nearly fainted. His pert bottom almost made his tight black trousers burst open at the seams.

    With this new scheme ” Police men hugs civilians “, I will wait until he’s walking close behind me before I drop some litter on the street on purpose so he will give me a telling off and a hug.

    On the other hand, the bobby in the next village is so ugly. Scrawny, short and pale. Almost like Mr Bean’s twin. Still, I’m sure he’s Hyacinth next door’s type.

  14. We have a different approach here. First sign of road rage where the police are involved and rager is flung in gaol till the courts eventually get round to administering some punishment. Rager is then generally deported (80% of us here are expats). Even the mildest gesture or gentlest obscenity attracts this punishment.

    We have little road rage; and some of the stupidest most arrogant selfish incompetent driving I’ve ever seen. None of which attracts any penalty at all.

    I wonder if these facts are connected?

  15. No, angela, the act of courage that got people on bikes was the Congestion Charge.

    Boris Johnson has moved against the CC extension. His bike measures (the bikehire scheme: watch the bikes get vandalised) have been rather spineless compared to the previous mayor.

  16. “However, if the mayor is serious about improving cyclists’ safety he would be increasing the resources available for traffic policing. Instead he is cutting spending on roads policing, making London’s roads a lot more dangerous for cyclists, and then blaming the victims.”

    Recent words from the CTC.

  17. i don’t agree with that analysis. He is starting up cycling banks, a very creative idea.

    We are slap bang in the middle of a credit crunch, or hadn’t you noticed? This is bound to curtail spending.

  18. Well… this is a bit of a strange one, my reaction itself shows that it probably wouldn’t happen in our country. it may be a good idea in theory but if you take into account the attitude of people both towards the police and life in general these days i honestly dont think this would solve anything.

    The fact is people no longer hold the respect they should for the police, but with all the corrupt stories we hear who could blame them. Though the main reason for the loss of respect is that people are no longer afraid of the law, murderers are able to get off through loopholes in the system and if that can happen so can anything.

    If we did try this, for one the apology would not be a meaningful one just a way of avoiding punishment. And how does this one policemen decide who is right or wrong at that very moment, evidence such as cctv and witness reports need to be studied then a suitable form of punishment can be decided from there.
    It is also not fair on the policemen to hold that sort of responsibility as they may be trained in capturing criminals but not the complicated ins and outs of the law -do we expect each officer to study also as a judge and lawyer even jury and become many people all at the same time?
    Plus how far would we take this would we think it acceptable for a rapist to apologize to his distraught victim then walk away scott free? In a perfect world the crime would not be committed in the first place but in reality we must take certain measures to make sure we take the right course of action and provide both suitable punishment for the accused and suitable compensation for the victim, its not all as simple as an on the spot apology.

  19. You have chucked a bit of a douche of cold water over the subject, I must say, janina, hahahaha.

  20. Plans by London’s mayor to build an airport on an artificial island in the Thames estuary have been branded “pie in the sky” by Medway Council.

    A feasibility review approved by the council’s cabinet says Boris Johnson’s plan is “completely wrong”.

  21. Please don’t tell me they are 2 Moroccan policemen in the picture taken recently in 2009 by Mr Johnson on his trip to Morocco.

    The current weather is a bit nippy, folks. It makes your nipples stand on their ends, doesn’t it?

  22. @The Hon Mrs Jamieson:

    The current weather is a bit nippy, folks. It makes your nipples stand on their ends, doesn’t it?


    My warm soft centre seems to be taking me over. This is not a temporary condition dependant on the weather.

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