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A Controversial Arrest

It's a story that that mirrors that incident in Los Angeles a few years ago, when the LAPD were filmed having a stern word with a civilian and those terrible riots ensued. This one could have been ripped from the violent backwaters of any of our big cities. In fact, it's a cautionary tale from the dark side of Gravesend in the genteel southern English county of Kent.

Late in the evening, two police officers are following a suspicious looking vehicle and decide to pull it over and check the driver. Their lights flash, the car in front comes to a halt, and Police Constable Cole and Police Constable McGregor pounce. The driver is pulled from his car, clapped in handcuffs and bundled into the back of the police car.

But not before he has assaulted the cops. Poor PC Cole had his thumbs twisted and PC McGregor was pushed in the chest. You might think that it's typical of the kind of mindless violence troubling our cities these days and be grateful the young, coppers, both tough and strong and in their twenties, got away with nothing worse than a push and a twist.

But what of the miscreant? Frank Gibson was the driver, the twister of thumbs and the pusher of chests, and he has just been convicted in court, told to pay two thousand dollars and given a six month discharge.

But we're not talking about a serial offender here. You see, Mr Gibson is ... wait for it ... eighty two years old, a senior citizen who relies on a walking stick to get about and never seems to have done a dishonest thing in his life. In fact, not so long ago, the Queen presented him with a medal, the Order of The British Empire, for services to the community; and when he apparently assaulted two fit, young cops, he was actually on his way back from Christmas Eve Mass.

So far, the elderly people of Kent haven't overreacted the way folks did on the streets of Los Angeles years ago and all is presently peaceful in the county. But if I were responsible for law enforcement there and one night, I heard the ominous tap of a zimmer frame or the clank of a wheelchair, I'd be afraid, very afraid.
By Simon Bates