It Was Not Just a Child That Died as Blunkett's Bobbies Stood by - but Common Sense Itself

Article excerpt

DID you happen to assume, by any strange chance, that the purpose of theemergency services was to rescue people in an emergency from the prospect ofdeath or injury? Indeed. So did we all.

Well, more fool us! It '

we all.Well, more fool us! It turns out that their purpose is to avoid anythingthat puts themselves at risk - and they've got a health and safety rule bookthat says so.

The more we learn about how ten-year-old Jordon Lyon drowned in a pool in Wiganwhile two police support officers at the scene did nothing to save him, themore surreal and 'Melanie Phillips preposterous life in Britain appears to havebecome.

In any normal society, these officers would have been disciplined for failingto carry out what one might have presumed to be the essential duty of a policesupport officer, namely to protect people from harm - not to mention the basicinstinct of any decent human being to try to prevent a tragic accident.

Lethal But no - their employers, the top brass of the Greater ManchesterPolice, say they behaved perfectly correctly. This is because both the policeand fire service have instructions not to save people who are drowning.

The reasons pile absurdity upon absurdity.

Police and fire officers, we are told with the straightest of faces, are nottaught to swim or trained to save people from drowning. This apparently meansthat even if they can swim, they still have to fold their arms and stay put.

So when Sergeant Craig Lippitt, a regular police officer, attempted to rescueJordon by stripping off and diving in without hesitation, he was actuallybreaking the rules.

Last March firefighter Tam Brown, who rescued a woman from the River Tay, wasinformed he could face disciplinary action for doing so.

What on earth have we come to in this country, when attempting to savesomeone's life might be considered a disciplinary offence - in occupationswhich exist for precisely that purpose? The police and fire service jobsworthssay that such rescue attempts might result in the death of the rescuer. Trueenough; such tragedies do happen. But if we all followed that reasoning, no onewould ever try to save anyone from any danger at all.

And isn't the whole point of paying people to be police and fire officers thatthey put themselves in risky situations - for which we expect them to be fullytrained? But it seems that precisely the same reasoning prevents them frombeing trained in the first place.

Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Police were fined for breaching health andsafety laws after two 14-year-old boys died at a children's event in theswimming pool at COLUMN 'the force's training college in Hendon, North London.

Up to that point, all police recruits were taught to swim and many were trainedin life-saving. But after that tragedy, the pool was filled in and all suchtraining stopped.

And the message then went out to all emergency services: take no chances.

It echoes another case in which, after a police officer fell to his death whilechasing a suspect across a roof, the Met was prosecuted under health and safetylaws.

Although this prosecution failed, the police are now wary of chasing criminalsin case they fall foul of the law by hurting themselves.

The compensation culture has thus not only gone stark, staring mad but hasturned positively lethal. Health and safety laws have now become a menace tolife and limb.

The former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who introduced police supportofficers, has tried to explain this madness by saying that our society hasbecome averse to taking risks. But that doesn't explain why this has happened.

The answer surely lies in a far broader and deeper transformation of Britishsociety that has taken place. …