Armed Police check tax discs ...
Even in Brown's Britain, even with the atrocious Jacqui Smith as Home Secretary, could you believe that we would see armed police checking car tax discs?
That's what was happening on the A595 in West Cumbria last week.
In a letter in today's Whitehaven News a Gosforth resident writes about how he was directed by police officers carrying guns to stop in a lay-by with other passing vehicles. One of the officers glanced at his tax disc and sent him on his way.
A spokesman for Cumbria Constabulary told the Whitehaven News "The vehicle was stopped as part of a joint six-week operation between Cumbria Constabulary and Civil Nuclear constabulary. It is called Operation Lace and finishes at the end of next week. The aim is to monitor traffic moving southbound on the A595 with an emphasis on driver education, enforcement of moving traffic offences and intelligence development."
CNC is the nuclear industry's dedicated police force. For obvious reasons they are often armed when patrolling at Sellafield and other nuclear facilites. Their involvement with this traffic check was justified on the basis that
"The focus of the CNC is the development of local intelligence in support of their national counter terrorism remit."
The police spokesman went on to say:
"With Friday being October 31st officers from CNC and Cumbria Constabulary stopped all vehicles with an expiring tax disc that day to remind the driver of this. Driving a vehicle with an expired tax disc is not an arrestable offence however should an offence have been necessary for some other reason it would have been completed by an officer from Cumbria Constabulary."
So there we have it. The latest example of "mission creep" from the government which passed laws on the basis that they were needed to stop terrorists, which were subsequently used to check up on parents suspected of playing the system to get their children into the best school, and families suspected of putting their rubbish out on the wrong day.
Now we use armed police officers used to stop traffic on the basis of counter-terrorism intelligence gathering, and we end up using officers carrying guns to remind drivers to renew their car tax discs.
I'm not sure whether the most healthy reaction to this is to roll around on the floor screaming with laughter, or to get cross. But I suspect we should probably do both.