Railway guard Paul Yarwood has been fired from his job with One Railway for assaulting a passenger, despite the fact that his trial won't come to court until November. He says his life has been wrecked and he has had to sell his house because without a job he can't pay the mortgage.
Paul Yarwood leaving court after being given bail
Paul, who spent 14 years as a career soldier and has three children, refused to stand idly by as the hooligan intimidated commuters and staff in Colchester. The fare-dodger vaulted a ticket barrier, abused employees and defied the law by smoking on a waiting train. When a supervisor tried to get him to leave, he violently grabbed him, threatened to batter other staff with a broom and offered to "thump" a commuter.
Paul led passengers to safety and challenged the yob but was knocked to the ground, with the man looming over him. As Paul got up, their heads collided. Despite Paul's bravery, One Railway sacked him after claiming CCTV showed he head-butted the man. There were many witnesses to say that this was not what happened, but police questioned and charged him - not with assault, but with threatening behaviour - while the drunken thug just got an £80 fine for smoking.
The RMT union is backing Paul and has held two strikes over the incident, while there has been strong support from the public including the Essex Rail Users' Federation. Even the thug has admitted he was at fault and said that no blame attached to Paul Yarwood at all. The RMT said "He gave a taped interview to the station manager in which he admitted being abusive and threatening. He made it clear he felt he was to blame for the entire incident and did not feel any action should be taken against the guard." One Railway have ignored this.
Sadly this is not an isolated case. Another train guard, Robbie Moran, asked a teenage girl to take her feet off the seat. One of the girl's male companions then got up and shouted abuse at him. After a short stand-off Mr Moran, thinking that he had calmed the situation down, returned to his guard's van. The youth followed him there and attacked him. When the British Transport Police arrived, they arrested both the attacker and the guard. Neither the guard nor the youth were prosecuted, but South-Eastern Trains sacked Mr.Moran anyway.
South-Eastern trains is run by Govia, whose Chief Executive is Keith Ludeman. Mr Ludeman is also on the governing body of the British Transport Police. His phone number is 0208 929 8650.
Strangely the Deputy Chief Constable of the British Transport Police, Andy Trotter, recently went on record as urging railway passengers not to suffer anti-social behaviour in silence. He said "This lack of respect for fellow passengers and staff, as well as rail property, makes passengers feel uneasy and creates a perception of an unsafe environment."
The travelling public are not stupid though. They are perfectly capable of spotting that what monkey say is not what monkey actually do. When even a railway official can't rely on his company and the BTP to back him up after being attacked by a thug, what chance would an ordinary passenger have?
And it's not just the railways and the BTP who have this cowardly, vindictive attitude. On the BBC News website recently a listener calling himself just "John" from London says he was charged with GBH after a teenager who had been abusing a woman in a petrol station then squared up to him and threatened to knock him out. John punched the youth and fractured his jaw. After being charged he was suspended from work, depicted as a thug by lawyers and faced the prospect of jail. Fortunately the charge was dropped when CCTV evidence clearly showed the youth, who was eventually convicted of affray, behaving threateningly.
And broadcaster Jeremy Vine is quoted at length …
"I was sitting in a Tube carriage next to an attractive young woman who was reading a magazine. There was a guy sitting opposite me, who was kind of Neanderthal. He had obviously taken an interest in this woman.
"Hello darlin', give us a smile! Come on darlin'! It's not that bad is it?"
That was just annoying. But then he leant forwards and he started tapping her knee. And she kind of shrank back into her seat. I kind of 'tutted' and lifted my magazine even higher. That was my initial move.
Anyway, all the passengers on the Tube were aware of this. The Tube stops. He gets out of the doors - the thug. He walks off down the platform, we're all quite happy he's gone. Another passenger flips him a V-sign. The doors have closed, by the way, when he does this. And then the disaster happens - the doors reopen.
The thug runs back in. He's six foot three, his muscles are so big they're flexing against the Tube glass, and he just starts beating seven bells out of this fellow. And actually when you see physical violence or are on the receiving end of it, it's very very nasty.
His fist went into the side of his head, blood came out, another fist, the guy goes down on the carriage floor, and the thug walks off very happy with himself. And I did nothing. The carriage was pretty full. But none of us did anything. It was terrible.
It wasn't fight or flight, it was fight or sit there and watch. And I chose to sit there and watch. And I've replayed it many many times. I'm very unhappy that I did that, and I now have sort of resolved that if I see a similar kind of situation where I see someone being attacked like that, I will intervene …"
I'm sure most of us can relate to his feelings, although there are people who are sanctimonious and unworldly enough to believe that the victim can be blamed for being picked on. Noel from Norfolk replied to Jeremy Vine "Surely in the first example, the rudest act was the woman not replying to the man asking her to give a smile. If she had said "Sorry, I'm having a really bad day" that might have shut him up, or led to a brief conversation, but certainly not aggression and someone being assaulted."
We seriously considered making Noel from Norfolk our Wanker of the Week, but there are limits: why should we give any publicity or recognition, even negative publicity or recognition, to pusillanimous tossers like that? We can all exhibit cowardice under pressure, and many of us, like Jeremy Vine, can feel ashamed of it, but seeking to justify it is shameful.
The same BBC website tried to interpret the law on self-defence. Assault is usually deemed unlawful unless in self-defence, but lawful if preventing a crime or protecting family, property or another person. Force must be reasonable and proportionate.
"There's the concept of self-defence in case law that extends to defending not just one's self and one's property but also one's nearest and dearest and family," says solicitor Robert Brown. "If I was married and my wife was being attacked then it would be a form of self-defence by analogy to protect property or family. So to that extent there would be some permission."
This self-defence protection extends to anyone else, including a stranger. The Criminal Law Act aims at preventing a crime and permits assault if, for example, a shoplifter is being stopped from leaving a store. "Therefore by analogy if you see someone beating up a stranger and intervene and you are accused of assault then you could use the Criminal Law Act to say 'I've a defence because I've prevented a crime,'" says Mr Brown. "Therefore there's a rather broad defence in law to protect someone who intervenes."
Whether the force used is "reasonable and proportionate" and is decided by a jury, which should take into account the difficulty of assessing what this means in the heat of the moment.
Whatever the law says, the advice from police is unequivocally against intervention. A Home Office statement said "The public should not intervene in any situations of any criminal activity. They may put themselves in danger, exacerbate the situation and ultimately be acting on the wrong side of the law." So the guardians of society, the very people we look to for protection, are simply not prepared to enforce the law of the land in our defence. They are, in effect, making up their own laws because they can't be bothered to enforce the real ones.
A spokeswoman for the Association of Chief Police Officers says they have only one instruction - call the police. You can really see that working, can't you …
Police telephone operator: You have dialled 999. Which service do you require, police, fire or ambulance?
Caller: I … ow! … police, I think … ouch!
Police telephone operator: What is you name and full address, please?
Caller: Ooh! I'm being assaulted - ow! Can you help me, please?
Police telephone operator: I must have your name and address before I can do anything.
Caller: Aaaargh! Oh God, I think he just broke my fingers, for God's sake can't you … Ouch! Ow!
Police telephone operator: I have to warn you that a police patrol car is on its way as soon as we have traced your call. Now, please give me your full name.
Caller: B … ouch! Bill! Ow, God. Stop it, please, I haven't got any more money! Ow! No, not my … you bastard, I'll …
Police telephone operator: Mr.Bill, I should tell you that this call is being recorded and I have heard you using threatening language. You may be charged …
Caller: I'm just trying to protect myself … there! Take that!
Police telephone operator: Sir, that's our job. I believe you are committing an assault. Please put the other person on the line.
Caller: Would you …? Oh, right. He says he's busy. Ouch!
Police telephone operator: Sir, you are to stop what you are doing. That's an order.
Caller: All right, all right, I've stopped. Aargh! Oh, shit, that hurt. Oh well, I suppose I've got another eye.
Police telephone operator: Sir, we have now traced your call and a car will be with you in five minutes.
Caller: What am I supposed to do in the meantime? This bloke's kicking me … look, you swine, I'll … Ow! Ow!
Police telephone operator: Sir, I must caution you about the use of foul language and physical violence. Does the other person wish to make a complaint?
Caller: Ow! Do you want to … look, hold up a minute, she wants to know if you want to make a complaint?
Police telephone operator: Sir …
Caller: He says he doesn't, thanks. He's got no complaints at all. He's just going to kick me in the nuts and then he'll be strolling … Aaaaaargh!
Police telephone operator: Sir? The patrol car's just two minutes away …
Caller: Oh, no, don't bother. He seems to have finished now. I think I can manage to get up … only one leg's broken …
Police telephone operator: Sir, are you saying that you don't need the police after all? I hope you're aware that wasting police time is an offence punishable by a fine or a term of imprisonment? Please wait there - an officer is on his way, and he will wish to question you before deciding whether you will be charged or not …
The GOS says: I guess a lot of us would like to show our displeasure about the Paul Yarwood case by withdrawing our custom from the train operators concerned. Except, of course, you can't: it's impossible to boycott a railway company, because almost all of them have monopolies on their own particular routes.
Isn't this a bit odd? Weren't we told that the railways were to be privatised to stimulate greater efficiency through competition? So where is the competition, exactly?
The truth of the matter is that British Rail was broken up into its constituent parts and privatised - the actual track and infrastructure in one company, the rolling stock owned by two or three others, the various operators holding franchises to hire trains and run them on the track - so that the government and its cronies could all become shareholders and directors of as many different companies as possible, creaming off profit at every possible opportunity. And who pays? - the poor passenger, of course.
And lest anyone be tempted by the enchantment lent by historical distance, let's remember that the architect of this outrageous theft of public property was the awful Margaret Thatcher.
Now that's what I call a Grumpy Page! A shocking story, a bloody good dig at the police, some stuff about trains, and a concluding paragraph blaming it all on Maggie Thatcher. Life's so good sometimes.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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