There is a story in the newspapers which epitomizes just what a shitty society Britain has become; and how laws brought in to deal with yobbish behavior are being used to the advantage of big business and are being targeted at some of the most vulnerable people.
Anthony Delaney, an unemployed chef who has fallen on hard times after loosing his job and home, found himself on the street and started using the facilities at Gatwick airport to wash himself and keep tidy. Out of sheer desperation he eventually ended up living under its roof, rather than face the fear and desolation of sleeping rough on the streets. The Airports owners encouraged the police to take him to court and eventually a court issued an ASBO against him in 2006 which banned Delaney from Gatwick airport and its train station until 2011.
Mr Delaney understandably ignored the ASBO, as he was caught between a rock and a hard place, he could go back to living on the streets or ‘illegally’ stay at the airport where at least he could stay safe and warm and use the facilities that most of us take for granted, like the toilet and having a place to wash. That he chose the latter is hardly surprising nor is the fact that the police, who the BAA increasingly use as their own private security force, wasted a great deal of time and tax payers money in bringing him back before the court for breaking the ASBO. Yesterday Judge Richard Hayward sent Mr Delaney to prison for breaking the ASBO to await sentence at a later date, he refused bail as Delaney’s only know address was Gatwick Airport.
What we have here is a dispute between Mr Delaney and the private company that owns Gatwick Airport, the British Airport Authority PLC. When this type of dispute arises for example between neighbors, or landlords and squatters, the civil courts are there to be used to find a resolution to the problem, but because Mr Delaney belongs to a group who have no power or influence and the BAA has both pull and influence within governmental circles, the full force of the law is brought down upon Delaney’s head to short circuit the judicial system. Those like Liberty who defend our civil rights, forewarned when ASBOs were being introduced that they would become yet another weapon in the armory of those with power, and is there a clearer example than this?
That our prisons are over flowing with the Anthony Delaney’s of this world has become a national disgrace, two out of three prisoners suffer from mental health problems or an addiction of some sort, yet still the meat-grinder that is the British judicial system pushes societies rejects behind prison walls. We rightly look back with horror at how people where mistreated in the Nineteenth Century’s mental hospitals and asylums, but in reality we are far worse as we make no pretense of treating those with mental health problems who have fallen through the net, we simply send them to jail.
It will cost the tax payer approximately thirty-one thousand pounds to keep Mr Delaney in prison for one year and I estimate an equal amount has been spent in taking him through the courts to impose the ASBO etc, if one adds up the cost of the time of police, lawyers, social workers, probation officers, secretarial support, magistrates, judges, court ushers and jailers.
For that amount of money we could have put Anthony Delaney up in a five star hotel for a number of years or brought him a half share in a house/home. Or perhaps someone within the State/local authority/housing associations could have had the wit to simply have provided him with a nice little flat from which he could, with help, have begun to rebuilt his life. Sadly due to the shitty society we live in there is no longer much chance of him doing that.