Sunday, 25 August 2013

Dealing with the bread thieves

There's been adverse reaction, apparently, to news that a few UK police forces are handing food vouchers to some people caught shoplifting.

Rather than arresting hungry individuals desperate to keep themselves fed with stolen basics, police have been issuing them with cautions and vouchers for food banks.

It's something of an enlightened practice, if not openly-admitted policy, which should be commended for its practical sense and relative compassion.

Alas, rather than the scandal of such poverty-created 'crime', we hear indignant condemnation from those who claim such responses will only foster 'more criminality', and that it's 'unfair' to those struggling others who don't resort to such actions.

Thus, from higher police officials and worried shopkeepers to much of the public, there's little consideration for those who feel compelled to take bread and other essentials in order to survive.

The rising numbers caught with staples like a loaf, eggs and milk, and the humiliation that must often involve, should be prompting emergency debates and real social assistance.

Instead, rather than indicting politicians and the greedy rich, there's denunciation of 'feckless thieves', all part of the harsh, unforgiving mood message we're encouraged to absorb from above.

As with the wider purge on benefit claimants, if they can't be hidden, they must be scapegoated.

It's the same tidy-them-away powers that Glasgow and Aberdeen city councils are currently seeking in order to banish beggars from the streets - proposals that, to its credit, the Scottish Government have strongly resisted.

Maybe, along with those embarrassing beggars, the great loaf thieves depriving Lord Sainsbury and his billionaire grocers of more profits should be sent straight to jail.

But how Dickensian such punishment would seem to our great liberal sensibilities. And that too would mean the government and all those outraged taxpayers paying for their prison meals and accommodation.

Still, we can't have such people helping themselves to bread - particularly those tasty French batons. Perhaps they could be handed-out cake, instead - date-expired, of course.  

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