The bobbies will get you if’n you don’t watch out. London’s Metropolitan Police are considering whether to regard a wolf whistle aimed at a pretty girl (or even a plain girl with a great personality) as a “hate crime,” to be treated as a serious breach of the law.
The London police say they’re talking to other police agencies throughout the United Kingdom to see whether it’s worth the trouble to divert crime-fighting resources to crack down on “gender-based hate crimes.”
A trial last year to identify hate crimes by police in Nottinghamshire, in the Midlands, collected information about “sexist incidents” like street harassment — including wolf whistles — “verbal abuse,” and taking photographs without consent, which is ironic because Britain has so many cameras, often hidden in unobtrusive places, that a proper Englishman can’t sneeze or burp off-camera.
A Scotland Yard spokesman tells London’s Evening Standard that “we have been speaking to other forces about their experiences of the practicalities of recording gender-based hate crime, and we will use this, along with feedback from our partners, to [make changes] in police policy.”
The chief constable told Parliament that “street behavior that some people feel should be accepted as part of daily life has a detrimental and damaging impact. Sexual harassment of a woman or a girl at a bus stop by a man might be things that some women feel they are just going to have to accept, that no one’s going to do anything about it.”
Alas, defining a hate crime is apparently a puzzlement in the kingdom where plain English was invented, and now a hate crime in Old Blighty is an incident where someone is targeted because of identity — whether by race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or membership in “an alternative sub-culture, like being a goth.”
Goths, not heretofore regarded as an oppressed species, are actually not even real Goths, who thrived in eighth-century Germany, divided into Visigoths and Ostrogoths. Modern Goths are just all-purpose Goths recognizable for their morbid dressing in black, like country undertakers, with black make-up, eyeliners, black fingernails and black clothes. They usually do not attract wolf-whistles, except from other Goths. It’s not yet clear whether a wolf whistle from a fellow Goth would be exempt from prosecution.
The campaign to stamp out hate crime before it becomes hard crime, like blowing up airplanes or bombing nightclubs, is to be studied carefully. Hate crime, one chief constable tells members of Parliament, can take many forms and guises, and is not always something actually illegal. “Should we be taking action of some variety to address behavior before it escalates into a crime and also more importantly to try and restore some confidence to the victim,” asks Mark Hamilton, an assistant chief constable, a good bureaucrat if not necessarily an overworked cop. “Even if a crime hasn’t been committed the debate is now similar to hate-crime incidents.”
“The quality of mercy is not strain’d,” the Bard reminded us, and “it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.” But who knew it droppeth on Goth but not wolf whistler?
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