NB: THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT: BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MIS-HEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY, IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS ACCURACY.
SHOULD I FIGHT BACK?
RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC ONE
JEREMY VINE: Good evening. I'm Jeremy Vine and this is Panorama. Two robbers with knives attack an elderly newsagent. He instinctively fights back. Is he a hero or just plain foolish? Put yourself in this man's shoes, he went to the aid of two teenagers being attacked by a gang. Do you join in or walk on by? You see a young man looking aggressive, shouting at an old woman. What do you do? Do you retreat and ring the police?
It's a split second decision that any of us could face at any time, whether to intervene or turn away. It's happened to me, maybe it's happened to you. Tonight we're asking if we don't take action when we see crime and antisocial behaviour happening right in front of our eyes, who will? I've been meeting people who have fought back against criminals with vastly different consequences, but as individuals just what is the right thing to do when we are confronted by violence or antisocial behaviour?
STOKE ON TRENT
Here an armed robber runs into a busy post office.
ROBBER: Oi, put the money in the bag. Put the money in the bag or you get it through the head. Now. Quick!
VINE: Kym Ledgar, the sub-postmistress was terrified.
KYM LEDGAR: I saw this figure all in black, and couldn't even see like the whites of his eyes, and he'd got the shotgun, he'd pointed it at me and then he moved it to customer and he said, in a very threatening strong voice:
ROBBER: Put the money in the bag.
MANAGER: Give him the money Kim.
ROBBER: Put the money in the f***ing bag. Quick!
KIM: So I just got up and did exactly as he said.
VINE: Her husband, Barry, a former soldier, walked straight into the middle of the robbery.
BARRY: It was an instant decision. Well we came into contact right by the counter here. He started to turn, I grabbed hold of the barrel of the shotgun and as he turned, with the my other hand I grabbed his collar.
VINE: Barry, in beige, grabbed the robber who's wearing a hood.
KIM: I remember giving out a blood-curdling scream because I thought I could well lose him.
BARRY: He was pulling away, I was pushing. It was a struggle for the gun, control of the gun.
KIM: I knew Barry wouldn't let go. I just knew how determined he would be. I was just in fear of his life.
BARRY: And we bounced off one or two of the walls and then he threatened to kill me, all part and parcel of it. Then he let go of the gun and leapt up and he was out through the door.
VINE: Barry, who has a serious heart condition, cracked a rib in the vicious struggle.
KIM: I thought I might have lost him actually. He'd gone an ashen colour and his lips had gone purple, and I was very, very concerned that he was going to have a heart attack.
VINE: The robber was Sasha Markovic, a heroin addict and persistent offender. Barry was awarded a bravery medal by the police but confusingly they tell others not to follow his example.
Chief Inspector PAUL CLEWS
We generally advise in such a serious incident like that people shouldn't get involved, but I'd certainly not be critical of Barry for his bravery.
VINE: For Barry it's not really about bravery, he feels he simply can't look on while the family post office is targeted by robbers. Four times its happened in 15 years. So next time?
BARRY: If I was confronted by a criminal in similar circumstances I would hope I would do the same. It depends on the situation. It's not something you can give a general advice to. If you can avoid it, then by all means if you think it's dangerous, don't do it. Phone the police and let the police handle it, they're trained for it.
VINE: Just 34% of us would stop teenagers vandalising a bus shelter compared to 65% of Germans and 52% of Spaniards. Armed with some disturbing CCTV footage I decided to do my own research with the public.
[VOX POPS ON THE STREET]
MAN: I'd have thought if he's got a weapon, get out.
MAN 2: If ever I saw that, probably I don't fight back, no, I'd run.
VINE: The knife?
MAN 2: A knife. I might fight back.
WOMAN: I don't know if I'd physically walk over to them. I mean I might scream out and say: "What are you doing?" I definitely would phone the police.
VINE: But you can't always be sure the police will get there in time, and if you're on an estate like this one and there are gangs involved and it's just you, the stakes can be very high. In the end, for lots of people, stepping forward is a snap judgement, it's instantaneous and, for some, it's disastrous.
TOM: This is the first of January 1902....
TOM: 2004, alright, I stand corrected.
VINE: A happy family scene, but Tom Noble's children don?t have a father anymore. He was a builder and a fit man, and a year after this was filmed he thought he could help a young girl who was being attacked by teenagers in his street.
Tom walked straight in amongst all of them and asked what was going on and one lad said: "And what are you going to do about it?" sort of thing, he was the tallest lad of the group. And I mean Tom was ex-army and he wasn't sort of phased by anybody, certainly nobody like that, and he squared up to the lad and said ... you know: "I?m out here to sort it out" and the lad turned and ran away. Tom turned to face myself and as he walked back towards me, the lad ran up behind him and punched him in the back of the neck. I saw the look in his eye, he was looking directly at me when the blow hit him in the neck and he died before he hit the ground. So ... that's it.
VINE: As paramedics fought to save him, Pauline, Tom's partner of 12 years, watched. But the punch had severed an artery in his neck.
They gave like an injection and then I saw the machine go ... the machine went 'beep' like that and then it went flat then, and that's when I sort of got quite a shock. I sort of went: "Oh no" and they said "no" and kept on working on him.
VINE: Fifty-two year old Tom was rushed to hospital. Two days later they switched off his life support.
GEOFF: Tom was my best friend. There was nobody else could come close to that. It was just a terrible loss.
VINE: The killer was 16, a schoolboy, Gary Prescott. He was already on an ASBO for criminal damage and drunkenness. In fact it's thought the police had stopped him one hour before the attack, but they didn't take him in. Now they've charged him with manslaughter and Pauline was determined to face him in court.
PAULINE: And I just had to stare at him and stare at him because I just felt ... you know, I want you to look at me and see what ... you've robbed me of my life. You took Tom's life but you've also took my life away.
VINE: And here there is a cruel lesson for good Samaritans. Tom's attacker got three years in prison. No, make that 18 months after an early release.
GEOFF: It was typical of Tom, it was typical of any of us, myself, my wife, we would have all done the same thing. It just happened that Tom was the first one there. But yeah, he would have helped anybody.
VINE: What about the killer? His family didn't want to be shown, but we spoke to them. Prescott's father says he's sorry Tom died but it's his own fault because he chose to have a go.
PRESCOTT SNR: A grown man, he weren't a teenager. What's he going to be thinking? It's either you're gonna get hit or he's gonna get it, but there was no malice in it.
VINE: No malice! Prescott?s grandmother, Sylvia Hope, is sorry but says she would have done the same as her grandson.
SYLVIA HOPE: If anybody was coming at me I would have done the same. I'm sorry, but anybody who was coming at me, and I thought somebody was going to throw a punch at me, well I would go forward first.
VINE: Tom was killed for trying to do the right thing, so Pauline has been thinking it through. Was it right when the cost of taking action was so high? It's now nearly two years since Tom died and she's come to maybe a surprising conclusion.
PAULINE: I'm pleased Tom did what he did. Obviously the consequences were awful, but I still think that I would do it myself if I saw someone getting hurt I would go out and do something, and I think people should, you know, I mean I don?t want people to go out and obviously lose their lives and things like that, but if some innocent person is getting hurt people's got to help them.
[STREET VOX POPS]
VINE: What do you do?
MAN: It's a tough decision, isn't it? It depends on how many people are about, whether you're ... yeah, if you can handle yourself and you think you can take control of the situation, yeah, I think you do.
WOMAN: I usually do intervene.
VINE: What do you do?
WOMAN: Well I usually say: "I think you're being silly" you know "Why don?t you just go home?" or something like that.
MAN 2: I have done in the past and it ended up with... I don?t know if you can see it.
VINE: Let's have a look. Oh yeah, you've got a scar there.
MAN 2: Yeah, I've got a scar, I've got another one here where I intervened in a pub. A friend of mine, he lost his leg through it.
VINE: And what happened there, a pub fight was it?
MAN 2: We were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
VINE: The government's big idea is for us all to be doing something before the trouble starts where we live. That's their 'Respect' agenda. 'Give respect, get respect' is the slogan. It's all about tackling antisocial behaviour before it's taken root. Now picture that. In fact you don't have to picture it, we can show you it.
Linda and Michelle, Mary and Sheila, they probably wouldn't want to be called the B Team but they are in Birmingham. There's strength in numbers and the women had all joined together to fight back against antisocial behaviour without having to risk going it alone.
LINDA: Can you go over there now because there's been some problem with fly-tipping over there. Wagons roll. Have you got your torches guys? There's a television been dumped. We'll get it moved tomorrow.
MARY: Why oh why do people do it? People keep dumping things.
LINDA: I know. Let's start leafleting guys, now.
VINE: A few years ago being out after dark on the Perry Common Estate would not be recommended. Thugs ruled. Decent residents lived in terror.
MARY: I was more angry than frightened. There wasn't a night went by when we didn't have one of our windows put through. But rather scary been sitting in your armchair and having glass all of a sudden come over you. I was very, very angry.
Perry Common Community Watch
It became a no go zone and there was rat runs and we were having speeding cars and smashing them up on the ... like straight into the trees, and then you'd got a car ... a wrecked car on the public open spaces and things, so I think the fear of crime rose quite a lot and people wouldn't walk the streets after sort of 6 o'clock at night.
VINE: And what these women had done by getting involved is right up the government's street. Last year Mr Blair launched his Respect Agenda with a splash, it's to empower us ordinary citizens to tackle antisocial behaviour ourselves and not just leave it to the police and other authorities.
TONY BLAIR: What's important obviously is to give the local communities the powers that they need to crack down on antisocial behaviour.
VINE: It's easy to laugh at a neighbourhood watch scheme on wheels but here burglaries have dropped by 42% in three years and car crime by nearly 30%. And our active citizens are toasted. They go to conferences. On stage here in Bristol the government's so-called Respect Tzar Louise Casey tells them what they already know.
LOUSIE CASEY: The public are the most important ... the most important, the most crucial, and indeed, if I dare say it, the sometimes forgotten weapon in the battle against antisocial behaviour.
VINE: As night falls, off they go again. This is not once a month, or weekends only, it's a way of life.
LINDA: What you doing? You're doing ... just walking about?
LINDA: Have you been to youth club?
LINDA: Have you?
LINDA: Do you like it there or not?
BOY: It's alright.
BOY 2: It's good.
LINDA: Is it? Oh grand.
BOY: We have responsibilities and everything in the club and we're looking after other people.
LINDA: You're looking after the streets, are you?
LINDA: ... and checking in ... checking to see if people are having problems?
Perry Common Community watch
We don't challenge. We're not have-a-go heroes, we're just normal people that care about our community.
VINE: And the government wants more of us to be as involved as those Birmingham women. In fact a leaked Home Office initiative centred on the slogan: "Don?t moan, take action, it's your street too." But that caused confusion among people who say: "Well how far are we expected to go when we see violent or antisocial behaviour?"
You see something happening in the street, do you step in?
TONY McNULTY MP
Minister for Police and Security
The general line must be to get in touch with the authorities straightaway and make sure that, if things are as bad as you paint, that the police will be there as quickly as they can.
VINE: You see a young man looking aggressive, shouting at an old woman, what do you do? You retreat and ring the police?
McNULTY: I think you should in the first instance, it may well be that simply shouting at them, blowing your horn or whatever else deters them and they go away.
VINE: He's now hitting her and the police haven't come. What do you do then?
McNULTY: The same ... the same.
VINE: You still wait?
McNULTY: You must get back to the police, try some distractive activities, whatever else.
VINE: What, jump up and down?
McNULTY: But I would say ... well sometimes that may well work.
VINE: I'm confused here because we're told that your line on this is that people should stop moaning and tackle antisocial behaviour themselves: "It's your street too."
McNULTY: But "Don't moan, take action" is about wider communities fully embracing the respect agenda, fully embracing all the elements at their disposal through antisocial behaviour legislation and taking action through those official, formal channels.
VINE: Well listening to that you have to hope that if you're ever attacked in the street it's not the Home Office Minister who happens to be passing, and the whole idea of ringing the police is problematic when the police seem to be overrun in so many areas. So take Carlisle for example, there the housing association has had to enlist what is effectively a private army to help the tenants and deal with the yobs, and I went to see them in action.
Young criminals setting fire to front doors right beside some houses. Imagine living next to this, but you certainly would not want to tackle this lot on your own. What the teenagers didn?t know was that ex-SAS men were filming their activities.
[FILMING: Night time, hooded youths feeding blaze]
Carlisle Housing Association
It's difficult to get evidence when we're investigating antisocial behaviour where the residents and the victims are feeling intimidated and they don't want to come forward for fear of repercussions and we thought if we can send them out and go out and gather the evidence from the streets, that would be enough for us to be able to take to court and prove to the court that the nuisance is actually taking place.
The Surveillance Group
We have kind of a lot of different types of covert cameras like vision lenses, long-range lenses, not your average hand-held video cameras.
VINE: Tim's surveillance group is employed by councils all over the UK, and sometimes even by the police who haven't got time to stake out estates like his ex-soldiers.
TIM: A lot of them say they're just as likely to get injured on the streets of a kind of major UK conurbation as they were in Afghanistan or Iraq. The difference is this time it's a 14 year old or a group of 14 year olds who may or may not happen to be carrying a knife.
STEVE: It does seem a bit extreme but you have to put yourself in the position of the victims who are suffering day in and day out nuisance, antisocial behaviour, intimidation, threats, noise nuisance, that type of thing, and to live with that every day ... and it can bring an estate down.
VINE: And they know if they watch the right people, eventually they will do the wrong thing.
[FILMING: Youths break into parked vehicle and driving it away]
VINE: Who are these guys?
TIM: This is a group of youths who have recently turned up in a stolen vehicle. These two were the ones which have just driven it onto ... into the centre of the park with the lights off.
VINE: And there's something going on here, there's three young lads and there's two or three girls, I don't know what they're doing actually, I'm just trying to see.
TIM: I think they're just moving up to enjoy the spectacle.
VINE: Oh there's the car, and the group of youths who we've seen walking along the bank have just walked down to the car, probably opened the petrol cap and just torched it. They have, however, stripped it of its alloy wheels and very shortly we see them walking back with all of those alloys. You'd think they might disperse or run away, frightened of being arrested, but it's not happening, is it.
TIM: It shows how brazen they are. It shows how brazen they are. The lack of respect for the police, the lack of respect for the general public seems to be reaching epidemic proportions, and it is very frightening to observe.
VINE: I must say it does feel rather strange going out in a 4x4 with a camera and a former Special Forces man looking for kids who might get out of control. It's all about watching. The metal pole is hard to miss. But the ex-soldiers wont put themselves in personal danger.
TIM: See the activity with girl on there, lighting and striking the light out, heating up the little block of dope.
VINE: This is not a scenario in which you'd want to intervene alone.
TIM: Not the kind of behaviour you want. You see if you live in that house there you don't want kids running all over your wall ...
VINE: We're just listening to the radio here because ...
[RADIO] ... they're coming in this direction and back the way they came.
VINE: We're just being told there are three guys coming towards us who've just been fighting, come from down near the bowling alley and we don't want them to see us in the car so ...
Sometimes it's verbal abuse, sometimes it's worse, and even though the men filming used to be in special forces, they don't try to break anything up.
TIM: I would advise extreme caution. Invariably we see people coming out and wanting to get involved but they're putting themselves at quite a great deal of risk. You know, if we?re concerned about getting involved they most certainly should be. They're just an average Joe from the street and they really do have to be very, very careful.
VINE: So one thing is clear here, cracking down on thuggery is not only the job of the police, but once we decide it's our job too, that can have unforeseen consequences. One man in Kent thought he'd teach a group of local teenagers a lesson they wouldn't forget and he found himself on the wrong side of the law.
Looking at Paul, Kim and their daughter Megan, you wouldn't guess what they?ve been through. Paul's experience proves a cautionary tale if you're thinking of being a good Samaritan. They used to live above a corner shop where they were constantly being sworn at and threatened by a group of teenage lads with nobody to turn to for help.
KIMBERLEY TUCKER: I was frightened, I was frightened for Megan. I've been losing sleep. Obviously went to the doctors. I just couldn't eat. I was just worrying all the time what's going to happen, what are they going to do next as they threatened to burn down the house with me and Megan inside ...
VINE: The couple rang the police again and again and specifically said that the shopkeeper, Mr Patel, had been racially abused, but the trouble carried on. The youths even taunted Paul's mum and finally he decided he could ignore it no longer.
But on that night you took action.
Yes. Well the police had done nothing. They'd been called at least twice before. We'd been to the school about their behaviour. So I thought enough was enough and I wanted to make a citizen's arrest.
VINE: You pursued them.
PAUL: I pursued them just up this road here and had all kinds of abuse thrown back at me.
VINE: Paul and the shopkeeper jumped into their van and found one of the lads hiding in bushes.
PAUL: I sort of pulled him out and said: "Come on" and he struggled with me and then just basically fell to the floor on my feet. I pulled him up and said: "Look, I?m not going to hurt you, I just want to ... you know, put an end to all this." He said: "Okay, don't call the police, I'll come and apologise to your parents and everyone involved" and that was that. So we got in the van ...
VINE: So he got into the van of his own free will.
PAUL: Yeah, he got in the van.
VINE: He volunteered to get in.
PAUL: Yeah, he volunteered to get in the van. Went down to my mum's, he apologised to her.
He said he was sorry. Mr Patel said: "Now say you're sorry as though you mean it" I think he meant, so he said: "I?m really sorry" and he looked really embarrassed. But Paul then said: "Well I?m glad you've done that. That?s it now, let?s forget it all."
VINE: But he couldn't forget it. The next day when Paul was back at his job in the city, the teenager was telling the police he had been kidnapped. We can't name the youths but they were known troublemakers. Paul's life froze. He was arrested and charged with kidnap and assault, he even went to prison.
PAUL: It's just really a horrible experience really. You know, I didn't get a lot of sleep at all. The food was awful, you know, I lost a lot of weight. And the thing is that was so frustrating, everyone in there said ... you know, they heard my story and they all say ... you know: "We all say we shouldn't be in here but you really shouldn't be here." And even the gaolers actually told me that as well, you know: "What? This is a joke! What are you doing here? It's appalling."
VINE: Paul was bailed after a week, but the louts were waiting with more and more abuse which Kim recorded in pages of notes. The couple rang the police more than 40 times with no result. After 14 months Paul arrived in court. One of the kids didn't even bother to turn up and the case collapsed.
CAROLYN: I think the youths have won because they've got away with it. They've just not been punished and they're out there to do it again and they probably will.
[VOX POPS ON STREET]
YOUNG WOMAN: But that's today's society, isn't it? You can't do right for doing wrong really, or you can't do ... you know, so ...
VINE: Yeah, so you're worried you get involved you might get on the wrong end of the law.
GIRL: Yeah, I mean ... well it's just ... and there's so many loopholes to everything, you know. What can and can't you do as ... you know, a citizen of society, you know, you just don't know really.
VINE: Do you fear that in a situation where you got involved and you went in physically to stop something, do you worry the police might turn up and arrest you?
MAN: Yes, definitely.
VINE: Why do you worry about that?
MAN: Because that's what happens, isn't it? If you're under 16 and your first claim is to say: "I was hit, I was doing nothing, he's an adult .." Rah di rah di rah ... and you read about it all the time.
VINE: We asked to interview the police officers involved in Paul Catlow's case, but they said no. The Met told us they didn't comment on criminal justice matters.
When you hear that story, minister, you must think: "Why do bother?"
TONY McNULTY MP
Minister for Police and Security
Well not quite, I do feel that sometimes when I read newspapers, but whatever the provocation, however much someone has irritated or annoyed, I have to take it back in some circumstances, again through frustration or whatever else, and violently seeking to get redress ...
VINE: He didn't use violence ... he came in his van to apologise. I mean this poor guy, he's had 18 months knocked out of his life.
McNULTY: Ah but if you turn round ... I don't want to dwell on the specific case, but most people with commonsense would say that that needs at least a cursory investigation. Now I know in this particular case it was longer, but people would I think be ... look awry at the police if they didn't at least look into the circumstances and context of that.
VINE: But come on, it's just commonsense, this is. You know, the idea the police turn up and have to investigate the law-abiding citizen who took action it's just PC Plod isn't it? Surely they can see the situation.
McNULTY: More often than not in these cases commonsense has prevailed once the context has been fully understood.
VINE: It just seems to be easier for the police to arrest the law-abiding citizen and get him into court because they know he'll turn up.
McNULTY: I understand that, I understand people's frustration too. But things must be done through the appropriate channels.
PAUL: Actually no, because they're under 18 they're untouchable and the police have admitted that to me as well. One police community officer actually said the boy involved needed a good kicking, and I actually turned round and said to her: "This is a new safer neighbourhood scheme ... is this what you call a safer neighbourhood, encouraging people to go out and kick them in?" I said: "I haven't even done that and look how I've ended up. So could you imagine if I did do that and take your advice, what would happen?"
[Video footage: Hooded robbers in store]
VINE: Do you regret being a good Samaritan?
PAUL: No, I think if everyone sort of ... you know, sat back and let these kids get on with it because of the way the law stands, I think we'd be heading for quite a disaster. I think it needs people to stand up to these yobs and go out there and take action.
[Video footage: Hooded robbers in store]
Tom Noble's partner
If we ignore things and just let them get away with it, we are turning to be as bad as what they are and it's not a society that you want to live in. You want it to be a better society so you've got to go out and help each other because if you don't these yobs are definitely going to win, they're going to take over.
[Video footage: Hooded robbers in store]
VINE: Well that's all for this week, but don?t forget you can join the argument on my Radio 2 Show at midday each day and also please do email us here at Panorama if there?s anything you want us to investigate. We love getting your stories. Thank you, by the way, for all the messages following last week's programme on Seroxat. Many of them were extremely moving.