While on the subject of abuses of power, like many I was a bit stunned by this week's story of the Grantham 4 year old stopped by a police officer from riding her bike - complete with stabilizers - on the pavement and the subsequent threat that the bicycle would be confiscated.
Nobody this side of sanity wants to see adults riding bicycles on the pavement (unless they are using a designated cycle lane), but a 4 year-old? I suppose hypothetically she could have been a threat to life or limb, but so could all sorts of categories of people - you really have to be careful around people with baby buggies...
Clearly, this was an arbitrary abuse of power. The law says that cycling on the pedestrian pavement is illegal. There is no doubt about that. But Home Office guidance encourages the police, traffic wardens and community support officers to exercise discretion when it is sensible to do so; on what planet would it be sensible to require a 4 year-old to ride in the road?
But the killer is that a 4 year old is below the age of criminal responsibility which means they can't be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice or in fact punished in any way for riding on the pavement. This implies that a threat to confiscate the bicycle had no legal basis. If the officer concerned didn't know this then they were incompetent. If they did they were arbitrarily abusing their power. What is absolutely clear is that they had no common sense. I know it must be hard to recruit people into the police service these days, but even so, I don't think we want to recruit people who have no common sense.
Lincolnshire police made a mealy mouthed apology. Why don't they just fess up and admit that one of their constables was over-zealous? Oh, and they could make sure that their officers are thoroughly acquainted with the powers they actually have.