The United Kingdom

A Green and Pleasant Land

Photo of Nail the Killers photo
Nail the Killers in Southwark
Police in South London appeal for help against dealers who kill

There is a view of the United Kingdom as different that fits well with the fairy tale image of queens and kings, princesses and dukes projected by monarchists. It's a land of bobbies on bicycles not cops in cars, and of guardsmen in bearskins, not paras on the streets of British towns. The real UK can be very different.

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England & Wales Top UN Crime League

A United Nations report published in November 2002 says that crime levels in England and Wales are amongst the highest in the developed nations, exceeding those in the USA, Germany and Russia.

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"London has become like New York at its worst, say police"

In a pub in the south London suburb of Croydon on Saturday evening ". . . two men picked out their targets . . . shot one in the head and the other in the chest and stabbed a third man. . . . The attack happened the day after a chase through Wandsworth (south London) in which gunmen in an Audi sprayed a Ford Mondeo with bullets from a Uzi submachine gun. . . . That came after a series of violent carjackings executed with increasing ferocity. . . . Street crime in London has grown by 55 percent in the 12 months to November last year. . . . Londoners are now six times more likely to be robbed or attacked than New Yorkers. "
Independent, February 2002

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"Britain's city centres are descending into alcohol-fuelled battlegrounds where police are almost invisible. . . . The hooliganism of hundreds of English football fans who ran amok at last month's Euro 2000 championships is part of a wider cultural problem."

"Barely 100 thugs took part in a clash (in a usually quite Birmingham street) that involved flares, petrol bombs, bricks and pieces of wood - and left one man in a coma and another with a fractured skull."

"One Saturday night . . . a passenger ferry making its 10.30 crossing of the River Tyne disgorged a large mob of hooligans on to the quayside at North Shields, where they fought a pitched battle with a rival gang."

Newspaper accounts of two of the frequent confrontations between English soccer supporters whose pastime is vicious brawling with like-minded fans.

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You are more likely to be mugged, assaulted or be the victim of a burglary or vehicle theft in England than in the USA. That is one of the findings of a US Justice Department study of crime in the two countries since 1981. And while murder and rape are still more common in the USA, the Home Office has reported that violent crime in Britain increased in 1997.

These figures will not come as much of a surprise to those who know the two countries. Britain is notorious for the violence that has long been associated with soccer matches. At weekends towns throughout the land are the scene of wanton violence by drunken young men after a night in the pubs and clubs. Police forces report that they have insufficient officers to control these weekly disorders. The site of groups of police patrolling in "carriers" with steel guards ready to protect the windscreen from missiles, is so much a part of the British scene that it goes without comment.

Police sign appeals for witness to assualt and robbery
Police sign appeals for witnesses to assaul and robbery

Despite these facts the belief is still strong that Britain's attachment to tradition protects it against the violence that is believed to permeate American life. A recent writer to a British newspaper averred that he might avoid the higher prices for most consumer goods that are charged in Britain by shopping on the Continent. But not in America, lest he be mugged. Now he knows: he more likely to be robbed or beaten in the street in England's green and pleasant kingdom than in the American republic.

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Children in Britain are more likely than those in continental Europe to fight in the street, steal from shops, damage property and use cannabis, according to a report made to the British Royal College of Psychiatrists in April 1999. The report is based on study in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Ireland, as well as Britain. Only in Ireland were the young people as bad as the British.

The report by psychologist Aoife Brinkley reports that 33 percent of children in Newcastle say they have fought in the street or sprayed graffiti. She concludes that British and Irish children take themselves less seriously and have weaker aspirations than those on the continent.

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Britain's reputation for law and order has took another blow in February 2001 with the publication of new international crime comparisons. England and Wales were revealed as having the highest overall level of crime in the industrial world. In crimes of violence, sex offences, burglary and auto theft the two nations were near but not at the top.

Seventeen countries took part in the International Crime Victims Survey, which was part-sponsored by the British government. While England and Wales tied with Australia for the top spot, crime in Scotland was just above the international average. England and Wales had the highest number of crimes considered to be "very serious.". In robbery and sexual and other assaults, England, Wales and Scotland followed behind the most crime ridden nation, Australia.

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Home Office statistics published in June 2001 suggested that violent crime was increasing as much in Britain as in South Africa. Only Portugal had a higher rate of increase. There was an increase of 16 percent on the previous year. Such crimes rose by only 5 percent in Russia. In the USA they fell by 7 percent.

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"On the bloody front line of London’s gang wars, doctors go to Soweto for training in gun wounds."

Headline to report on the secondment of Homerton Hospital’s Dr. Donal Shanahan to learn from the trauma team at Baragwanath Hospital, Soweto, South Africa. Homerton Hospital serves Murder Mile in Hackney, London.

Dr. Shanahan told TheTelegraph that "If you study the hard facts, Soweto is statistically rather safer than east London." He said that he had not been shocked by what he had witnessed in the South African town. He had seen "this kind of violence and these kinds of injuries many times before in London."

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"Scores of officers and police horses were injured in one of the worst nights of football violence in recent year. . . . Gangs of several hundred young men had gathered in pubs and on street corners" . . . they pelted police officers with "bricks, concrete slabs and flares, which police believe were stockpiled in parked cars as part of a planned attack . . . .. Residents of the Bonhomie estate . . . emerged from their homes yesterday morning to find their cars vandalised and the local playground reduced to rubble."
Press report May 2002

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"In the latest incident, on Monday night, a 20-year old man was shot dead in the street in Harlesden, north-west London, by two men. On Sunday night, a gun battle outside a pub in Hoxton, north-east London, injured two people. Police called to investigate the shooting found nine cars with bullet holes in them. An abandoned Mazda was riddled with bullets and splashed with blood. Later on Sunday night, a 21-year man was hot in the back and killed at a night-club in Windsor, Berkshire. Two days earlier, a 23-year old man was shot several times as he sat in his car in Brixton, south London, following the funeral of a prominent gangster."

"The killings are believed to be the result of feuds over drugs - mostly crack cocaine - and territorial control."

The Independent, 7 July 1999.

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"The designer weapon of choice is the 1,000-round-a-minute, Ingram Mac10 . . . Residents live in fear of their lives. They cannot drive too fast or too slow or wear their hoods up in the rain, lest nervous, trigger-happy neighbourhood boys mistake them for the enemy . . . The new breed of gangsters . . . know that the only way to get respect is to pull a gun at the drop of a hat . . . today they shoot only to kill."

Chicago's South Side? Washington SE? No. This is the Longsight district of Manchester, England. August 1998. As reported in the Independent.

In Rochdale, Lancashire in April 1999 five bystanders were hit by bullets fired from a car being pursued by police. At the end of the chase, which reached 90 mph, the police took an AK-47 assault rifle and a handgun from the shooter's car. The incident was widely reported in the news media. However, journalists in general did not find in it any lessons about the British way of life, although serious crime in the USA is almost always portrayed as a result of a deeply flawed society.

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"The police now believe that (Solly) Nahome was killed as the opening shot in a gangland war to unseat the Adams family. The family run their drugs empire with a rule of terror. They are said to have ordered as many as 23 gangland hits. For 10 years they looked untouchable."

The Independent reporting in December 1998 on the murder in London of Solly Nahome, jeweller and alleged financial fixer for a north London crime family.

In April 1999 the Independent newspaper reported that there were about 30 hits in Britain each year by contract killers. It estimated that 20 "professional" killers operated in the country. Although possession of hand guns is illegal they may easily be bought for £250, the newspaper said.

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In May 2000 the Metropolitan Police announced a 12.5 percent increase in the number of offences in London. Massive increases in muggings, murder, violence and rape were announced. In the twelve months to April there were an additional 118,000 offences in the capital. Street crime was up by 36 percent. There were 39 more homicides than in the previous year.

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In June 2000 the Independent newspaper reported that in a small area of Hackney, north London, in a 3 month period there had been 2 gang killings, 1 unsuccessful hit, a knife killing and a filling station gun attack by a customer whose stolen credit card had been seized. Witnesses were said to be afraid to speak to the police. One commented that "around here it's like the Bronx."

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In the narrow street (in Peckham, South London) the bullets pumped into eight victims, leaving them screaming on the ground. Others fled from the bright flash of the automatic weapon . . . . a group of revellers had been queuing to get into a packed all night party at the Chicago nightclub . . . " There is always someone on the corner selling drugs . You name it, you can buy it around here" local Tony Kempson told the reporter.

The Independent, 1 August 2000

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In January 2001 the Independentreported that police patrols responding to a call to Essentials night-club in south London stopped a number of clubbers wearing body armour. Officers also found seven abandoned handguns in and around the club.

Crime involving the use of guns has not been as high since the early nineties. In 2000 there were 4000 recorded incidents of criminal use of handguns.

Note. Ownership of handguns by British subjects was made illegal in 1997. Handguns were confiscated from those who owned licensed weapons for target shooting.

red button British Narcotics 1.

"On Ocean estate (in east London), no one except the drug gangs goes out after sundown." Newspaper headline in 2000 to a report on the government 's "new deal" aid for deprived neighbourhoods. The paper quoted one "well-built, fairly fit looking 39-year old" resident of the public housing who was afraid to go out after dark.

red button British Narcotics 2.

A higher proportion of the population use illegal drugs in Britain than in any other country of the 15-member European Union. According to the 1998 Report on the State of the Drugs Problem in the European Union by the European Commission, the highest use of cannabis, "ecstasy," amphetamines and solvents was in Britain, over 35% of those aged 15-16 having used one or more of those substances. Twenty percent of the same age group had sniffed solvents.

red button The Special Relationship.

A poll by The Guardian in February 1998 produced some disappointment for anti-Americans. Two-thirds of those polled rejected the idea that the US was domineering in its relationship with the UK. Sixty-one percent said that this country had more in common with the USA than with the rest of Europe. A clear majority agreed that the UK should give unconditional support to the US strategy against Saddam Hussein. Only in respect of the support given by the British Prime Minister to Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair did a majority believe that Britain was being too friendly.

red button Talking About the Millennial Generation.

"The Millennial Generation appear to have moved close to the kinds of aspirations thought to typify their American counterparts, rather than towards an attitude more representative of the European approach."

From a report on a survey of 648 young British people in September 1998 by the Mori polling organisation and the Adam Smith Institute.

red button Character Counts Less.

The results of Louis Harris and Associates polls conducted in Britain, Japan and the US and published in 1999, suggest that two-thirds of Britons believe that the party affiliation of their representatives is more important than good character. However, three-quarters of Americans polled and six out of ten Japanese give greater weight to character.

red button The British Way of Death.

According to British Medical Association figures published in 1999 Britain is near the bottom of the European table for childhood deaths and closer to the USA than to Sweden or Finland. With seven deaths under age 5 for every thousand births it is behind Slovenia. Only Albania has as great a proportion of under-weight babies as the UK. This is linked to serious medical problems in later life for those who do survive. The report also highlighted a growing gap between the health of rich and poor in Britain.

red button Shakespeare's Land

Britain is behind the United States in the number of people reading at least one book a month and has a level of illiteracy similar to America's according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development. Nearly half of British adults are not literate enough to manage routine tasks, said the OECD. However, in hours spent watching television Britain, with its two tax payer funded channels, was top of the international league.

red button Oxford Blues.

Yale and Harvard universities have left the ancient British institutions of Oxford and Cambridge standing in the dust, according to eminent British academic David Cannadine. In a lecture during April 1999 at the Institute of Historical Studies in London, which he heads, Professor Cannadine declared that British universities do not provide "an environment in which serious or sustained or original or wide-ranging creative labour can be carried on."

Professor Cannadine has recently returned to Britain after ten years at Columbia University in New York. In scathing criticism of British higher education he told his listeners, according to the Independent newspaper, that American academic historians are more confident, creative and imaginative than those in the Britain. Oxford and Cambridge univesities, long considered by many in Britain as the best in the world, are no longer even world class, Professor Cannadine said.

red button A Lighter Note.

World Health Organisation figures showing the United Kingdom to be the third fattest nation gave Britons a jolt in 1998. The UK was revealed to be only a few percentage points behind the US in the proportion of over-weight citizens. The delight that many Britons take from the belief that they are superior to Americans when it comes to over-eating may never again be possible.

By 1999 the Human Nutrition Research Centre in Cambridge reported that obesity was increasing in Britain at the same rate as in the USA. The number of overweight Britons had doubled in the previous ten years, to more than 50 percent of the population. Almost twenty percent of the British people are classified as obese.

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