Market forces

There’s a pub just off my old area with the wierdest licensing hours I’ve ever heard of, it opens from 4am until lunchtime. Yes, you read that right. Not lunchtime until 4am. It serves the major market just off the city centre, and caters for those who get there at stupid o’clock in the morning to set up their stalls. They could probably open for longer, but the regular clientele are notorious for not causing problems, so why risk it with more conventional drinkers?

One pleasant Monday morning, Bob and I were sent to a guy who’d rung up to confess to a theft. More specifically to the theft of a dozen wooden flowers from said market, spray painted gold, which he’d stolen on the way home from a night out. He told us the story when we got there.

He’d been in town the night before, was ambling home in a pleasant alcohol induced haze when he wandered past said boozer just as it was opening.

He popped in for one for the road, so to speak, entranced by a pub that opens just as the nightclubs are kicking out, and the bar staff explain why the hours are so bizarre. It gets to about 7am and he realises that one drink has turned into several and the girlfriend will be cross. Realising he’s in trouble and in the market, both problem and solution are magically in the same place.

He staggers off round the market, looking with increasing desperation for something to disarm the girlfriend related wrath. Eventually, running out of ideas, he sees the gold painted flowers, and salvation is at hand. Unfortunately, his last pennies had already been spent on lager, and in his confusion, he grabs an armful and runs.

He gets home, but is struck by guilt at depriving a hard-working person of their income. In his confused state, he asked the girlfriend what to do, who said ring the police and get it sorted.

Bob and I tootled over, and spoke to the still inebriated chap. He ‘fessed up, but couldn’t exactly describe where the stall was. Admittedly not our brightest move with the benefit of hindsight (it was a technical breach of PACE) but to clarify who the victim was, when he offered to try and find the specific stall, we accepted. We put him in the back of the car and drove off to the market.

Although he was genuinely trying his best, we just couldn’t find anywhere selling gold flowers, or indeed flowers of any colour other than what nature intended. Due to his inability to stand for long periods and the fact he was in custody, we’d have been in a lot of trouble if he’d fallen over and hurt himself, so we gave up fairly soon and took him in.

When the doctor said he was sober enough to be interviewed, it was done in record time, and then the duty inspector, Mr Onions (another old school legend like Bob, albeit with a Welsh accent so thick he was difficult to follow sometimes) authorised a caution. Another technical breach of PACE, I found out later, as without a victim we probably didn’t have enough evidence to charge him, and cautioning someone can only be done if you do, but that one was down to the boss, not me.

I asked Mr O. why he did this, as he was notorious for always choosing to charge if someone had previous convictions, and our man had plenty. His reply taught me a lot – “It’s the right thing to do” – legally we should have bailed the guy, then left him on tenderhooks for a month while we went back to the market and made further efforts to locate the stall in question. Only by this point the market was shut, so if we’d gone back the next available day, there’d be no guarantee the stall holder would be there again, and from the lack of pursuit at the time, they almost certainly hadn’t seen the theft anyway, so wouldn’t know they were a victim. Not an efficient use of public money to spend all that time for £5 worth of tat.

Our drunk friend had lots of previous already, so one caution on top of that wouldn’t have ruined his life or anything. He’d been silly but done the right thing ultimately, and the boss wasn’t going to screw him over for it. We drove him home to his girlfriend, and left him with it. We only had the flowers left to get rid of then, the boss signed the form to authorise disposing of them and suggested we give them to the nearest charity shop. Job done.

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