Garda Acquitted of Theft and Assault in Taxi Row

If there was a video of what Garda Pádraig Dennehy did, we’d all be cheering and clapping.  Somebody might even put it on Facebook.

He thought the cop would take his side but you won’t believe what happened next.

What did happen?

Rimas Bastys, from Lithuania, a place where the police are famously approachable and honest (not), got into the cab of Mr Nadeem Mirza.  The place was O’Connell Street in Dublin and his destination was Blanchardstown.  For reasons best known to himself, Bastys got it into his head that the driver was going in circles to inflate the fare, so he jumped out of the cab at Parnell Square and approached Gardai, who happened to be diverting traffic from the scene of a collision.

He was drunk. He accused the taxi driver of cheating and Garda Pádraig Dennehy took time out of his assigned task to sort out the problem, which he did very effectively by taking Bastys’s wallet, removing a ten-euro note, handing it to the driver and returning the change to Rimas Bastys along with a receipt.

The evidence is that he then told Bastys to fuck off, which I sincerely hope is true.

Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that he slapped Bastys in the face, kicked him up the arse or pushed him into a giant custard pie but again, although I wish it were so, that’s not what happened.

Instead, the Garda Ombudsman Commission investigated a complaint from Mr Bastys, and then the DPP prosecuted the policeman for the theft of €6.25.


I’m glad to say that the matter was finally settled today when the District Court kicked the case out.

This is a story of a good practical cop doing his job with the minimum of fuss.  He stole no money.  He just paid the driver, Mr Mirza, and he gave Bastys his change, along with the receipt that proved the taxi had not travelled anywhere near as far as the drunken complainant imagined.

Do we need this kind of thing when there are genuine issues about the Gardai we need to be addressing?  When we have so many examples of genuine abuse of power, do we need our cops to be worried about petty unfounded accusations?

Do we need police who are reluctant to intervene informally in any minor dispute for fear they might find themselves in front of a criminal court?

To my way of thinking, Pádraig Dennehy is the kind of cop we need on the streets and the last thing we want is to kill his initiative with this sort of trivial prosecution, but unfortunately he’ll probably think twice before he gets involved with the next drunken loudmouth.




Garda Inspectorate Report Reveals Deep Problems in the Force

When the Morris Tribunal came out, they said it was just a Donegal problem.

When the Guerin report came out, they said it was just a Monaghan problem.

When the Smithwick Tribunal reported, they said it was just a Dundalk problem.

I wonder what they’ll say now that the Garda Inspectorate has issued a report confirming what everyone already knew: an Garda Síochána is a deeply dysfunctional, undertrained, secretive, unprofessional police force?

This latest report makes depressing reading, cataloguing failures in every aspect of policing within this State.  It paints a picture of a force  with little understanding of how a modern organisation should investigate crime or how it should relate to the victims.  A force with almost no grasp of technology.  A force with little or no advanced professional training, little ability to develop strategies or to adapt to changing circumstances and stuck in a siege mindset more appropriate to the 1950s.

A force with a remote, authoritarian leadership more concerned with political considerations than with policing a modern European country.  A force managed by people who are all political appointees.

It”s no accident that not a single candidate from an Garda Síochána senior management made it to the short-list for Chief Constable of the PSNI.  They weren’t good enough.   It’s that simple.

One thing is clear from this report.  Templemore, the Garda training college deliberately located far from any city, has to be closed down.  The attitudes of them-and-us drummed into new recruits in that policing monastery  do not serve us well in the 21st century.

The entire force needs a root-and-branch reconstruction but if that doesn’t happen after this it will never happen and we might as well get used to having a police force that’s a laughing-stock internationally.  We deserve – and pay for – something better.

Feel free to read the report here in all its dispiriting glory.



Previously on BTR

Alan Shatter Resigns

Martin Callinan Decommissions Himself

Garda Meltdown Is Only A Symptom of a Deeper Irish Problem

It’s Time to Reform an Garda Síochána

Gardai and Catholic Church. Both Losing Hearts and Minds

The Smithwick Tribunal Report — Would It Have Been Cheaper to Read Tarot Cards?

The Morris Tribunal and the Wall of Silence

The Framing of Frank Shortt

McBrearty Settles Action Against Irish State for €3 Million

Banking Favourites gardai Law

Seanie Fitz Applies For Free Legal Aid

Seán Fitzpatrick, former CEO and Chairman of Anglo-Irish Bank has applied to have his defence costs paid by the State  after his recent acquittal in the Circuit Criminal Court, and guess what?  He’s right.

I hope Seánie Fitz gets his costs, because in doing so, he will have exposed the iniquity of a criminal justice system that penalises innocent people.  As anyone who reads this site regularly knows, I’m no flag-bearer for the people who ran the worst bank in history, but in this case, I think Fitzpatrick has a valid point.

If you’re arrested and charged with an offence, no matter how frivolous or malicious that charge might be (assuming, of course that an Garda Síochána would ever do anything so improper), you’ll be stuck with your legal costs even if you’re acquitted.  Unless, that is, you happen to be a useless lowlife with 87 previous convictions who never worked a day in your life.  In those circumstances, the State will be happy to provide you with a defence team free of charge, even if you’re subsequently convicted for the 88th time.

But if you’re an ordinary Joe who happens to fall foul of the system, no matter how innocent you are, you might find yourself faced with ruinous legal costs.  In Ireland, it’s not necessary to be guilty to be punished.  All you have to do is be charged and you will have a gigantic de facto fine imposed on you for the privilege of demonstrating your innocence.  You will have to  pay because you’re one of the people who work to earn a little money.

This is an everyday reality faced by people who are acquitted in court.  Despite being innocent, they have to find, somehow, the tens of thousands of euro it took to convince a court that the State had failed to prove its case.

That’s why I think Seanie Fitz should get his costs.  Not because I have any sympathy for him, but because he was acquitted and is therefore innocent.

And because I’d like to have my costs covered too, if the State should decide to charge me with a crime I didn’t commit.

Who’d have thought that Sean Fitzpatrick, of all people, would become the champion of the Squeezed Middle?



Favourites gardai

Guerin Report on Garda Handling Of Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s Allegations

If you thought Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s whistle-blowing was all about getting penalty points looked after, think again. This is about murders, beatings, sex assaults and other investigations, all botched or worse by the Gardai. It’s about a man of principle, victimised by the organisation he works for simply because he told the truth.

The Guerin report systematically forges its way through a series of complaints raised by McCabe, and finds every one of them credible enough to warrant a formal inquiry. These are the same complaints that former Commissioner Martin Callinan found, as he put it, frankly disgusting.

Chapter by chapter, Guerin sketches out a series of pictures ranging from horror to farce.

  • A young woman dead because her killer was freed on bail when Gardai failed to provide a court with vital  information.
  • An Assistant Commissioner wrestling with McCabe in a hotel lounge for possession of a box of documents.
  • A Garda approaching the victim of an assault and negotiating payment of compensation instead of prosecuting the culprits.
  • Gardai unable to obtain video of an attack in a pub even though it had been shown on CCTV to a large audience.
  • Gardai losing a priest’s computer after seizing it for technical examination on suspicion of child pornography. Following complaints by McCabe against a senior officer, he himself was later subjected to disciplinary procedures, even though he had nothing to do with the case.
  • Professionals in a Monaghan town reluctant to cooperate with any investigation for fear of retaliation.
  • Gardai advising victims of crime to withdraw complaints.
  • Gardaí falsifying entries in the operational database to cover up malpractice.

Assault, false imprisonment, death threats, intimidation. It goes on and on.

Finally, we have the unedifying spectacle of the Garda Commissioner being invited by the Minister to investigate complaints against himself and giving himself a clean bill of health. It was Alan Shatter’s casual acceptance of Callinan’s hubris-filled reply, combined with his own failure to understand his legal obligations that finally made it impossible for him to stay in the job.

Few people emerge well from this review, apart from Maurice McCabe himself. Guerin makes it clear that McCabe is a policeman of the highest integrity who genuinely believes in his role on behalf of the community.

An Garda Síochána comes across as an antiquated, hidebound relic, with attitudes rooted in 1920s Ireland, and rigid managerial structures that mask an almost complete absence of real discipline. In Guerin’s words, discipline is not merely the absence of insubordination and in this 336-page document, he shows us a force without direction, without vision but also without fear of consequences. We see unprofessional local Gardai misusing their positions to intimidate anyone who might criticise them. We see a hierarchy utterly blind to any suggestion of wrongdoing, in the habit of setting up sham investigations and completely resistant to what it sees as interference.

What we see in this report is a deeply dysfunctional police force, barely tolerant of the government and the public it serves. We see an organisation with a rigidly top-down structure, impervious to change, suspicious of everyone and aggressively resistant to criticism. We see bumbling incompetence. We see a club of people, many of whom regard membership as a way to do favours for their friends and to derive personal gain for themselves.

Despite the outstanding example of Maurice McCabe, what we do not see is widespread professionalism, but as we speak, it has just been announced that Maurice McCabe’s full access to the Garda IT system has been restored, thus confirming that all the attempts to dismiss him as a troublemaker were only so much guff and hot air.

The old nonsense won’t wash any more. It’s not a problem with Monaghan or Cavan or Donegal. It’s a problem with the nature and the structure of the organisation, and it needs a proportionate response. It’s about time we had a complete reform of our national police service and it’s about time all the old dinosaurs were sent out to graze the primeval forests they came from.

It won’t be done without a struggle though. I’d hate to be a source close to Martin Callinan’s dog right now.



Alan Shatter Resigns

Martin Callinan Decommissions Himself

Garda Meltdown Is Only A Symptom of a Deeper Irish Problem

It’s Time to Reform an Garda Síochána

Gardai and Catholic Church. Both Losing Hearts and Minds

The Smithwick Tribunal Report — Would It Have Been Cheaper to Read Tarot Cards?

The Morris Tribunal and the Wall of Silence

The Framing of Frank Shortt

McBrearty Settles Action Against Irish State for €3 Million





[Related posts  HERE]


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Martin Callinan Decommissions Himself

I don’t know why it comes as such a shock to everyone that Martin Callinan has resigned as  Garda Commissioner.  His goose was cooked from the second he  uttered the word “disgusting” to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, and his feeble efforts to clarify what he said only made matters worse.  Besides that, his casual dismissal of the Smithwick inquiry’s findings marked him as  a man who valued blind loyalty to the Force above all else.

As if that wasn’t enough, his failure to cooperate fully with the Garda Ombudsman’s office and his blind rejection of the possibility that gardai might have been involved in the GSOC bugging betrayed his origins as a dyed-in-the-wool Templemore Guard.

Martin Callinan, like  all Commissioners, comes from deep within the Garda culture, an organisation that displays many characteristics of a secret society within a society. He started at the age of 19, spent a little while being indoctrinated in the monastic environment of the garda training college, and then went on the beat before working his way up through the ranks, as did all his predecessors.  As did his deputy.  As did the Assistant Commissioners.  As did, in fact, everyone from sergeant up.

Things have changed a little in recent years, with graduate recruitment, but it’s still too early for those changes to have a significant impact.  The entire senior structure of an Garda Síochána is drawn from a very narrow and limited slice of humanity, with its own fixed beliefs and mythologies.  No doubt there are individuals of exceptional ability among them — I could mention a few  names — but such an incestuous promotional structure can’t be a healthy model for any organisation.  The only other similar structures in the country are the Catholic clergy and organised criminals.

We’ve seen time and again how rigid and inflexible the Garda management mindset is.  By the very nature of the way senior staff are appointed, the force is inevitably stuck two or three decades in the past.  It’s very telling that no member of an Garda Síochána made it onto the shortlist for appointment as  PSNI chief constable.  They weren’t up to scratch.

This would be a good time to cast the net  wide in the search for a replacement. Ideally, the successful candidate wouldn’t be two or three years away from retirement, as most commissioners have been .  With luck, the new appointee would have a broad and varied experience of business, policing and management.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be too much to ask for a Commissioner who places a value on openness, and the ability to communicate in plain English.  And maybe it would be a good thing to appoint an individual with a wide and varied range of personal interests and accomplishments.

The force, through its own inability to cope with criticism, has left itself open to radical change.  There will be  a police oversight body of some kind.  The Ombudsman will have far greater powers.  There will be accountability.  The last thing the guards need now is an apparatchik with a siege mentality and an obsession with secrecy, but even more than that, it’s the last thing the country needs.


[UPDATE]  It now turns out that Callinan resigned because of revelations that the Gardai had been trampling on suspects’ rights for decades.





Garda Commissioner Tells Public Accounts Committee To Get Stuffed

There are no flies on Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan but he does have a rather dodgy moustache distracting attention from his message and  I don’t like the idea that our national police force is headed by Freddie Mercury.

martin callinan garda commissioner

Martin doesn’t like the idea of individual guards breaking ranks and revealing facts about The Force, because, of course, he himself made his way through the progression as all commissioners have done before him, pounding the beat, studying for the Sergeant’s exams, making Inspector, then getting Super, followed by Chief and on and on and on.  Martin knows full well the shit that goes on in the Guards, and if he doesn’t he’s not fit to be the head of our police force, but let’s not forget, this is the Commissioner who felt entitled to dismiss out of hand the findings of  High Court judge regarding the force he leads.

As I’ve often pointed out here before, an Garda Síochána is more like a Masonic brotherhood than a police force.   I’m not aware of any other European law-enforcement agency that refers to its employees as Members — are you?  In the building boom, and long before that, going right back to the Sixties, the Guards we well known as inveterate purchasers of real estate.  Many a penniless student, including myself, right through the following decades, rented houses and flats from fresh-faced young Gardai the same age as ourselves, though probably much older in their outlook.  These solid sons of farmers didn’t look too kindly on hippies like me.

I’m also not aware of a European police force that segregates all its neophytes into a single monastic environment like Templemore, inculcating the idea that the general public are all potential lawbreakers (or gougers as the Gardai refer to them).  As far as I’m aware, there is no possibility to recruit highly-qualified professional people into An Garda Síochána at a senior level.  There is no other Irish public-service organisation that does this and to the best of my knowledge, no other European law-enforcement agency has a single-tier entry system, in which all senior staff start at the bottom, though I’m open to correction.

Whatever spin Martin Callinan might be trying to put on this whistle-blower controversy, the truth is that he’s pissing up a rope, because every single person in Ireland knows what the Guards are like.   Every Irish adult remembers getting summonses fixed.  Every trader knows about the pressure to supply goods at cost or below in order to retain the goodwill of the local police.  The Guards even have a word for this: Hawk.  One of them has a hawk in vacuum cleaners and another has a hawk in computers.  It’s part of the Garda language.

We all know this.  Why are we pretending it doesn’t exist?

Who hasn’t, at the very least, considered the possibility of getting something fixed?

Now, Martin Callinan’s barely-disguised contempt for the Public Accounts Committee was, to my mind, very revealing, because it lifted the veil briefly on the central problem afflicting An Garda Síiochána which is this: the organisation doesn’t know what its role is.  Is it a security service or is it a police force?

A security service like MI5, is a properly secret organisation, amenable only to the appropriate government minister and, by virtue of national security, outside normal democratic constraints.  A police force, on the other hand, is simply that: an organisation responsible for civil policing, fighting crime, managing traffic and attending to the general business of public order.

In Ireland, since the foundation of the State, the two functions have been conflated and this has, in my view, tended to encourage on the one hand, an abuse of personal authority by individual Gardai and on the other a general feeling of impunity in the organisation as a whole.  Of course, needless to mention, the activities of the fearless Freedom Fighters in recent decades has only served to consolidate this viewpoint among the force’s “members”.

This is not to suggest that the majority of Gardai are either corrupt or power-mad.  I’ve personally known extraordinarily dedicated policemen and women, but Ireland is Ireland.  We know how this place works, and when Martin Callinan issues veiled threats towards those members of his force who might be prepared to reveal the dark secrets, all he does is damage his credibility and that of the force he leads.

When the head of an organisation that is not only a police force, but also a security service, displays such insolence to elected members of our national parliament, we need to take the implications very seriously indeed.


gardai Politics

Alan Shatter Using Confidential Garda Information for Political Ends

Let’s get the facts straight.

Alan Shatter, minister for justice, stated on public television that a member of our national parliament had committed a criminal offence.

What criminal offence? you might be wondering.

Why, the criminal offence of holding a phone while driving.

But that’s not a crime, you might say, to which I’ll respond that it most certainly is. A minor criminal offence, admittedly, but a criminal offence nonetheless.

alan shatter gardai

Is that why I’m saying this?  Am I so upset about the assault on Mick Wallace’s good name that I feel compelled to defend him?  No.  Mick can take care of himself.  He’s big and ugly enough.  What bothers me much more is the idea that a justice minister would firstly have access to information about routine police activity, secondly that he would seek to use that privileged information against a political opponent, even if that opponent happens to be an insignificant independent member of the House.  And thirdly, that Alan Shatter of all people, a man who built his name and reputation on issues of human rights law, can see nothing wrong with what he did, or refuses to acknowledge it if he does.

Richard Bruton was on the radio today explaining that it was in the public interest to release this information, while ignoring the fact that, in order for Shatter to have these details  in the first place, somebody must have committed a crime.  Shatter, even in his position as minister, is not entitled to know what takes place between a citizen and the police.  This is privileged information, regardless of whether or not that citizen happens to be an elected member of our national parliament.  Indeed, all the more reason that a government minister should not be made aware of such things.

There are five possibilities.

One: Alan Shatter personally witnessed a policeman stopping Mick Wallace and heard the conversation that ensued.

Two: Mick Wallace told Alan Shatter he had been stopped.

Three: Mick Wallace told somebody else, who passed it on to Alan Shatter.

Four: a witness with exceptionally keen ears overheard a conversation between a policeman and Mick Wallace at the side of the road and passed it on to Alan Shatter or his proxy.

Five: A member of an Garda Síochána informed Alan Shatter or his agent that Mick Wallace had been stopped and warned for holding a mobile phone while driving.

Let’s write off the first four straight away.  What does the fifth option imply?  Simple — some guard has broken the law by revealing sensitive information about a citizen.  Who’d have thought it?  Who could possibly have imagined that a guard might breach confidentiality?  Another first .

Now, you might say that it’s all trivial, and to some extent, I’d agree with you.  Wallace is using the penalty points issue to distract from his own abysmal performance, but at the same time, once Shatter used the secret information, he escalated the issue out of all proportion to the petty squabble it started out as.

Here was a government minister using confidential police information — that he was not entitled to have — in a political manner to silence a member of the national parliament who happens to be criticising the police force.

Forget Mick Wallace and his ridiculous pink t-shirts.  Forget penalty points.  If an intelligent man like Alan Shatter considers it expedient to use confidential information against somebody in a relatively secure position, what will this government do to others who challenge them?

Will silencing a political critic always be in the public interest?  Is it acceptable that the government and the police force should be working hand in hand to stifle criticism?

Where have we seen this before?  Oops!  I think it’s time to worry about the tendencies of this Fine Gael government and this police force.



Gardai Tighten Security of PULSE Computer System

So the Guards are tightening up access to their PULSE IT system, are they?

Don’t hold your breath.

For years, individual  police have been copying details off the PULSE system and putting confidential information about private citizens on their own PCs.  Ask anyone who ever worked in maintenance of systems at police stations what their experience has been.  Ask any tech-geek who did some guard a favour by looking at his laptop: what did they find on those machines?

Will I tell you?  They routinely find files on innocent civilians, containing speculation, innuendo and information that would be libellous, or even life-threatening, if allowed into the public domain.  And yet, these same Gardai are taking their laptops home and accessing the internet, with no security, no firewalls and no awareness of the dangers.

Ask any maintenance tech how they get into the Garda station IT rooms.  It’s simple.  They walk straight into the public office, carrying a bulky tool-case, and they point at the door.  The cop behind the counter automatically pushes the unlocking switch and they’re in, with no security code and no check on their identity.  Once in, they have access to every last item of information on the PULSE database, some of which is factual, some of which is highly sensitive and some of which is no more than idle gossip. (In policing circles, gossip is known as soft information).

Garda Pulse system

It’s that simple.  The Gardai have almost no procedures in place to protect their data, and very few staff members who have the slightest understanding of basic domestic computers, never mind a complex system like PULSE that could easily contain sensitive information, and unverified gossip, on every single citizen of this country.

The Guards are a quintessentially Irish organisation, and as such, they inherit all the characteristics of our nation, including a lamentably relaxed attitude to strict procedures.  Ask anyone selling a car if they ever got a call from a garda on behalf of a friend having looked up their details on PULSE.

This is Ireland, I’m afraid, and as with so many other things in our society, when it comes to IT or data confidentiality, the Gardai just don’t get it.

So, by all means, let’s welcome this latest announcement of a tightening on security, but let’s not take it too seriously.



Favourites gardai Music

Gardai Say No To Outdoor Electric Music

As I passed two girls in the street the other day, I heard a snippet of conversation.

He’s such a feckin Guard! said one and they both laughed.

Only in Ireland would that make any sense whatever, but it’s true.  They’re not just police.  They’re feckin Guards with all the sophistication that two years in Templemore brings.  They’re feckin Guards and they can’t wait to get out there ordering The Public to move along.

How do you graduate from Templemore?  It’s a tough test.  You have to say fifty times without stumbling, Yer speech is slurred and yer eyes are glazed.  Now move on.

Only then will you be free to get out there and start collecting hawks for yourself and shagging nurses.  And eventually, as long as you never, ever rock the boat, and never, ever criticise the received wisdom that was handed down through generations of Members since the Thirties, you might rise through the ranks and become a Chief, which is a position only two steps removed from God Almighty, but you will always be a feckin Guard.

You probably read my story about the Pissing File of Schull, didn’t you?

No?  Well here it is again.  Oh, they’re a scream.   Remember the one about the feckin Guards farting at a suspect?  You just couldn’t make it up, unless of course, you were a feckin Guard, in which case you can make up whatever you want.

Yes, Judge.  He struck my baton forcibly with his forehead.   His eyes were glazed and his speech was slurred.

What’s their latest comedy offering?  Well, I suppose you heard about that fiasco in the Phoenix Park when three guys playing records pretended to be a band, Swedish Horse Massage I think, and then various lowlife scumbags went around knifing people.  Yeah.  That one.

It seems the feckin Guards have come up with a report in which they blame, well, everyone except themselves.  They blame the promoters, MCD, which in itself is a bit of a high-risk strategy since MCD are well-known for suing anyone who looks crooked at them.  They blame the patrons of the concert.  They even blame the music.

That’s right.  The music is at fault.

Not a band

According to the Garda report on the drunken carry-on, the Phoenix Park is not suitable for, quote, “outdoor electric music concerts”.

Was anyone under the age of seventy involved in drawing up this report?  Wait.  What am I talking about? Mick Jagger is seventy next year.  Paul Simon is seventy-one next birthday.

Jesus, I didn’t know they had ninety-year-olds making policy in the feckin Guards.  That explains a lot.

Outdoor electric music concerts.  I ask you.  It’s a wonder they didn’t blame beat groups and immodest dancing.  Did they think of consulting anyone who might actually know something about this, who could maybe set them straight.  Probably not.  Better to rely on intelligence, if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron.

But let’s go back to this outdoor electric music for a minute.  What is it exactly?  I mean, supposing PJ or TJ married Nuala the nurse, and they decided to hire the Kilfenora Céilí Band for the weddin’, would there be a problem if the fella with the accordion fed it through an amp?  Would a crowd of knife-wielding ecstasy dealers turn up and start slashing at all the guests while dancing the Freddy Krueger hornpipe?

Would they be breaking the law?

Don’t be ridiculous.  Feckin Guards can’t break the law, especially when the squad is parked round the back and all the lads are down there havin a few jars and chattin up Nuala’s pals from the A&E.  Now, if it was a pub open ten minutes too late, that would be a different matter, since one piece of wisdom handed down from the Thirties is that you must control the pubs, even if the miscreants inside happen to be a few locals having a quiet chat.  You can’t have that.  Yer eyes are glazed and yer speech is slurred.  Get out now.

That time they had the Pope in the Phoenix Park, to the best of my knowledge, they had music and I do believe it was amplified, but that’s probably not the sort of outdoor electric music the feckin Guards are thinking of, especially since there’s every chance one of their brothers was up there on the stage waving his hands around in concelebrated insanity with JPII.

Outdoor electric music.  Isn’t that somethin them feckin hippies do?

Having said all that, let’s be honest.  The feckin Guards were right about one thing.  House attracts more than the average share of skangers and lowlifes.  Admit it and move on.

Here’s another old guy (76).



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Logjams, Bottlenecks and Police

I was walking down the street today, minding my own business as much as I’m able to, when I noticed that the traffic wasn’t moving.  Up ahead, a car was stopped in a narrow part of the street and the side of it had a long scrape from headlight to tail.  Further on, an old German-registered van was stopped with its flashers blinking.  Through the rear window I could see blankets, pots and pans, framed pictures.  Somebody moving home.

That’s all you need, isn’t it?  To come the whole way from Germany in a beat-up old van only to run into trouble on the final lap.

Cars were backed up in both directions because nobody had bothered to put out warning triangles.  Drivers were getting tetchy.  Some people were leaning on the horn, as if that was going to help anything.

When a squad car appeared, everyone smartened up. Here’s the guards.

But no.  The two young policemen in the squad car, detecting the danger of work, overtook the line of traffic and darted off down a side street.  I thought they knew a clever cop-only way to get around to the other side of the snarl-up but that wasn’t it.  They just went away, never to be seen again.

People stood there looking at each other.  Oh. Right.

I didn’t hang around too long myself, so I don’t know how the traffic jam was finally untangled, but of course the difference between me and the two young lads in uniform is that I don’t get paid to sort out car crashes.

They do.