Arrested For Throwing A Cigarette?

For twenty four hours yesterday, there was a debate sparked by a news item, Are Performance Targets Distorting Traditional Policing? The Sun, Five Live, and many others discussed cases where the police appeared to arrest someone for something apparently trivial. The accusation is that the police are boosting performance targets by picking easy “crimes”. For example, I heard of a motorcyclist arrested for wheeling his bike along a road, and a male stripper for impersonating a policeman. All of these cases appeared pointless.

A cake or an egg would be pretty harmless. The victim would be left with a dry cleaning bill, and a feeling that the world’s against them. But on Five Live everyone accepted that there had to be more behind each case. It reminded me of something that happened to me about 18 months, and there was definitely was more behind the actual “assault”.

I was carrying a bag of newspapers to a recycler in Homebase car park in central Reading. A huge Homebase lorry had stopped to unload at the entrance, and I crossed round the back of it. I saw a car coming towards the Homebase entrance, and I thought it was heading past into Toy R Us. I stepped out. I was wrong. The car was heading straight for me. I got out of the way and carried on walking towards the recycler. The guy didn’t need to brake. He was nowhere near me. However, he stopped alongside, wound down the window, and gave me the biggest load of abuse I’ve ever had. Nobody had ever spoken to me like that before, and I came out of a South Manchester Comprehensive school. I was shocked.

The cases included a Cheshire man who was cautioned by police for being “found in possession of an egg with intent to throw”.

The abusive man was so loud and so abusive that I seriously thought I was going to be attacked.

“Cars have a tendency to kill people you f***ing moron.”

He threw his cigarette at me before driving off into the car park. There were witnesses. Some gardeners digging shrubs in the car park stood up to watch. I saw his green Mazda sports car turn into a parking slot. He was angry. He was red-faced. He was just a kid.

A child in Kent who removed a slice of cucumber from a tuna mayonnaise sandwich and threw it at another youngster was arrested because the other child’s parents claimed that it was an assault.

The urge to follow the car into the car park and confront the kid was great, but I decided that he’d made a big mistake blowing his top and then heading into the car park. Heading out of the car park would have been more sensible if you planned to blow someone out. The mistake he’d made going into the car park was that I could trap him.

So I concluded he was most likely an idiot. He hadn’t thought it through. This thought process gave me enough time to compose some kind of coherent response to this maniac. I unloaded the recycling, turned and headed back across the car park to where the guy had parked.

Questioned over the dossier yesterday, federation officials admitted that the sandwich case was more serious than they realised. The sandwich filling included egg and the victim was taken ill because they were allergic to it.

The abusive idiot was very surprised to see me. He was outside his car, leaning on it while talking on his mobile phone. Even at a distance, I could see a look of terror and disbelief on his face. He cut short his conversation, looked left and looked right. His instinct was to head into the store. I wasn’t going to let him, and I bore down on him. I stood in front of him.


“What was that all about?”


I told him he was great driver.

I told him his road safety advice was commendable.

I asked him how he coped with all that decency.


An officer cautioned a man for throwing a glass of water over his girlfriend.

His confusion over what I was saying, and his surprise at not having to deal with abuse or fighting left him looking pitifully sorry. Revenge for the outburst would have been a terrible mistake. I reckon he was drunk and probably drugged too, and yet he’d been driving. The only illegal thing he’d actually done was to throw a cigarette at me, technically an assault. Was I going to waste police time over a cigarette? Should I have reported the incident and waited for the police to arrive and find the man completely coherent and law-abiding? The lack of control he demonstrated to me, and only me, meant he was dangerous. And he had thrown a cigarette at me.

The woman was arrested on her wedding day for criminal damage to a car park barrier when her foot slipped on the accelerator.

According to reports yesterday, it seems as though the police are suddenly very interested in such things. If a similar incident happened to me today, the police might be more interested in an actual technical assault, a thrown cigarette, an egg, or a cake. Of course, I’d be happy to tell them everything that led up to the “assault”.

Source: The Times Online.