Friday, August 11, 2006


The usual heavy bias in favour of wrongdoers

After months of being taunted by a gang of yobs, grandmother Diane Bond finally stood up to them when she was abused while walking her pet dog. During a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse, the frail 64-year-old prodded the teenager ringleader gently in the stomach when he urged her to "Hit me, if you dare". Moments later, the 5ft 1ins pensioner found herself flat on her back and nursing a broken arm after the 15-year-old boy, who was 7 inches taller, pushed her to the ground. But to add insult to injury, police officers arrested her for assaulting a child after his mother moaned he had been attacked.

Now Mrs Bond must report to a police station 30 miles from her home in Llandrindod Wells, Powys, Wales, at the end of the month to find out if she will be charged. Last night the retired lab technician spoke of her distress. "I am in shock and very, very teary," she said. "I have never been in any trouble before. I just want to enjoy my evenings walking my dog in peace. I am being treated like a criminal because a gang of yobs have nothing better to do than pick on an old lady."

Residents of her quiet street have complained to the police and council for several months about youths causing anti-social behaviour. In the latest letter to Powys County Council in June, residents said they had suffered an "endless stream" of damage to property and cars, intimidation, vandalism, noise and rubbish being hurled into gardens by up to 30 youths aged 11 to 17. Signed by 35 fed-up people, it added: "Collectively, we are sick and tired of the situation and our frustration is now close to boiling over."

Things finally came to a head when Mrs Bond, who has two children and five grandchildren, took her terrier Hettie for a walk on parkland near her home. She said a group of about 20 teenagers were loitering on the grass. Three others were standing on a path, deliberately blocking her way. "As I approached they started shouting abuse at me," she said. "They were taunting me and crowding round me and I was quite frightened because they are big kids. "After a while one of them, whose name is Billy, spread his arms out wide to show his stomach, and said, Come on, old lady, hit me, if you dare." "I gave him three prods, almost like playful punches, not hard at all, and next thing I knew I was lying on the ground and I had broken my arm. One youth said I had been pushed. "I went back home, shaking and crying."

Soon after, two police officers knocked on Mrs Bond's door and arrested her on suspicion of assaulting a minor. "It seemed the lad had told his mum what had happened and she had immediately lodged a complaint of assault," she said. Mrs Bond, who lives alone, was cautioned and interviewed for nearly three hours by police officers before she was released on bail at about 1.30am. She has now made a counter-allegation to the police of assault against the youth. But she added: "This sends out the message that if you stand up for yourself, if you try to take action to stop anti-social behaviour, you are likely to end up being arrested."

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Tony Blair said communities had to stand up to yobs in the fight against nuisance behaviour. Mrs Bond's neighbour Steve Simmons, who co-ordinates the Nelson Street - An End To Anti-Social Behaviour campaign group, said: "Diane is a reasonable law-abiding citizen and she has been treated like a criminal for standing up to yobs when the authorities would not. "It is bewildering. The Government says communities should look after themselves and take a stance against anti-social behaviour. But when we do try to take action, what is the first thing that happens? The blame is put on us."

In May, grandmother Brenda Robinson, 66, of Bournemouth, spent a night in a police cell after being arrested for alleged assault when she gave a rowdy youth a "clip round the ear". She acted after being abused, pushed and threatened with a plank of wood. Roger Williams, Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, said: "I would have expected the police to have acted slightly more proportionately than arresting Mrs Bond over this. "It must have been a frightening situation for an elderly lady to be confronted by a gang of yobs, especially in an area with a history of anti-social behaviour, without the police compounding the problem."

Chief Inspector Steve Hughson, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: "We are aware of the problems in Nelson Street and associated anti-social behaviour. "Recent patrols in the area by the neighbourhood policing team have greatly reduced incidents of crime and anti social behaviour, to the extent that positive comments have been received by local residents. Therefore patrols will continue." The force declined to comment on Mrs Bond's arrest.


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