The Times February 17, 2006

English takes a serious beating in clear case of police brutality
By Alan Hamilton

IF YOU want to know just what violent crime is, don’t ask the police. They find it too complex.

When Conwy County Council asked North Wales Police what constituted violent crime and how they recorded it, they thought the request simple enough. But the answer, which could be in line for a booby prize from the Plain English Campaign, baffled them.

Read the following slowly, moving your lips if that helps.

“A violent crime is recorded only once. The stranger, public places, licensed premises, under the influences are all aspects of the same crime. One violent crime could therefore be counted in any or all four indicators, and of course none of the indicators.”

You’ve only just started.

“The indicators will cause duplication in counting violent crimes as they are not exclusive, but this in no way affects the number of violent crimes recorded. Each violent crime aggrieved as a victim/ offender relationship field. Where this is not a known person (family, friend, acquaintance, etc) the offender is termed a stranger.”

Still with us? There’s more.

“The victim/offender relationship field is, as with much information pertaining to the crime, obtained from the person reporting.”

We nearly understood that. Here is the serious obscurity.

“A crime committed by a stranger is merely the inverse of the stranger indicator and does not exist separately to this indicator. It is of course available information.”

The anonymous writer concludes: “I hope the above explanation from the North Wales Police is helpful to members.”

Not really. “Frankly, it was gobbledegook,” Glyn Jones, a Conwy councillor, said yesterday. “We just couldn’t understand what they were telling us.” Councillors appealed to the force for enlightenment. A new letter gives as an example of a violent crime someone being hit on the way home from the pub.

“That person is in a public place when he/she is hit by someone under the influence of alcohol. The victim does not know who the person was who hit him/her.”

Right. Carry on, constable.

“In the above example the police will record one violent crime. The crime will contain the information that it happened in a public place, it happened under the influence and was committed by a stranger. When the police are counting violent crime, they will count one violent crime. The Quality of Life indicators will count this crime many times, once in the ‘public place’ indicator, once in the ‘committed by a stranger’ indicator and once in the ‘ under the influence’ indicator.”

The Plain English Campaign counts a crime against the English language once. A spokesman said: “The police, like any public body, have a responsibility to communicate clearly and effectively with the public. People need to understand how crime figures are calculated in order to have confidence in them. Using jargon merely distances the writer from the reader, and leads to confusion.”

North Wales Police confirmed yesterday that they had sent a clearer version to councillors, and issued a not wholly serious statement apparently acknowledging their crime:

“The cross-dimensional attributes of offence categorisation consistently generate detrimental uncertainty in practising criminalists.” In other words: chum, we didn’t write the rules.

Some other examples -


“Food or drink supplied on or from any premises is ‘hot’ for the purposes of this Schedule if the food or drink, or any part of it —

(a) before it is supplied, is heated on the premises or elsewhere for the purpose of enabling it to be consumed at a temperature above the ambient air temperature and, at the time of supply, is above that temperature, or

(b) after it is supplied, may be heated on the premises for the purpose of enabling it to be consumed at a temperature above the ambient air temperature.”

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

“Where the value of the above payments before actual assimilation remains greater than the combined value of the payments after assimilation, the former level of pay will be protected”

Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS Trust

“The switched main live is generally a single black wire and this is connected to the brown wire(s) on the fitting”

Instructions for light fitting

“Your email did not reach a humanoid. It only reached replicant level 1”

uk2net e-mail to customer

Source: Plain English Campaign