It is the victim who pays – and not the criminal

IN North Tyneside, it seems, not only does crime pay – but so do the victims.

As one of the many thousands of docile, diligent retired folk of the borough, I take some pride in sorting my rubbish, recycling as requested and putting out my bins as instructed.

Recently, I even sent the council £25 in response to its rather darkly threatening letter – (the one that made collective composting sound like a capital offense and wanted payment up-front for a service which won’t be delivered till next year).

And this week, I managed a wan smile as I walked the 50 metres to the end of the back lane where my newly emptied bins had been left – or taken. But sadly, when I got them back to the house I realised the inside of my recycling bin had gone missing.

Dutifully, I rang the council to report the loss – only to be told that it wasn’t the council’s fault and that I would have to pay for a replacement.

“But I haven’t lost it or broken it – it’s been stolen”, I said.

“It is council policy – everybody pays”, I was told.

Everyone but the criminal, I suggested.

So, as a victim of non-urgent crime, I dialed 101 and, very apologetically, reported the offence to the police. Northumbria Police were brilliant, had a bobby in the area and were there within the hour.

The police officer listened to my story, inspected the scene, had a look around and down the back lane and suggested she would speak to the council because, like me, she felt victims of crime should not be fined for the sins of others.

A little while later the rather shocked police officer contacted me again. The council had confirmed – “in no uncertain terms” – that it had a policy and that everybody pays.

But actually North Tyneside, that’s not accurate, is it? As a result of your policy, it’s the victim who pays – and the criminal who get a new bin for free.

Now, I understand times are hard, that there are financial targets to meet – and if I’d been invited to make a contribution I would have chipped in for a new bin – if it meant someone less fortunate could have one for free.

But that’s not the case.

There are lessons to be learned here. Being hard and thoughtless is not an appropriate response for any organisation, especially a council, whose business is people and people’s lives.

Simply “having a policy” does not make something right. Having good policies makes something right, especially when interpreted with intelligence. Bad decisions, even if someone else’s, provide no moral hiding place.