Yesterday Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt of the Metropolitan Police faced the media to issue a public apology to the world as part of an attempt to bring to an end to the ‘scandal’ of a series of undercover policemen having intimate sexual relationships with unsuspecting women whilst effectively ‘on duty’ working to find out what certain activist groups were up to.
Perhaps battered by previous cock-up media storms, the Met seems to have adopted the policy that, if you have to apologise to the world for something, the best tactic of all is to grit your teeth and fling yourself before the public positively begging for mercy for two reasons, viz. (1) to satisfy the ‘victims’ and head off any potential future criticism from those who campaign for the police to be subject to greater accountability; and (2) just possibly, by going ‘almost over the top’, to make some sort of post-modern ironic statement by which the sincerity of the apology is undermined.
I mention the latter because it occurred to me after reading Assistant Commissioner Hewitt’s statement. Here it part of it:
“Thanks in large part to the courage and tenacity of these women in bringing these matters to light it has become apparent that some officers, acting undercover whilst seeking to infiltrate protest groups, entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong.
I acknowledge that these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma. I unreservedly apologise on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service.
I am aware that money alone cannot compensate the loss of time, their hurt or the feelings of abuse caused by these relationships.
Relationships like these should never have happened. They were wrong and were a gross violation of personal dignity and integrity.”
Mr Hewitt later went on to state that Scotland Yard accepted that the women had not ‘brought it on themselves’, adding that the undercover officers had “preyed on the women’s good nature” and “manipulated their emotions”, leaving them “at risk of further abuse and deception”.
Am I the only member of the public who feels slightly uneasy about this example of an apparently willing and total surrender by the Metropolitan Police to the forces of politically-correctness?
I could perhaps sympathise with a case being made that such an apology might be appropriate if it were to be offered in the wake of proof that senior officers within the Metropolitan Police had either ‘turned a blind eye’ to their undercover men having sexual relationships with members of the groups they were monitoring, or had even actively encouraged them to do so as a tactic to ‘fit in’ and/or appear to be a full and committed member of those groups.
However, where I question what has gone on is in the area of personal/sexual relationships generally and – to inelegantly adapt a shopping analogy – the ‘caveat emptor’ (‘let the buyer beware’) aspect.
There are hundreds – possibly thousands – of both men and women in the UK who have been exposed for either committing bigamy [I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure there’s a law covering that] and/or having had secret ‘second families’.
There are also similar numbers of married people who have had affairs, ranging from brief one-offs (or indeed a series of them) to long-term semi-permanent relationships conducted ‘on the side’.
It has also been known – and yes, I know it sounds outrageous – for single people to be involved in more than one sexual relationship simultaneously.
Or even for single people to have had relationships in which they represented themselves as being something that they were not, whether this ‘deceit’ was incidental to those relationships (e.g. if they were perhaps a Walter Mitty-type person somehow gaining self-esteem from pretending to be someone they were not) or indeed a deliberate aspect of their dating strategy designed to enable them to ‘punch above their weight’ in order to get close to someone to whom they were attracted.
My point is to question where any consideration of ‘free will’ – and/or contributory negligence, if that’s the correct term – on the part of the supposed ‘victim(s)’ comes into each of these situations?
Take an example – I have to invent one because it’s been so long since I was on the dating scene.
I’m a single bloke of say 28 years of age [it’s a long time ago, this example] and I happen to meet an attractive young lady in her twenties in a bar or nightclub. We chat, flirt – she laughs at my terrible jokes – and to all intents and purposes have a ‘connection’. She tells me that she’s a young actress/model who has just been out to Hollywood to audition for a part in the next Stephen Spielberg movie. It all seems very plausible – one thing leads to another – and I let her take me home and have her way with me.
Two weeks later it transpires that she wasn’t an actress/model at all, but in fact a check-out girl at my local Aldi supermarket.
What is my reaction? Well, I’m sure I’d feel a smidgeon of humiliation and embarrassment, but would I reach for my lawyer, or turn to my local council shrink or ‘help group’ … or would I simply put it down to experience and a life lesson learned?
My point is, I don’t think I be contacting the Aldi head office and complaining about it, or threatening to go to the media, or claiming I’d been traumatised by the experience … or even expecting to get six figures’ worth of compensation just because I had been duped into taking off my Superman-badged underpants by the a member of the opposite sex.