Colin Brazier: It’s important we push back, lest we begin to think it’s normal for someone to be threatened with arrest for having 'the wrong attitude'

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A 70-year-old man beaten-up and left with severe facial injuries. A 25-year-old man run over and nearly killed. Gunshots fired on a council estate. Those were some of the crimes committed in Greater Manchester at the weekend, where the going rate for murders is about one a week.

Two hundred thousand crimes a year – those are just the ones recorded – policed by a force of 6,800 full time officers. The thin blue line in Manchester is stretched thinly indeed.

Since it was posted yesterday evening, that video has been viewed more than a million times. Where social media’s concerned, quantity does not always guarantee quality, but I think this smartphone footage, with its gobby, bolshie, truculent narrator, has hit a nerve.

On Twitter Elliot Batty, for that is the name of the man behind the phone, has been called a Covidiot. And worse. Typical of a new type of activist with a martyr complex.

On Twitter user speaks for many when he says:

“He is purposely provoking the police into arresting him. Also he is videoing it because he wants attention on social media. He could calmly provide his evidence but refuses. Sorry no sympathy at all.”

This isn’t about sympathy. It shouldn’t be about emotions. Not when we’re talking about something as fundamental as the decision to deprive a fellow citizen of their liberty. This is about the law and its dispassionate application.

Again, on Twitter, lots of our fellow citizens think that, even in a city where thousands of violent crimes go unsolved each year, THIS is how police ought to be spending their time.

Another tweeted: “I applaud our police for doing their job! It's time our police cracked down on blatant law breakers. This idiot thinks he is above the law, if this was a ‘genuine’ exemption he would be more than happy to show it. Try breaking the law on seat belts & see where you end up.!!!”

The point about seat-belts is relevant here. Refuse to wear a seat-belt and you may be arrested. As with face-masks, there are exemptions. Some people can’t wear a seat-belt for medical reasons.

But to avoid arrest, they must carry a Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing. The certificate must be kept in your vehicle and, here’s the thing, shown to police if you’re stopped. So says an Amendment to the Road Traffic Act made in the early 1990s.

Now look at this….this is the government website on medical exemptions for wearing a face mask. It’s quite explicit. You do not routinely need to show any written evidence [proving a medical exemption]. You do not need to show an exemption card. It goes on to say: “Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.”

For some people this is all just so much semantic dancing on a pin. Our Mr Batty, the man who refused to wear a mask while ordering a Subway sandwich in a Manchester service station because, he claims - to have asthma - is flouting the spirit, if not the letter of the law.

Personally, I would sooner fly to the moon under my own propulsion than gob off to a pair of police officers. I don't think I'm unusual in that. When it comes to dealing with front-line officers, most of us take the line of least resistance.

My first instinct, as a natural supporter of the police, is to do as they say. But I appreciate that not everyone feels that way and, just occasionally, it’s worth applauding the curmudgeons, those awkward so-and-so’s, who won’t just go along with what a police officer says for the sake of a quiet life.

Mr Batty may be a nuisance, but by taking his stand yesterday, he makes a powerful statement for all of us about where the limits of the law lie.

He is correct to say a police officer in this situation has no right to demand proof of medical exemption.

He is correct to assert that his private medical business is between him and his physician, not a topic for public debate between him and a police officer who just happened to be in the same service station as him yesterday.

Why does this matter? Because intolerance and compulsion are in the air. The president of the European commission says EU countries should look seriously at mandatory jabs.

I had my booster on Friday, I’m not anti-vax, but in a free society we must be careful not to allow covid compliance to usher-in a law enforcement land-grab.

It’s important we keep pushing back, lest we begin to think it’s normal for someone to be threatened with arrest for having, what a bobby on the beat has concluded, is the wrong attitude.

That’s the Brazier Angle.