Peter Bills: Britain's green and pleasant land blighted by wanton violence

Schoolgirl Chloe West was attacked brutally by a knife-wielding man. Photo / Supplied
Schoolgirl Chloe West was attacked brutally by a knife-wielding man. Photo / Supplied

She'd received copious email messages, it is alleged, from a young man. Not replying nearly cost 14-year-old English schoolgirl Chloe West her life.

Chloe was stabbed repeatedly in the upper body and face in a frenzied knife attack outside her school gates in Stourbridge, West Midlands.

Only the prompt action of friends and teachers, who rushed to her aid and detained her alleged assailant, saved her.

It is alleged that the man charged with her attempted murder, 18-year-old Samuel Tomlinson, had sent Chloe several emails but had no reply.

Another day and 170km away, a gunfight involving gangs of young men erupted in the streets of Peckham, a South London suburb.

A 35-year-old man and a 5-year-old girl were left fighting for their lives after being hit by bullets inside the Stockwell Food and Wine shop, fired by a machinegun-wielding assailant who had chased two young men and cornered them inside the shop.

The gunman missed his targets but hit Roshan Selvakumar in the face and the little girl, Thusha Kameleswaran, in the chest.

She is thought to be the youngest ever victim of London gun crime - a sickening statistic. Only the skills of medical experts appear to have saved both lives.

Two young men, aged 18 and 19, have been charged in connection with the shooting.

A 14-year-old who was also arrested in connection with the incident was bailed to appear at a later date. One of the teenage suspects was then stabbed in a separate attack.

Welcome to violent Britain.

Had this been South Africa, the watching world would doubtless have merely nodded in acceptance, and brushed off the news with a derisory "Well, what would you expect"?

Yet, despite official figures which suggest in some areas crime is falling, Britain appears to most observers as an increasingly violent place.

Parts of South London have become like a film stage set, such are the frequent outbreaks of gang shooting and knife attacks that are usually turf wars fought by gangs dealing drugs. Yet violence is by no means confined to gangs.

Road-rage incidents continue unchecked, the price British society seems to be paying for the huge number of vehicles that crowd and snarl the country's roads.

Right across Britain, violent acts are reported almost daily. At this time of the year, with spring well advanced, Britain is one of the loveliest parts of the world. Or at least, it should be. The trees are full of blossom, tiny primroses are dotted in the country hedgerows and the multitude of varying shades of green are spectacular.

Yet life, both in the country and the city, seems to have become disfigured by the omnipresent violence. Two weeks ago, also in South London, a serial rapist known as the "Night Stalker", a man who had been on the loose since the mid-1990s, was finally convicted and sentenced. Delroy Grant's reign of terror encompassed large areas of south London and his sick speciality was to break into the homes of elderly women and rape them. One of his victims was 88.

Grant brought fear to unknown numbers of women and committed considerable numbers of offences. Aged 53, he was given a 27-year sentence and warned he is likely to die in prison.

Such incidents inevitably attract major headlines especially as, in the case of Grant, a succession of bungles by police meant he was free to attack women for many more years than should have been the case. Yet in a strange way, it is not the horrendous example of people like Grant that is the worst aspect of a spreading sickness in British society.

After all, the Grants of the world will always be there. Others in British society like Jack the Ripper of Victorian times and the more recent Yorkshire Ripper have attained a similarly dire reputation.

Yet it is the more casual violence that is arguably a greater threat to the ordinary, everyday lives of most Britons. No one epitomises the road rage problem in worse terms than Kenneth Noye, one of Britain's most notorious criminals, who knifed a fellow motorist to death on a road in Kent back in 1996.

Noye plunged his blade into a young man with whom he was having a disagreement over a driving incident. The victim, Stephen Cameron, bled to death at the scene.

Any society can perhaps list a similarly grotesque series of incidents in its own country. But what the criminologists cannot yet tell us is if a clear link is emerging between the burgeoning population numbers throughout the UK, numbers that have ballooned out of control in the past 20 years, and the incidents of such wanton violence.

In other words, is Britain succumbing to the rat syndrome? Put too many of them in a single, restricted space and they tend to start fighting each other.

Right now, there are many who subscribe to such a theory as an explanation for Britain's worrying violent trend.

- NZ Herald

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