Some people quite literally get away with murder, regardless of the evidence. The presumption of innocence has been abused by people hiding behind a veil of immunity for far too long.
The cold-blooded and cowardly killing of unarmed WPc Yvonne Fletcher in 1984, as she policed a relatively small demonstration outside the Libyan embassy in London, is something I and the entire police family will never forget.
As The Daily Telegraph has reported this week, the suspected murderer will almost certainly never be brought to justice, despite the heroic efforts by the Metropolitan Police, whose case has been blocked.
That has been met with outrage and incredulity from a service still grieving the recent loss of Pc Keith Palmer. Keith was murdered protecting the place where our nation’s laws are framed – yet those laws are yet again shown to be unable to protect those who swear an oath to serve and protect others.
I recall once stopping a Porsche 911 displaying diplomatic plates travelling in excess of 100mph on the M4. I knew the response I would get as I indicated for the car to pull over. The young driver sat smiling at me as I spoke. I was not in the mood for smiling as I knew any attempt to deal with an offence, one that would normally bring with it a disqualification, would suffer the nonsense of diplomatic immunity and render any prosecution impossible. Smiling again as I gave him suitable advice, he drove off, leaving me coughing in a cloud of dust. It summed up just how I felt.
In this world in which terror is not an occasional headline-grabber, but a real and constant threat, society must have faith that its government will provide protection to those putting their lives on the line to keep its citizens safe.
The law must convey a strong and unwavering deterrent to would-be terrorists. It must give officers the confidence that, should they lay down their lives in the service of their country, their sacrifice is not just measured in pounds sterling, which has been the only compensation to Yvonne’s family offered by Libya. I can’t help thinking of the irony of those bank notes depicting the Queen, to whom all police officers swear to keep the peace.
Worse, the suspect in Yvonne’s awful murder now lives comfortably in the UK. How ridiculous. I cannot fathom for one moment why, for the sake of national security, they are not sent back from where they came. Yet in fact it is national security that apparently prevents him facing an appropriate punshiment.
Yvonne may be gone, but she will never be forgotten. Remembrance is one thing. Justice is another.
Steve White is chairman of the Police Federation