Cross posted to The Political Class.
From The Times Online:
A pregnant woman, her husband and their three-year-old son were killed in a house fire early yesterday as police who arrived before the fire brigade prevented neighbours from trying to save them. The woman screamed: “Please save my kids” from a bedroom window and neighbours tried to help but were beaten back by flames and were told by police not to attempt a rescue.
Davey Davis, 38, a friend of the family, said: “It was the most harrowing thing I have ever witnessed. Michelle was at the bedroom window yelling, ‘Please save my kids’ and we wanted to help but the police were pushing us back and not allowing us near. We were willing to risk our lives to save those kiddies but the police wouldn’t let us.
“Tempers were running very high, particularly with the women who were there, but the police were just saying we have to wait for the fire brigade because of health and safety.
“There were four or five police officers. They were here before the fire brigade. We heard the sirens and we came across to help but they wouldn’t let us.
“I thought the police were there to protect lives. At one time they would have have gone inside themselves to try and rescue them.
“When a family is burning to death in front of your eyes, rules should go out of the window – especially with kids. Everybody wanted to try and help.”
This story has created some furor around the web and around the world – see the comments to the linked story. Some are suggesting this is indicative of the nanny state and a government rules oriented society. Here is a scathing critique from Mark Steyn:
Jay, that fire story from Doncaster is almost unbearably sad: The characteristically moronic behavior of the braindead British coppers transformed it from a family tragedy to a national metaphor. I have written recently in Canada of the disturbing passivity of the “citizenry”, but Britain’s nudged it on a stage: Even if you understand the obligation to act in such a situation, the state will forcibly prevent you and (if recent form is anything to go by) ensure that if you disobey them you’ll be prosecuted – pour encourager les autres to remain obedient sheep to the government shepherd.
It’s interesting to read the words of the South Yorkshire Police spokeszombie:
The senior officer in charge is confident we handled this incident as professionally as possible. In a situation like that you could end up with more deceased bodies than you had in the first place
Well, there weren’t any “deceased bodies” at the time Her Majesty’s constabulary showed up. And there might not have been any had they not shown up at all. The incident has strange echoes of that fire at a school in Saudi Arabia not long after 9/11, where the fleeing schoolgirls escaped the blazing building but, because they were unveiled, were beaten back by the stick-wielding religious police to die in the flames. In both cases, the emergency responders who are supposed to save you (or at least make an attempt) instead wind up killing you – because a rote prostration before rule enforcement trumps their basic humanity. In recent years, the British police have evolved from being merely useless (at least when it comes to traditional activities such as solving crime) into what John O’Sullivan calls “the paramilitary wing of The Guardian” – the blundering enforcers of the nanny state.
Still, you begin to see why so many lazy government officials are wedded to that “there’s no right to shout fire in a theatre” rubbish. Even when the building’s burning down, you’ve no rights. New Hampshire’s great motto, “Live free or die”, is not just a bit of bloodcurdling stemwinding but a real choice that Britons, Canadians and, alas, Americans ought to ponder: You can live as free men, with all the rights and responsibilities and vicissitudes of fate that that entails. Or you can watch your society decay and die before your eyes – as England, once the crucible of freedom, dies a little with every day.
While I am always sympathetic to indictments of government intrusion sapping civil society, I am also cautious on making that call, as it really depends on the situation – the real chances of rescue may have been nil, with a high chance of additional fatalities. Again, we just don’t know, not being there.
What do the commenters think?
Cross posted to The Political Class.