It’s time to give bullying its name

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

I remember the cock of our school (king of the fighters, top scrapper, thug) vividly, like it was break time only yesterday at Goole Grammar.

His name was Kevin, a rotund, ginger fellow, with impossibly curly hair. Kev’s modus operandi, which allowed him to get well acquainted with Mr Branson’s slipper and form his fearsome reputation, was offering the first years a deal that they couldn’t refuse; “Your pocket money or a week of hell.”

The vast majority would pay up, not wanting to spend the next five days living in fear, wondering where and when their “accident’ would occur; a ‘fall’ that would leave them with a cut lip, or a ‘door’ that would somehow swing closed on their face, leaving them with a bloody nose. Odd, brave souls, would resist until their trousers inexplicably caught fire in the science lab or their underpants ‘accidentally’ snagged on the coat pegs.

Unfortunately for Kevin, his lucrative ‘deals’ were interpreted as threats by Mr Branson and he was ‘offered’ a place at a special school and he never did business again in Goole. But it seems poor Kevin was wronged, perhaps his deals were not threats, but mere proposals, that is if Cambridgeshire police are to be believed. Because a similar thing happened in Peterborough the other day to 84 year-old, Eve Taylor, who runs her very successful cosmetics firm in Bretton. A local bully turned up with a caravan and parked it on her land and informed her that four more were on the way; the deal was, pay us £1,200 and all your problems go away.

Eve told me on the Big Conversation, on BBC Cambs, that she was frightened witless for herself and her staff, but being made of stern stuff she stood up to the travellers and called the police, who stunned the businesswoman by claiming that rather than being threatened, she had been proposed to! So, I looked up both words and their meanings, to see which best fitted the scenario; Proposal: A plan or suggestion, especially a formal or written one, put forward for consideration by others. Threat: A statement of an intention to inflict pain, injury, damage, or other hostile action on someone in retribution for something done or not done.

It’s not even close, is it? So, pardon the pun, but this was a cop out; if you don’t give me some cash we will make your life hell, was effectively what was being said here and that is a threat in my book, every day of the week.

I do have a certain degree of sympathy with genuine travelling families because Peterborough has had a desperate shortage of permanent transit sites for years, in fact the council has been talking about it since 2007.

So, let’s stop dragging our feet and get on and build some, taking the above argument out of the equation; if there were sites available travellers would have no excuse to park their caravans anywhere else. But we also need the police to prosecute wrongdoing; certain sections of society cannot live above the law and our police force should not be scared to police them, whatever the excuse. The Kevins of this world are empowered by weakness and Eve Taylor pays her taxes just like you and I; we have a right to be protected.