Murder at a Blue Badge Bay
The jailing for 5 years of Alan Watts on Thursday this week for the murder of Brian Holmes, because he wrongly believed that Mr Holmes should not have been parking in a Blue Badge Bay in the ASDA car park in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, has caused me to ponder once again about how disabled people are treated.
In the case I’ve cited, Alan Homes who had recently recovered from cancer, was not the Blue Badge holder, but his wife who was disabled and shopping in the ASDA store was entitled to use the bay. So, on a wrong hasty premise, violence occurred and a much-loved man lost his life in a cruel, premature and dreadful way.
His murderer Watts was another pensioner, and in none of the reports that I have read was there any mention him being physically disabled. So I’m presuming that Watts himself was not entitled to use a Blue Badge, and was probably just judging and interfering in something that was actually nothing to do with him at all.
Why is it that some people chose to set themselves up as ‘moral police’ and think they know better than others?
Why do they think they have this right?
Is it because Ian Duncan-Smith and other Tories seek to demonise disabled people and threaten even the most disabled and the dying with loss of benefits?
One of the things that being disabled has taught me is that Is that often disabilities are hidden. One of my disabilities is not visible unless I try to walk any distance, I only have 40% lung function and that obviously greatly affects what I can do.
When I first started to need to use an electric buggy for mobilisation I was in my early 50s and I used to get very suspicious looks from people, some even suggested that I didn’t need to use it at all. If I felt brave enough I would explain why I needed to do so. Sometimes I just said “You’re lucky you don’t have my disability”, other times I just ignored the comments.
I sometimes get the impression some that non-disabled people do not think that we (as disabled people) should have any ‘preferential’ treatment.
Believe me, believing disabled is not ‘the easy option’. I, and many disabled people I know, would love to be well enough to work full-time, to be able to go shopping and not have to spend the rest of the day resting to get pain levels and breathlessness stable again. It would be lovely to be spontaneous again and not have to plan everything around how or where to park and when I’ve got someone to go with me.
I wish I didn’t need to use Blue Badge Bays, or a wheelchair, but I can’t change the fact of how that aspect of my life is governed.
Blue Badge Bays are NOT a privilege, they are a much-needed help for those of us that need to use them.
One of the organisations I belong to Disabled Motoring UK runs an annual survey called BayWatch. This asks members to monitor Blue Badge Bays in their local supermarket and check how many are being used by cars not displaying a Blue Badge and how the supermarkets deal with these infringements. As supermarket car parks are private land mis-use of bays is not a matter for Local Authority Parking Wardens. I’ve never joined in this survey as I’ve not felt brave enough to do so. I have always been concerned about encountering someone who would be abusive or threatening.
I once read about a disabled woman who printed out a sign which said ‘You’ve parked in my parking space, would you like my disability too?’ She used to place this on cars in her local supermarket who were parked in Blue Badge Bays without displaying a badge. I wish I could reach car windscreens from my wheelchair to do the same!
But, back to my original questions. Is our society just becoming more intolerant and/or violent? Should we as disabled people be more vocal when we are challenged or is silence the safe option? I don’t know the answer, but I know that statistics say that violent crime is decreasing, however I’m not sure I believe the statistics!
I do know that as a woman on my own, I’m not brave enough to challenge others, even though I would like to. I’ve been political all my life, being involved with CND, the Anti-Apartheid Campaign, Amnesty International and many others, but now my campaigning has to be through this blog and the occasional tweet or letter to a newspaper.
Disabled people deserve the same rights and considerations as any other human beings. We don’t need sympathy, just understanding and some help to do those things which non-disabled people take for granted.
It is a mitzvah (commandment) in Jewish teaching that we should not judge others harshly. In the Christian faith there is a saying by Jesus “Judge not least you be judged”. My grandmother taught me “If you can’t say anything good about someone keep quiet!”
If more people followed even one of these dictums the world would be a better place and disabled people would be treated with less suspicion and more courtesy.
Reclaim these streets
The abduction of Sarah Everard happened 2 miles away from my home. Clapham Common is literally just down the road. Having lived in London for many years, I’ve always been aware of issues around women’s safely. Also evey woman I know has had unpleasant experiences with either being followed or approached by strangers who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I was appalled at one of my local male councillors whose response to Sarah’s death has been to promote a petition asking for more lights on the common. Women don’t need more lights to stay safe, we need men to stop behaving in predatory ways towards women.
A couple of years ago I was persistently harassed by a male neighbour who either parked in my allocated disabled bay or blocked my car so I couldn’t get into it. One weekend he blocked the ramp to my flat, leaving me trapped and unable to go out. When I reported these incidents to the police, they did little other than to offer him ‘words of advice’, although he had ‘previous’ for assault. The abuse he yelled at me, threatening to hit me, was recorded when I had called 999 and although a friend had witnessed the harassment, I was told because she wasn’t an ’independent’ witness, no charges would be brought.
I felt badly let down and my trust in the police was diminished.
On Saturday night the very police, whose colleague was charged with Sarah’s abduction and murder, assaulted and arrested women who were paying their respects at her vigil. How can their actions be justified? Why use such disproportionate force? Why didn’t they engage with the women organising the vigil to agree how long it would last? Were they actually looking to deliberately enrage grieving women and arrest them?
Two contrasting photos have been posted on Twitter. They were both taken Saturday, one shows police ’protecting’ male football supporters from opposing fans, the other showing a women at the vigil being violently pulled down to the ground and sat on by police. Why two such different standards?
One woman leaving Sarah’s vigil was flashed at on the common. She reported it to a nearby group of police. A female officer spoke to her, but as she was giving a description of the man, the officer was told by her male colleagues, “No, we’ve had enough tonight with the rioters.” Such responses don’t encourage women to report harassment.
This must change. Women must be believed and supported when they have been harassed or been victims of domestic abuse. Most of all, education for boys should start in schools to teach them how to respect and support girls and women.
Comment, Everyday Life