One law for the rich, another for Mr Bhatt and his baseball


Piece by Boris Johnson in the Telegraph

That's what we all love about our country. It's the rule of law, innit. No one is above the law. Everyone is equal under the law. No one can take the law into his own hands. That's why there will be at least a handful of reasonable people who think that the police did the right thing when they cracked down on my friend the newsagent Harendra Bhatt.

For about 18 years, Mr Bhatt has run a kiosk outside the Tube, and for 12 of those years I have watched him at his work. He is a model of politeness. As soon as he spies some Islington Lefty approaching, he has the Guardian ready furled. If someone forgets their change, he calls out "change!", and his general affability ensures that he does pretty well. It is only recently, after witnessing more and more muggings on the pavement in front of him, and after being robbed by junkies armed with a carving knife and after despairing of the police response, that he has equipped his kiosk with a baseball bat.

This piece of sporting kit is now in police custody, but I have seen the sleeve. To judge by the packaging, it is a full-sized baseball bat, manufactured in India, and presumably mainly intended for the self-protection of subcontinental newsagents.

Harendra insists — and I have no reason to doubt him — that he acquired the bat only as a last resort. He is a smallish man of middle years, and he was at his wits' end, he says, about how to deal with the aggressive beggars. They intimidate the folks making use of the cash machine, he says, and they even go across and beg at the Tube ticket office. They recently smashed into his kiosk and stole about £50 in cash and £50 worth of chocolates, and when he came back one night to find that someone had tried to set his shop on fire, he says he was told by the police that the incident was not a high priority.

So when a drunk pitched up his kiosk at about 5pm the other day, he had little hope that the forces of law and order would spare the time to come to his aid. The thug asked for money. Mr Bhatt told him to go away, or he would call the police. The drunk then started shaking the kiosk to and fro — not too difficult: it is really just a plastic Wendy house. Mr Bhatt begged him to desist.

The drunken thug then started heaving computer magazines into the street. You or I might not bother to buy a computer magazine, but this attack now amounted to damage to Mr Bhatt's property, and a serious nuisance. Having flipped a final copy of Computer Weekly to the pavement, the drunk started shaking the door of the kiosk, and then battering it as if he wanted to come inside. At this point Mr Bhatt finally came out of his kiosk, with the baseball bat. He says he warned the yob to go away.

The man persisted in shaking the kiosk and was plainly about to attack the plucky newsagent himself — and so what was he supposed to do? Let him get on with it? Turn the other cheek? Mr Bhatt says he applied the baseball bat once, hitting the thug on the shoulder and then — POW! — the police miraculously appeared.

Making up for all the times in which they had been Macavity-like in their absence, they now flooded the scene of the crime. They pounced. They leapt on Mr Bhatt, wrestled the implement away from him and carted him off to the cells, where he remained until his release at 1am. He now must wait until January 23 to hear whether he is to be charged with possession of an offensive weapon and common assault.

Now I suppose there will be law-abiding readers out there who will say, yes, well, a bit tough, but then Mr "Baseball" Bhatt was wrong to take the law into his own hands. Fiat iustitia et ruant coeli, they may say, if they are feeling pretentious. To which I say: oh yeah? Pull the other one, matey. If you are really telling me that it is always the "British way" to enforce the law, then may I ask what Mr Bhatt is to make of the recent government decision to quash the investigation into alleged corruption involving BAE?

May I direct you to the immortal words of Lord Goldsmith, as the Blairite junta rode rough-shod over the criminal justice system. "It has been necessary to balance the need to maintain the rule of law against the wider public interest," he said. Now if I were Mr Bhatt, I would be inclined to think there was one law for hapless newsagents, and another law for anyone allegedly involved in greasing the palms of Saudi princelings.

You use minimal force to protect your own property — and you're nicked, chummy. You allegedly bend the international anti-bribery rules rules in the name of flogging fighter jets to Saudi Arabia — go right ahead, my son. It is unbelievable that Goldsmith can use his hermaphrodite status — part law officer, part-politician — to keep the British cops off the well-upholstered backs of a load of arms dealers; and what makes it all the more outrageous is that the same British cops are urged to prosecute people such as Mr Bhatt.

That's right: as soon as the crime is reported, the police find themselves under terrific pressure to do something — whether it is laying formal charges or issuing some reprimand of the kind that stays on your criminal record forever. If the police fail to prosecute or otherwise chastise Mr Bhatt for his suspected crime, their ludicrous "sanction detection rate" will go down, and for that the Government is to blame, and the target culture that is driving the public services wild.

This Government makes the law an ass by hauling the police off the BAE business; but it makes the law look like a seriously mentally defective ass in encouraging the police to persecute brave and vulnerable newsagents such as Harendra Bhatt.

Boris Johnson is MP for Henley
Indeed he is.

Probably my main reason for my new and shiny Conservative Party membership card.

Wonder what happened to the drunk? Or were the OB too busy wrestling the man that had done no more than protect his own property to the ground?

Vigilantism (sp?) may be discouraged by the State, but it is fast becoming the only way for natural justice to be served.
What a fcuking disgrace. Mr Bhatt, you have my upmost respect. However, I think you should've belted the living crap out of that drunk.


I wonder which tube staion he works near?
Then he could shown some appreciation.


From the Mail on Sunday, common sense prevails, at long last:

When a violent drunk attacked his news kiosk, Harendra Bhatt took what he believed was a reasonable step to defend himself and his business.

He took out a baseball bat bought as a precaution after previously being targeted by thieves and simply tapped the man on the arm.

But he was astonished when police arrived and arrested him as well as the drunken yob.

Mr Bhatt, 46, was then subjected to a humiliating six-hour ordeal that included being put in cell, having his photo taken, being finger-printed and DNA swabbed.

He said: "I couldn't believe it when I was arrested as well. It was a crazy decision. I was the victim and was defending my property.

"I am a peaceful man but got fed up with people stealing from me and taking what I work hard for. The police weren't helping so on this occasion I took matters into my own hands. Even though I was worried when I was arrested, I would do the same again - every man should have the right to defend himself and his business."

The case inspired a campaign by Mr Bhatt's loyal customers at the kiosk he has run outside Highbury and Islington rail and Tube station in North London for nearly 20 years. It also earned him the affectionate nickname Baseball Bhatt.

And last week he learned the case had been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

One of Mr Bhatt's supporters was Conservative MP Boris Johnson. He said: "What he did was completely reasonable and people like him deserve support not persecution."

Mr Bhatt, a father of two, was arrested in November after the drunk came up to his stall at 6pm.

The newsagent, who starts work at 5.30am, said: "The man was aggressive and demanded money. I told him to go away, but then he started tearing magazines out of the stand and throwing them on the floor. He caused about £50 of damage and then began trying to rip down the rack. I stepped out and picked up the bat to move him, thinking he might have a weapon.

"I gave him a gentle tap on the arm as if to push him along. The next thing I know two British Transport Police officers appeared and grabbed the bat. They told me I was being arrested for having an offensive weapon and assault."

The newsagent added: "I have been robbed, had a knife held to me and had the stall vandalised. I call 999 but by the time police arrive the people have run off."

Mr Bhatt was held in a cell next to the drunk before being allowed home to wife Praffula, 44, in Finchley, North London, at 2am. British Transport Police defended its action, saying: "Anyone who uses a baseball bat on another person can reasonably expect to be arrested." A spokesman added it was not known if the drunk was prosecuted.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it dropped the case against Mr Bhatt because he made "an honest mistake".
I think Mr Bhatt will indeed have learned his lesson - "might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb". I wouldn't be at all surprised if the next junkie gets more than just a tap on the arm, pour encourager les wasters.

There are far too many of us who have been in similar situations. I admire Mr Bhatt not just for his courage but for his restraint. It seems like defending your property is a crime these days.


BTP - weren't they idiots who confiscated a cricket ball as an offensive weapon?



Is Boris going to set up a defence fund for Mr Bhatt? I for one would like to contribute something towards his defence costs.


No Prosecution:
And last week he learned the case had been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.


Thank you old baldy! That'll teach me to read the post right through to the end!
And people wonder why faith in the law is being eroded! He should have been allowed to batter the scote to a pulp, then rewarded for his public duty, something the BTP seem to have forgotten!
Horridlittleman said:
And people wonder why faith in the law is being eroded! He should have been allowed to batter the scote to a pulp, then rewarded for his public duty, something the BTP seem to have forgotten!

I don't know about rewarding such behaviour, however they could have at least cleaned his bat and said thank you!
What about Willem Haymaker beaten to a pulp by yobs ?
They could have been charged with GBH or even attempted murder - what were they charged with ? - AFFRAY !
They got a curfew order and were told to give their victim £100 !
And the useless F***ing police said that would give a lesson to any other yobs !!!
Well I've joined NAVIGOR cos of all the shit today!
Thats the National Vigilante Organisation !
That's right a REAL vigilante organisation !

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