Tom Foulkes MBA, BSc, CEng, FICE, FIMechE, MioD was educated at Clifton College, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the Royal Military College of Science, the Army Staff College, the Royal College of Defence Studies and the Open University. He read Civil Engineering (Highways & Bridges) for his Bachelors Degree and has a Masters Degree in Business Administration. After commissioning into the Royal Engineers in 1971, he worked on a wide variety of road and airfield construction projects. From 1983 his career shifted towards mechanical engineering with a move to the Weapons Staff and procurement of new military engineering equipment. For the next 15 years he led the development and deployment of a new generation of high-performance magnesium-aluminium alloy bridging systems and high-mobility combat tractors.
Promotion to Brigadier in 1998 brought a return to civil engineering with new responsibilities for managing the Army's Estate and construction programme. To deliver these improvements he created the 'Army Estates Organization', formulated a 30-year recovery strategy and introduced new contracting methods based on 'Egan' principles. Since September 2002, he has been Director General of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).
(Not your average terrorist or hoodie, then. And hardly the kind of chap you'd mind sharing a railway carriage, a joint or a bed with. Well, perhaps the bed's going a bit far …)
So he must have been rather dismayed to be hauled off a Paris-bound train at Waterloo recently, locked up for four hours, photographed, forced to give his fingerprints and a DNA sample, and entered in the police national database of criminals.
His crime? In his overnight bag was one of those credit-card-size toolkits with a compass, tweezers, a toothpick and a little pen-knife blade two inches long. The kit triggered an X-ray machine as he boarded the train. He was hauled from the station, placed in a cage in a van and taken to a police station for questioning. Four hours later he was released and cautioned after admitting to possessing an offensive weapon. Mr Foulkes had seen it as something with which to sharpen pencils and cut off luggage labels, and that his wife occasionally used to pluck her eyebrows.
The Brigadier of Death
"The whole thing was an absolute farce," he said. "I'm now on the police database. They have photographs of me and records of my DNA and my fingerprints, all because I was carrying this useful little tool. I was bundled into the cage of a police van and taken to Tottenham Court Road custody centre. My former rank seems to be the only thing that saved me from being handcuffed."
The "multitool" was sent to a knife destruction centre in North London.
The transport police said that the officers used their discretion during the arrest and deemed the gadget to be a concealed weapon, prohibited under the Prevention of Crime Act 1953. Which just goes to prove what we have said before in these pages: whatever stupid law government may introduce, sooner or later some jobsworth arsehole will see fit to take it literally, claiming that it's his "responsibility" and he's only doing his job.
What a pity Tom Foulkes accepted a caution instead of insisting on going to court. Even in these repressive days, once in a while magistrates or judges do throw a little cold water on the loony gauleiters who think it's their right to interfere in every corner of our lives.
The GOS would like to offer a little helpful advice to the boys in blue. They seem to be having some difficulty with elementary vocabulary and comprehension, so gather round, plods and plodettes. Look, this is how it works ….
A WEAPON is something you hurt people with.
Now, TOOL or WEAPON? What do you think? Is a spade a weapon or a tool? Because it's important, isn't it? - think hard, now, if you were going to shoot somebody (a Brazilian, perhaps, or someone who doesn't have any ricin in his flat) would it be easier to use a spade or a gun? And if I buy a spade in a shop, how am I going to get it home if you're likely to arrest me for carrying it in the street? Yes, I know you're just doing your job, but … oh, for Christ's sake. I think I've lost the will to live.
Advice from the Home Office reveals that …
The offence of having a blade or sharpened point in a public place without good reason or lawful authority carries a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment
Possession of an offensive weapon without lawful authority or reasonable excuse carries a maximum penalty of four years' imprisonment
Offensive weapons are defined in the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 as "any article made or adapted for causing injury"
A disguised knife is classified as "any knife that has a concealed blade or concealed sharp point"
Am I the only one who senses a lack of joined-up thinking here?
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
This site created and maintained by PlainSite