‘Relax. Breathe deeply. Look into my eyes. Now, listen carefully to what I say: you are guilty of….’ Ah, ha! Some sort of a stage act involving a hypnotist, maybe?
No, ’fraid not! I’m out on the beat with PC Nick Presto (must try not to shout out ‘hey, Presto’, just to catch his attention!) who’s ‘doing his bit’ in the fight against crime by practising his newly acquired hypnotism skills on passers-by – and any passer-by will do! Just gaze into his eyes and you’ll soon be feeling incredibly guilty. Guilty of, well….anything, really – any offence he says you’re guilty of, in fact! Very good for crime-solving figures, though!
What’s all this hypnotism malarkey, you may ask? Well, PC Presto has just been on a hypnotism course. It was (allegedly) a bit like the one due to be staged in Chester in the summer by American celebrity hypnotherapist Tom Silver, a regular guest on TV chat shows – and pioneer of the ever-so-funny-ha-ha ‘orgasmic handshake’ trick in which he mesmerises a woman into believing she is enjoying an orgasm every time she shakes hands with a man. I don’t think I need comment further on that!
But don’t be too alarmed, because by now I’m sure you’ve twigged that PC Nick Presto is not a real person and the scenario is pure fiction – but the rest is true. The hypnotherapy course is the brainchild of PC Mark Hughes, an investigative skills trainer with Cheshire Constabulary, and officers will be able to attend a free one-day taster session at Chester University before deciding whether or not to sign-up for the £1,500 real McCoy from June 21 to 26.
Apart from watching hypnotherapy sessions, they will be given an introduction into electroencephalography, the study of electrical activity in the brain by using sensors placed on the scalp.
“Putting people in a receptive brainwave state makes it likelier that the truth would come out,” PC Hughes is reported as saying in the force’s official magazine, Police Review.
“Forensic hypnosis does not prove guilt but it can give new lines of inquiry when traditional methods have failed. For me it is the next logical step for investigators to take, It is the next frontier,” he added.
Erm, excuse me but isn’t the definition of hypnosis, to quote the Pocket Oxford Dictionary: ‘a state like sleep in which the subject acts only on external suggestions’? And doesn’t that imply that ‘the subject’ could be made to do or say anything? Well, that sounds like an extremely dangerous and unethical path for the police to tread – one that’s definitely open to abuse.
Former assistant chief constable of West Yorkshire Police David Pickover – Police Review’s legal editor – said: “Evidence obtained under hypnosis would unquestionably be intensively examined by courts and viewed with extreme caution.
“It is difficult to imagine circumstances where hypnotism is sensible or necessary, but there is nothing to prevent officers from suggesting it to witnesses,” he added.
Cheshire Constabulary quickly distanced itself from the views of PC Hughes. “Cheshire Constabulary do not utilise any for of hypnosis techniques. The views expressed in the Police Review are the personal views of PC Mark Hughes and not the view of the Cheshire Constabulary. Furthermore, the training is not funded by Cheshire Constabulary,” said a spokesman.
That’s all very well, but I wonder how many officers will sign up for Mr Silver’s course and if hypnosis will ever become standard practice within policing. I sincerely hope not – but stranger things have been known to happen.
Anyway, I’m sure you’ll all agree that the only fail-safe way to ‘keep your nose clean’ after June 26 is to avoid gazing into a police officer’s eyes for longer than necessary.
Might be worth remembering that – or you could be in for an arresting experience!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I’m sure Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s, Asda and the like are just itching to wish the Reverend Tim Jones, Vicar of St Lawrence and St Hilda in York a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
For Mr Jones is the Anglican priest who told his congregation in a Sunday sermon that shoplifting/stealing from successful shops/stores by the poor – with specific reference to food – was preferable to burglary, robbery or prostitution.
Furthermore, the somewhat misguided (but probably equally well-meaning) Mr Jones said that any such act of stealing would not contravene the Eighth Commandment, which is – funnily enough – ‘thou shalt not steal’. Now how on earth does a man of the cloth work that one out?
Anyway, ten out of ten for taking the stance of a modern day Christian Robin Hood – but robbin’ it still is, meaning that not only does it break the Eighth Commandment but it is a criminal offence carrying a fine or even imprisonment.
Hopefully my ghastly vision of countless ‘hungry poor people’, all nabbed for shoplifting in the run-up to Christmas, telling magistrates: “I only did it because the vicar said it was OK,” will not come to pass!
Mr Jones’ sermon also landed him in hot water with the police and Tory MP for the Vale of York Anne McIntosh. She said in an interview: “I cannot condone inciting anyone to commit a criminal offence.
“Shoplifting is a crime against the whole local community and society,” she stressed.
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: “First and foremost, shoplifting is a criminal offence and to justify this course of action under any circumstances is highly irresponsible.
“Turning or returning to crime will only make matters worse – that is a guarantee.”
And what does the Church think? Well, the Archdeacon of York, the Venerable Richard Seed, put it like this: “The Church of England does not advise anyone to shoplift or break the law in any way.
“Father Tim Jones is raising important issues about the difficulties people face when benefits are not forthcoming, but shoplifting is not the way to overcome these difficulties.
“There are many organisations and charities working with people in need – and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau is a good first place to call.”
Hallelujah to that piece of commonsense advice! I just hope it hasn’t come too late for some of Mr Jones’ congregation.
On that happy note, farewell. Have a great Christmas and see you in the New Year.