Thursday, 9 April 2009

An Independent Police Complaints Commissioner Calls

A One-Act Play by the Nev Filter

(The tea parlour, New Scotland Yard. Metropolitan Commissioner SIR PAUL JONG-STEPHENSON is pacing up and down angrily. Assistant Commissioner BOB SLOW is crying on the sofa. The HOME SECRETARY, Jacqui Smith, sits at a desk, frowning at a computer screen. A police BUMPKIN from Devon is peering out nervously from behind the sofa. PC49 is standing to attention by the French windows, stage right. A dead body in a Millwall shirt lies in front of the sofa, with a full tea-tray on its chest.)

SIR PAUL: Dammit, Bob, I still don't see what part of 'top secret' you don't understand.
BOB: (slightly hysterical) Well, I still say it's a black day for England when you can't trust Fleet Street journalists not to go blabbing to the media!
BUMPKIN: Shall oi arrest 'ee now, zurr?
(Independent Police Complaints Commissioner PRIESTLY enters via the window.)
PRIESTLY: I wouldn't be so hasty if I were you, constable. Good day to you all. My name is Priestly, of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The gardener tells me that a crime has been committed - and I have reason to believe that the guilty party is right here in this very room.
BOB: (picking up teapot and pouring himself a fresh cup) A crime, commissioner? Where?
PRIESTLY: I'll come to that later. For now, I must insist that you all remain here in the parlour.
(PC49 quietly ducks out through the open window.)
HOME SECRETARY: (rising) Do you mean to say, Mr Priestly, that one of us is a criminal? I can't believe it. I don't believe it. I - I won't believe it!
PRIESTLY: Your faith in your subordinates is touching, Home Secretary. But, I fear, misplaced.
BOB: Would you like a cup of tea, Commissioner? Milk? One lump or two? (He starts to pour another cup.)
PRIESTLY: I rather think there have been too many lumps around here already, Mr Slow.
(BOB, thrown by the commissioner's remark, accidentally pours hot tea onto the head of the corpse.)
SIR PAUL: Honestly, Bob, can't you do anything right?
BUMPKIN: Shall oi arrest 'ee now, zurr?
BOB: (jumping to his feet) That's it! I've had enough! I resign!
PRIESTLY: Do sit down, Mr Slow. Nobody's going anywhere until I've got to the bottom of this. And calm down, PC Bumpkin, you can't just go round arresting people for no reason.
(BOB subsides onto the sofa.)
SIR PAUL: Now look here, commissioner, you can't just barge in like this and make dreadful insinuations about us, you know.
BUMPKIN: Shall oi arrest 'ee now, zurr?
SIR PAUL: Should we arrest you, Mr Priestly?
PRIESTLY: I don't know, Sir Paul. The Prevention of Terrorism Act is so wide in its scope, even I may have breached it without realising.
HOME SECRETARY: Suppose, for brevity's sake, that we set that to one side for now. I wish you'd tell us what we're supposed to have done.
PRIESTLY: You seem quite put out, Ms Smith. After all, you've assiduously adhered to the rules laid down by your colleagues, haven't you? Claiming for bath plugs - taking the full second home allowance for your family residence in the commuter belt whilst living at your sister's - carefully repaying the tenner you inadvertently claimed for your husband's solitary activities... Oh, I'm sure it's all above board, according to the letter of the law. But greed, Home Secretary, greed is written all over your face.
HOME SECRETARY: It is? I'd better get down to John Lewis and get some organic face-scrub on expenses.
PRIESTLY: I'm afraid that will have to wait, ma'am.
(There is a brief commotion outside the window, and PC 49 enters with a pot plant on his head, closely followed by the pitchfork-wielding GARDENER.)
GARDENER: I found this 'un hiding in the shrubbery, Mr Priestly!
PC49: (reading from notebook) I would like to make it quite clear that I have come forward of my own volition, to clear my name. I have never seen the deceased before in my life, and was nowhere near him when it happened. Whatever it was.
HOME SECRETARY: Deceased? Somebody's died? Where?
PC49: (pointing to dead body) There. (Pause.) Er... (consults notebook) Blimey. Where did that come from.
PRIESTLY: I give you the crime, ladies and gentlemen!
SIR PAUL: Good heavens. How did he die, Mr Priestly? Er... he wasn't by any chance shot several times in the head, was he?
BUMPKIN: Shall oi arrest 'ee now, zurr?
PRIESTLY: Don't worry, Sir Paul, it was natural causes. A heart attack. Very hard for a jury to convict, I should think. It looks like you're off the hook, PC49. Oh, and, in answer to your next question, Sir Paul - no, he isn't Brazilian.
HOME SECRETARY: But I don't understand, Mr Priestly. Now, I don't profess to know much about the law - but if, as you say, this unfortunate man died of natural causes, then surely no crime has been committed!
PRIESTLY: Would that it were so, Home Secretary. Sadly, it is my solemn duty to inform you that you are all guilty of bringing the law into disrepute. Because of your shameful unaccountability, Sir Paul! Your shameless graft, Home Secretary! Your heavy-handed intimidation of innocent parties, Constable Bumpkin! Your randomly-directed violence, PC49! And need I mention your bumbling incompetence, Assistant Commissioner Slow?
However, as there's no law against making a mockery of British justice, my fine fellow upholders of law and order, I'm sorry to say that you're all free to go. (Exits.)
BUMPKIN: Roight, yew innocent buggers is all under arrest!


PC49: (emerging from under curtain; waving baton at audience) What the fuck are you all looking at?