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Book Review – Dave Courtney “The Rides Back On”
“Anyway half way through the usual madness I decided to carry out the MAN BITES DOG routine. What the fuck is that, I hear you ask? Right let your Uncle Davey explain…
Life is a series of habits (or if you’re a nun with diarrhoea, a series of filthy habits). What I mean is this: if you wake up at five in the morning to go for a three mile run, and you do that enough times, then you will automatically wake up at five in the morning. Like when some geezer’s released from prison he’ll still wake up at six, get hungry at twelve and feel like bed at ten, cos that’s how he’s lived for the last few years. Habit.
And hats how they train police dogs.
They’re trained to chase a moving target from behind, take the targets arm and drag it down. You’ve all seen those police training films where some poor prick dressed up as the Michelin Man running for his life. Alsatian chases him, grabs the arm and pulls him down. Job well done. The dog gets a biscuit, a pat on the head and one up the arse from his handler back at the kennels.
Now if you were being chased by one of those German Shepherds that’s how it would go…but (and I ain’t saying its not a big but ‘but), if you are brave enough, and you do this – stop running, turn around, run at that dog and ATTACK it – there is no way in the fucking world that dog will kill you. Trust me on this cos I’ve done it mate. If it’s a fight to the death there’s no way any dog in the world is going to kill me. Somethings that’s only three foot tall and can’t punch, can’t kick and cant head-butt is never gonna kill me. That’d be like losing a fight to ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed.
Truth is if you turn, run at it kick it in the head, punch it stab it’s eyes, even bite the cunt, then all of a sudden that dog gets proper fucking sensible, mate! It sees something four times bigger than itself having a go back at it and it will fuck off: and that will fuck that dog up for the rest of its life. I know cos I’ve done it.
Now whats all this got to do with the price of eggs? Well during this court case I was involved I had to run at the biggest police dog there is – the London Metropolitan police Force.” (Dave Courtney, The Rides Back On)
‘The Rides Back On’ offers a rare insight to see the world through the eyes of a criminal and exposes the true extent of just how corrupt the London Metropolitan Police Force is. This book allows us to see that crime is a much more widespread problem within the justice system than the media speculates and its denudation of the law and the criminal arena highlights sections of society in the shadows that we rarely get chance to receive an unfiltered view of. Dave Courtney is one of Britain’s most notorious criminals but ironically most likeable at the same time which builds an excellent rapport with the reader.
Given as an ethnographic account Dave Courtney publicises the extensive criminal activity ongoing within the London Metropolitan Police Force and the way the law itself operates in its own illicit fashion. The novel encounters Mr Courtney a known higher tier criminal who has forged a corrupt business relationship with a police officer named DC Warnes from the London Met Squad. When the CIB3 police surveillance unit detects this unlawful relationship they realise themselves just how susceptible they are to undercover informants and respond far from the line of law. Dave Courtney is charged with crimes he has not committed and being a high status criminal the police use the court trial as an opportunity to display Mr Courtney as a ‘grass’ in the criminal underworld through the media knowing the price he would pay amongst his peers, “It is one of their most powerful tools because if it works the person they target gets another belly button…..end of story” (Courtney: 2002: 117). The police therefore themselves are guilty of attempting to initiate a gangland assassination to compensate for their own malfeasance.
However with the recent funerals and high status appeals of the Kray brothers the old British Cockney villainy scene is becoming a space of renewed interest Dave himself staring in his own film (which was band for fears of being to exploitative), has written three books, has his own website with regular television appearances and had the character ‘Big Chris’ based on him from the film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels does not seem to be the conventional idea of a gangster as for the first time ever channels in the media are allowing us to see an impartial view, “That’s why the law and the authorities still get twitchy about the internet, because its one of the few areas left that they haven’t put a complete fucking strangle hold on yet” (Courtney: 2002: 151). The public now have an opportunity to see that, “all baddies aren’t always bad and the guys who are supposed to be good aren’t always good” (Courtney: 2002: 33). With this in hand Dave Courtney sets out to clear his name in the media whilst revealing the true motives of the police along with well reflected views on the true implementation and enforcement of the law.
With regard to the role and functions of institutions of power having lost absolute control of the media they are in turn loosing the dominant hegemony which they have endured so for so long as more channels of communication develop (Lull: 2000). Tales of drug dealing, false informant scams, bribery, and the framing of innocent people for payments are all exposed with unique insights from people who until now have had no voice or audience. Courtney recounts his close relationship with DC Warnes which offered him opportunities to see first hand the corruption of the British Justice system. We hear how evidence which is designed to eliminate the possibility of any miscarriages of justice such as DNA can actually be used to falsely convict people, Warnes himself was open about this in order to let the criminal fraternities know that he couldn’t be touched and stated one cigarette end with DNA on it was all that was needed to convict a person wrongly if found at a crime scene, the court cases that preceded proved that these were not fictitious threats.
The quality of information sociologically can be regarded with all the advantages of the ethnographic approach and so we may conclude that this method allows us a broader understanding of social processes than other statistical methods on crime which have frequently been criticised (Giddens: 2001). It would be hard for any sociologists to gain such an insight as Courtney reveals himself any outsider at this level is viewed with the up most suspicion, “He stood out like Hitler selling bacon butties at Bar Mitzvah” (Courtney: 2002: 37), illustrates that these are circuits of the criminal underworld to which the public may never have been a witness.
Being an ex debt collector Courtney’s account is far from sociological but nevertheless in its own controversial fashion elucidates well that the institutions of authority are by no means beyond the reach of criminal activity. At times with no education at times we can clearly see superficial levels of analysis on some issues although at the same time to take this away may loose one of the books greatest virtues, being its relaxed, open and colloquial approach. However unwittingly Courtney is paving the foundations which many other sociologists have already drawn. The lenient stance of the police towards DC Warnes and many other corrupt officers reflects the growing inability of the law and government to deal with white collar crime and treat criminals equal indifferent of social circumstances, “it is regarded by the authorities in a much more tolerant light than crimes of the less privileged” (Gidden: 2001: 229). We also get to see the motivation behind the corrupt policing which again can draw its own sociological reference. Motivated by status and money DC Warnes would exploit the police force on any front possible to gain financial and social recognition. “The Littlewoods catalogue of the Metropolitan Police” (Courtney: 2002: 15) was readily available to any party willing to pay and it is here we may see similarities that Robert K. Merton has highlighted in his ‘aspirations and rewards theory’. Each society holds to itself its own cultural goal to which the majority must submit, in the west this is regarded as financial wealth. However with growing importance on achieving this goal and with limited legitimised institutionalised means of accomplishing this goal it may be argued that people such as DC Warnes are reverting to deviant means as this is the only avenue available to achieve the aspirations which we all so firmly hold.
This book puts the black and white pages of sociology into a reality within an underworld context and allows us to see a more informative image of society. Corruption within the police force is an area which discerns little media interest and Dave Courtney gives us the opportunity to see society impartially so we me ask the important question who are the police, public benefactors or societies most dangerous product?