Raoul Moat, suicide by cop – a lesson for our unelected rulers

Yesterday, a coroner’s jury returned a verdict of suicide on the gunman Raoul Moat; that verdict may have been uncontroversial, but Moat’s actions should give us all food for thought.

Raoul Moat

Although Raoul Moat was clearly deranged, and his actions were neither justifiable nor excusable, it is evident from his own pronouncements that he had also given up hope, and regardless of who was to blame for this, he believed himself to have been a victim of unjustified persecution.

The background to his short but deadly rampage can be found here. The Newcastle Evening Chronicle has already published extensive documentation on both the hunt for Moat and the three week inquest; currently it can be found here, together with both audio and video recordings * of the man himself, but a negotiator summed it up in a trite phrase, Moat he said, was a broken man.

It remains to be seen if Moat was entirely the author of his own misfortune; he certainly blamed the police for his predicament, he had, he said, lost everything. It is though a matter of record that Moat’s van was seized by the police on one occasion, on suspicion of its being uninsured. This suspicion turned out to be unwarranted, and the police officer who seized it – coincidentally – was David Rathband, the man Moat blinded when he decided that he was going to wage war on the police, and presumably kill as many of them as he could before they killed him, as he expected.

Although the end was tragic, it was probably the best outcome, for Moat if not for the rest of us. Obviously he realised he would spend the rest of his life behind bars, if not in prison then perhaps in some superficially less unpleasant institution where he would have been pumped full of drugs to suppress his rage.

The lesson we should learn from this is that when people have lost everything, including hope, they are dangerous indeed, to themselves but more importantly to others. There are people out there whose raison d’être is to make other people’s lives a misery; some are even paid to do it.

Of course, no one can blame a police officer for making a lawful arrest, but when a man has paid his debt to society, he should be permitted to resume his life and make of it what he can. To lock a man up for years or even for few months then release him with all his worldly possessions in a transparent plastic bag with a discharge grant and a travel warrant to a hostel for the homeless or ex-offenders, and on top of that to pressurise him to find a mind numbing job at minimum wage, is asking for trouble. As is repossessing people’s homes and consigning them to tent cities as has happened to so many people in even the United States at the same time “traders” go on TV and boast openly to the world that they dream of another recession so that they can make money off other people’s misery.

The rationalisation such people always use, especially civil servants, is, you guessed it, “I was only doing my job”. It is only when the chickens come home to roost for them personally they realise the consequences of their actions, which is why the concept of vicarious liability is and always has been a bad one. Though Raoul Moat died by his own hand, people who wilfully cause the deaths or ruin of others with malice aforethought and without a valid reason should not be permitted to hide behind a uniform, a badge, or any other shield, be they police officers or any other servant of the state, which is also our servant as well as our master.

[The above op-ed was first published September 28, 2011 (London time). * The video and audio recordings are not included here but at the time of writing – June 2022 – they can be found on YouTube.]

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