Debate rages over Britain’s ‘broken society’

Wild West: “There are some really violent people out there now who just don’t care” — Ken Marsh.

How accurate is this description? A video has gone viral showing thugs attacking two police officers. Several people passed by and refused to intervene — fuelling claims of a “broken” society.

It was a shocking assault. One man kicks a policewoman to the ground, inches away from a passing bus. Meanwhile, another officer is dragged across the road, punched, kicked and scratched.

All the while, witnesses pass by. Some watch from their cars, others film on their phones. In the end, only one person tries to help those being attacked.

“In the old days, this would never have happened. The public would have jumped in,” said police chief Ken Marsh. “Society is broken.”

Marsh’s remarks made front page news. Indeed, the accusation that British society is “broken” is a common theme in politics and the media.

But how true is that label?

In terms of crime, there are some worrying trends. Incidents involving knives are at their highest level since 2011, with over 120 homicides in London this year.

However, If you count all violent incidents (not just serious crimes), statistics say the opposite. In 1995, five in 100 adults were victims of violence; now that figure is two in every 100 — a record low.

Progress has been made in other areas too. For example, since 2010, one million people have escaped poverty.

Is society really broken?

Broken Britain

Of course not, some argue. “Broken Britain” is a myth. In a global context, Britain is one of the safest countries in the world, and focusing on individual crimes gives us a warped view of reality. Our society functions through the unreported kindness of normal people.

Not so fast, others respond. Modern life is driving us apart. A staggering 73% of people do not know their neighbours’ names. With the rise of social media, people have become self-absorbed and disconnected from their communities. Society only thrives when individuals have empathy for others — something that is rapidly being lost.

You Decide

  1. Is British society broken?


  1. In one minute, write down all the words that you associate with Britain and being British? Share your thoughts with the class. Are most of the words positive or negative? Should people feel proud to be British? Why/why not?

Some People Say...

“The police are the public and the public are the police.”

Sir Robert Peel

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
One of the attackers has been arrested and charged by police. The other two remain on the run. Both officers were taken to hospital, treated for minor injuries, and later released.
What do we not know?
One man intervened in the attack, however we do not know who he is. Precise details concerning how and why the attack happened have also not been made clear.

Word Watch

Police chief
Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation.
According to the Office for National Statistics. Over the same period, firearm offences also rose.
Over 120
If the killings continue at the current rate, the total figure will reach 140 by the end of the year. This would be the highest since 2008.
According to government statistics on absolute poverty. There are other ways to measure poverty. See The Day’s story at the bottom of the page.
According to a survey by Skipton Building Society.

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