A story about gender, class and crime

A respectable professional

“She smart, really smart, but doesn’t make the best decisions”. Brian displays that contradictory mix of glee and frustration when he recounts Claire’s story.

Claire was a stand-up professional. Her very good job put her in touch with all manner of waifs and strays. She was also a bit of a party animal, eventually supplying friends and strangers with significant quantities of illicit drugs.

Claire was one of those types who you could say does her best to mix with the wrong crowd. Whether the appeal was the danger of the trade, a hankering for some rebellious inner self, or a form of live poverty porn, Claire began to hang out with some of the local hoods.

The mismatch is pretty easy to see, a middle class professional woman hanging around with a tight gang. They were solid, close-knit. They’d grown up together, laughed and fought together. They’d been schooled together and skived together. She, on the other hand, was an outsider.

For those who haven’t experienced life on an estate, friendship circles are based on forms of solidarity where the outside world is othered. You can visit the group but you can’t stay. Claire would only ever be a visitor, and when the welcome runs out, the visit ends.

Middle-class dealing drugs

One day Kal and Vince paid Claire a visit to score and ounce of weed. Like a dog that flips from loved pet to rabid attacker, Kal and Vince didn’t really want to pay so picked up the bundle and went to walk out the door.

Claire moved to stop them, and an argument ensued. Her less-than-sharp housemate rang the police. Kal and Vince still refused to leave, “What? What’ll the police do?”

Claire ran to call the associates whose money – around £10,000 – she had stashed in her home. A small convoy of cars rolled into the more salubrious area next to the estate only to find the police had got there first.

Claire’s housemate had let the police in. In a surreal moment Kal began to complain to the police that Claire had refused to sell them drugs because he was black. Yes, really!

The police ignored the racial discrimination but decided to pursue the drug dealing, demanding entry to her bedroom. She tried to tell them they needed a warrant but they replied they’d been invited into the house so didn’t.

The danger for Claire was that she had bundles of cash and a significant quantity of class A drugs stashed in a safe in her room. The weed was bad enough, given the police had just walked in on a deal, but the class As and cash would tip the balance.

The Absurdity of the End

The end of the tale is perhaps incredible. But stranger things have happened.

She cried. She cried and trembled in fear. And she asked for help, for protection. Her, an educated professional, pretty white women had been manipulated and controlled by a boyfriend she’d only recently become involved with. He had threatened her and her friends unless she allowed his to use her home as his stash house. She was terrified of him so complied in fear of her life. Why else would a middle class professional get involved in the scummy world of drugs?

Since first hearing this account I’ve always puzzled at the absurdity of it all. I’ve always wondered why the strategy worked. But when you’ve gone through the system you realise the pantomime that is “law”.

“It’s just a game,” as Charlotte Henry says in the film, Injustice.

Imagine the police on arrival: Two big black working class men with drugs on them, and a scared fair maiden, well spoken, pretty but terrified. And the tears. Tears can outweigh all the evidence in the world. The men weren’t crying. They didn’t seem scared. She did though, so it is clear that she must be some kind of victim.

That’s the best I can do to work it out. Let’s be completely honest, had she been a fat, ugly working class woman, inarticulate and with a strong regional accent, one fears she wouldn’t have been given the benefit of the doubt.

But that’s justice. It’s all a bit random really.

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