Remote Control - Saturday September 13, 2014

Serial reoffender Jason Stokes  in Channel 4's Cops and Robbers
Serial reoffender Jason Stokes in Channel 4's Cops and Robbers
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Please get me far from this maddening crowd

Channel 4’s Cops and Robbers (Mondays, 9pm)was an interesting look at both sides of the coin when it comes to the prolific offender.

Focusing on the town of Dudley, this documentary took in the cocky bravado of petty criminals like Jason Stokes, while also talking to the stoic police officers of West Midlands Police trying to chip away at the mountain of low-level crimes they commit, from shoplifting to vandalism, to public order offences.

Having spent a fair amount of time in magistrates courts in a former reporting life, you often saw the same names come around again and again with depressing regularity. Some would greet ushers as old friends, and saw the police and JPs as sparring partners rather than authority figures.

And so it was the same with ‘Stokesy’, a 27-year-old wastrel who had never had a job and proudly described himself as ‘a one man crimewave.’

He’d spent a quarter of his adult life in his ‘fourth home,’ the local prison – the police station and the courts being his second and third.

He knew what the police wanted to hear – claiming he’d straighten himself out, then walking out of court, only to be arrested within seconds for making an obscene gesture to a passing police car.

Showing how he mostly hung out with teenagers, this sad, pointless life, looked like a serious case of arrested (no pun intended) development.

But as one of his friends pointed out, ‘It’s okay, he doesn’t rob from anyone he knows.’

Ah, so that’s alright, then.

We also got to meet Becky, a 31-year-old serial shoplifting heroin addict. Banned from most shops in town, she made signs of wanting to stop the cycle of offending, but would break promises time after time.

The endless merry-go-round was a wearying cycle that never seemed to have an end in sight on either side. It was maddening viewing.

Equally maddening, but for different reasons, is the ongoing experiment into self-debasement (I can’t see any other reason for it) that is Celebrity Big Brother (Channel5, every night).

It is a televisual descent through the circles of hell.

The winner was decided last night. If you really care who won, I’m sure a Richard Desmond-owned paper can tell you.

Chris Broom