Sunday, February 10, 2008


It had to have been a carefully planned operation, but one that happened calmly, peacefully and with only a slight disruption to pedestrians, who were guided around the scene.

It was Westminster Bridge during the Friday evening rush hour. With a background of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, with a foreground of the magnificent waterfront of the Thames, three police vehicles had surrounded a saloon car. At the head of the group was an ordinary patrol car. Inches from the rear of the trapped car, a small van, normally used for the Dog Squad, prevented any reversing. A large van for transporting prisoners prevented any of the car’s occupants opening doors and making an escape. There was only one exit for them, and the police were making sure that it was in their control.

The scenario was actually blocking my own path, so there was no point in complaining about a diversion, especially as it gave a better opportunity for seeing what was happening as I approached.

One by one, five men climbed from the vehicle, assisted by the police. Determined to ensure that nobody escaped, two men had already been handcuffed to the side of the bridge. One was being searched and two others were in the process of giving information to officers with notebooks whilst handcuffs were fastened on their wrists.

I still don’t know the cause of the arrests, but what struck me was the total lack of aggression, weapons or violence. I have seen higher levels of stress on market stalls. Presumably a crime had been committed and the arrests had been carefully orchestrated, but there was nothing even to cause anxiety to passers-by as the lives of five men were about to take a big change of direction.

Wrongdoing does not need to create a great deal of fuss and bother. Sometimes our misdemeanours are known only to ourselves and to God.

Lent is a time for saying sorry and putting things right without the need of attention-seeking. God is very calm, understanding and forgiving…and does not need to use handcuffs!

Sr. Janet