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Help the Police, Help Yourself

Among a certain type of criminal — think mafia, think crack gang — there is no greater dishonor than to snitch. Giving information to the police is a betrayal of the worst sort, often punishable by death.

Which is why this article from the British magazine New Statesman is so interesting.

The article, by Martin Bright, is about the recent proliferation of illegal guns in the U.K. Bright, citing a book called Powder Wars by Graham Johnson, writes about two Liverpool criminals, John Haase and Peter Bennett, who gave the police such good information that they were pardoned and let out of prison. What sort of information did they give? The location of huge stashes of illegal guns. “At the time,” Bright writes, “the police didn’t question the fact that no one was ever found at the scene of the caches: usually abandoned cars or empty houses. The seizures were hailed as a triumph in the war against violent crime.”

And yet Haase and Bennett were not set upon by their criminal brethren and beaten to a pulp. Why not?

Bright explains:

[P]olice now believe that the arms caches were an elaborate scam carried out by Haase and Bennett to secure their early release from prison. If that is the case, far from marking a victory for the forces of law and order, the seizures reinforced Liverpool’s gun culture by allowing those involved in the scam to operate with virtual impunity in the years that followed.

That’s right: the information they gave led to the seizure of guns, but no arrests, and it was later determined that Haase and Bennett set up the gun stashes, set up the police, and consequently set themselves free.

But do not despair. The story has a happy ending:

Many believed the inquiry would lead nowhere, but earlier this year the arrests began. In February and March, Haase and six associates were charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice “in relation to facilitation of a royal pardon for two serving prisoners in 1996.”