Amid all this gloom and fear it's good to know the police are keeping us safe from harm:
For a policeman to spend half-an-hour questioning someone suspected of laughing, you'd have to guess this is an area where the cops have already cracked all the real crime.
"Gary Saunders, a company director, was using a hands-free phone when he burst out laughing at a joke told by his brother-in-law, who he was talking to.
A few moments later he noticed a traffic officer flashing his lights at him and gesticulating at him to stop his Renault.
When Mr Saunders got out of his car, the policeman told him: "Laughing while driving a car can be an offence."
Mr Saunders said "the officer accused me of throwing my head back in a dangerous way, which I denied since it is definitely not something I do.
It became a bit ridiculous when he wanted to know the colour of my hair as I have alopecia and there isn't a hair on my head. When I pointed this out he asked: 'What colour was your hair when you had some?'
"It went from ludicrous to unbelievable. In the end he reluctantly admitted that he had nothing he could accuse me of, but still required me to take my documents to the station."
Ah, no. This is Liverpool, which in case you don't know, has some eye-watering crime rates: violence against the person is 40% higher than the national average, car theft is 70% higher, robbery is 140% higher, and burglary also 140% higher. We somehow doubt that cracking laughter crime is a priority for the typical Liverpudlian.
Which brings us to the Policing Pledge.
This may well have passed you by, but it is the Home Office's latest attempt to persuade us that, whatever our own experiences, the police are genuinely accountable to us.
The pledge begins with a mission to boldly go:
THE POLICE SERVICE IN ENGLAND AND WALES WILL SUPPORT LAW ABIDING CITIZENS AND PURSUE CRIMINALS RELENTLESSLY TO KEEP YOU AND YOUR NEIGHBOURHOODS SAFE FROM HARM.
It then runs through ten specific service pledges, such as:
5. Aim to answer 999 calls within 10 seconds, deploying to emergencies immediately giving an estimated time of arrival, getting to you safely, and as quickly as possible. In urban areas, we will aim to get to you within 15 minutes and in rural areas within 20 minutes.
Sounds good, huh?
Well, they'd sound good if you were looking for a job in the box ticking industry, that's for sure. But in terms of making the police accountable to us taxpaying punters, they ain't no substitute for the elected sheriffs Jacqs wimped out on.
In fact, they put Tyler in mind of a box ticking exercise he once came across in a Happy Eater roadside caff. The waitress served us our pre-Heston Blumenthal stuff, and then returned a few minutes later to make sure everything was to our satisfaction. We'd never come across that before in a caff, and we were impressed. Until, that is, we spotted her ticking the little box on her order pad labelled "Satis 4 mins". Later on the way home, one of the junior Tylers threw up.
Let's keep everything crossed that Cam will honour his pledge of elected sheriffs.
PS While Googling Merseyside crime stats, I was amazed to discover that Merseyside's crime problem was actually solved as long ago as 1988. I can't understand why the police still haven't caught up with the power of Yogic Flying:
"Time series analysis was used to test the hypothesis that Merseyside crime rate was reduced by a group practicing Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs. Previous research suggests that a phase transition to increased orderliness as evidenced by reduced crime rate should occur when the group size approaches the square root of 1% of the total population. Analysis of Merseyside monthly crime data and coherence group size from 1978 to 1991 shows that a phase transition occurred during March 1988 with a 13.4% drop in crime when the group size first exceeded the square root of 1% or the Maharishi Effect threshold =o.oooo6)"