To say that eavesdropping is a curse is not necessarily true, most conversations had in public are subject to the masses ears even if they do not want to be. We are also aware that the government listen to calls in the hope of ‘catching a terrorist’ (not that we are able to prove and/or stop it) and the police observe conversations even when they are not on duty.
I am reminded of a tale of a conversation overheard in a local supermarket, between a mother and child. The child was misbehaving and naturally the mother was frustrated by the fact that she could not calm him down so they could finish the shopping. There is probably not a parent out there who has at some point said to their child “Just you wait until i get you home!”. Unbeknownst to the mother an off duty policeman overheard the threat and through no other evidence than what he had heard promptly reported her to the police. Cue a visit from the local constabulary.
The woman in question of course had no intention of abusing her child for his bad behaviour it was merely a hollow threat to desperately calm the child down.
After hearing this, it made me wonder, at what point do we draw the line? Was the police man right to report this family for abuse? Did he have any form of information which would prompt this decision? Should he not be reprimanded for the distress caused to the family? I understand that with the media giving far more attention to the failings of the police/social services and other such organisations subject to media scrutiny but surely there should be some kind of procedure under these circumstances? Surely we cannot carry on reporting every adverse conversation we overhear, especially when there is no context or observed repetitive behaviour.