It was entirely predictable that even though Pastor Terry Jones of Florida called off his distasteful Koran burning to mark 11 September, others, with even less sense than he had, would go ahead with their own burning.

And so in Gateshead, of all places, six men have been arrested and subsequently bailed for "stirring racial hatred" after they burned a Koran outside a pub and posted the video on YouTube.

What I would like to know is which race were these men allegedly stirring up hatred against? After all the Koran is the holy book of the world's second largest faith, so were they stirring hatred against Arabs? Persians? Indonesians? Africans?

Islam is a faith and is no more a race than the Catholic Church is. If these men by their ogreish and uncivilised acts can be arrested on such grounds one might think that the likes of Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry and Peter Tatchell might get their collars felt for their protests and comments against the Pope and the Catholic Church last week. After all one could argue that Catholics might view the Pope as being almost as holy as the Koran is to Muslims, so why the double standards?

These arrests are a deeply disturbing sign and are yet more evidence of the erosion of civil liberties that has occurred in Britain in the last few years.

When Terry Jones in America said he was going to burn the Koran the Muslim world protested and pleaded with the US government to prevent him from doing so. While he did not burn the Koran the government made it quite clear that even if he did he would be within his First Amendment rights to do so.

In Britain however there is no such safeguard and the police have been able to arrest six men for a stupid YouTube video which at the time of writing had only 500 views.

This erosion of freedom of speech is even more disturbing given that it happened on the day when the Chief Inspector of Constabulary , Sir Denis O'Connor, admitted what the public already know, that the police by largely abandoning beat policing have given the streets over to community destroying yobbery and crime.

The police long ago justified their decision to abandon beat policing based partly on research which found that officers did not find much crime when they were on the beat. It did not occur to them that this might just be because by their presence on the beat they were deterring and reducing crime.

I for one would feel much safer if the police, rather than trawling YouTube for ignorant videos by political criminals, spent more time trawling the streets for the abusive, anti-social and criminal elements who blight the lives of those who have to live with them.