Sienna Marengo was picking flowers with her sister India, 10, and step-sister Olivia, six, when they were spotted by a passing councillor who reported the incident to the police.
Two officers then warned the girls’ mother, Jane Errington, 35, that she and her partner Marc Marengo, 49, could be arrested for theft and criminal damage before moving them on.
Yet there is one aspect of this case that does pinpoint a distinctive feature of contemporary British life, and that is a widespread and powerful attachment to "negative liberty", in which people want very much to be able to get on with their own business without do-gooders or agents of the state interfering, yet tend to engage little with the concept of freedom and how it works at a societal level.
Berlin says, the defender of positive freedom will take an additional step that consists in conceiving of the self as wider than the individual and as represented by an organic social whole — “a tribe, a race, a church, a state, the great society of the living and the dead and the yet unborn”. The true interests of the individual are to be identified with the interests of this whole, and individuals can and should be coerced into fulfilling these interests, for they would not resist coercion if they were as rational and wise as their coercers. “Once I take this view”, Berlin says, “I am in a position to ignore the actual wishes of men or societies, to bully, oppress, torture in the name, and on behalf, of their ‘real’ selves, in the secure knowledge that whatever is the true goal of man ... must be identical with his freedom” (Berlin 1969, pp. 132-33).