This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Say it With Flowers

This may surprise you but, sometimes, the police make mistakes. The usual defence raised when this happens is, "we're only human". Occasionally the defence raised is Ronald Thwaites QC, who costs a lot more and clearly isn't very good.

It never ceases to appal me when the police rely on "being human" as some kind of tonic for all wrongs. In my opinion, every time a mistake is made, somebody should be immediately suspended, preferably in a public manner in order that a press release can be sent out promising that "a training need was identified and several officers have been disciplined".

For example, some months ago I was trying to locate a Stephanie Silchurch. She had smashed up her cousin's flat and run off. All we knew is that her parents lived at 20 Newcommon Gardens, Blandmore.

It took me some time to locate the address, as it turns out that Newcommon Gardens is a square, and no.20 is on a fork of the square that makes it look as though it is on Grouch Spur. Anyway, finally I knocked at the door and a bemused couple answered.

"Is Stephanie home?" I asked.

"No, she doesn't live here any more."

I explained, as I usually do, that it was nothing to worry about, but I needed to speak to Stephanie regarding some criminal damage at her cousin's place. This is police speak for "I need to arrest her". The couple, having only ever met a police officer the day their house was broken into, were ultra-polite, ultra-helpful, and told me that their daughter now lived at 11 St. Mary's Walk. They even offered to phone and get her to come home and meet me there.

When I did go round, she wasn't in, and next ensued a week of "arrest attempts", with officers from all shifts going to both addresses at all hours of the day and night trying to catch her. Finally, two weeks later, after nine complaints from her parents and neighbours about our antisocial visits, she was nabbed.

The only problem was, it turned out that the Stephanie I was after actually lived at 20 Grouch Spur, a hundred yards away from the address I had visited. Unhappily for them, and her, the couple at 20 Newcommon Gardens also had a daughter called Stephanie, who was also on bad terms with a cousin.

Fortunately, the Stephanie who got arrested was calm, cooperative and patient with the poor befuddled bobbies who booked her into custody. Had she panicked, struggled, been restrained, suffered a heart attack and died as a result, it would have been tenuous as to whether this was a lawful arrest in the first place. Cue half a dozen police officers up on charges of manslaughter, all because of Britain's lousy house-numbering system.

In such a scenario, I don't think flowers would quite do it.


'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in all good bookstores and online.


Anonymous localplod said...

It's often that I wish I had the tenacity to use the Town Police Clauses Act more often, specifically, the one that states it's illegal not to have a number on your house.

That'd do it.

20 April, 2008 00:32

Anonymous Michael said...

But why on earth would anyone dare to make an arrest on such spurious evidence as evinced in your tale?

All you had was her forename plus an address where her parents supposedly lived. That is certainly not enough identification to make an arrest.

An invitation to give a statement might have been appropriate, but any arrest would almost certainly be unlawful. (As, in fact, you acknowledge.)

In the circumstances the "innocent" arrested Stephanie should be suing your socks off.

Head must roll!



20 April, 2008 09:35

Anonymous pc pc said...

michael: "an invitation to give a statement"???? how is that a relevant response? either you identify that it is the suspect, or you identify that it isn't. if she is, she gets arrested, if not, you apologise and leave.

20 April, 2008 11:37

Blogger For The People said...

What is Town Police Claues Act?

American Copper

20 April, 2008 13:41

Blogger uniform said...

but would not quoting the surname have circumvented your mistake of address and a check of the voters system confimed the family surname , prior to leaving the station?

20 April, 2008 16:35

Blogger JuliaM said...

"What is Town Police Claues Act?"

The 'Town Police Clauses Act' is:

20 April, 2008 16:43

Anonymous Michael said...

PCPC @ 20 April, 2008 11:37

In my day:
A police officer had the right to ask questions of any person, suspected or not.

I know PACE has superceded the old Judges' Rules, but things must have really changed, if a police offiecr now can't ask questions (and record those questions and any answers, ie take a stetement) to clarify someone's knowledge of an incident without arresting them.

Or isn't that what you meant?


Bloggs's post indicates a(n acknowledged) lack of proper preparation before taking action.

20 April, 2008 16:58

Blogger The Tefl Tradesman said...

A similar thing happened many years ago to one of my best mates, when we were both at the 'tearaway teenager' stage of life.

Two plods knocked on his front door, and his mother answered. They told her that they were looking for her son, Stephen, who they believed to be involved in some sort of dodgy business. She denied his presence and his involvement in anything shady, and became quite agitated.

"Now calm down, Mrs Forbes" said one of the plods "we just need to speak to Stephen, that's all."

"Forbes?" his mother wailed. "I'm nor Mrs Forbes - I'm Mrs Davis. The Forbes family live at number 177 - this is 117"

Interesting tale of two Stephens, eh? And coppers that apparently couldn't read too well!

20 April, 2008 18:13

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Michael - and others - yes of course quoting the surname would have avoided it. The point is that from the couple's response, it was reasonable to assume the address was correct, especially given that the victim had quoted that particular address.

As for the taking a statement point, no, just asking questions and getting answers is NOT taking a statement. PACE is very specific about when you need to caution someone before questioning them, and if you suspect they are the offender you should be interviewing them properly and recording what they say, to have any hope of using it in court. But this is a moot point because the suspect in question didn't come to the door.

20 April, 2008 21:05

Anonymous Michael said...

PC Bloggs @ 20 April 2008 21:05

PACE may well be very specific about when you have to caution...

But PACE does not require that you caution someone before questioning to ascertain their identity.

The officers in this case clearly did not think very much before acting, and now poor "innocent" Stephanie has her DNA and fingerprints on the National Register, and an arrest record.

That latter means that she will not be able to visit that great country of freedom and democracy, the good old USA, under the visa waiver scheme, because she has been arrested (even though released without charge).

But then, perhaps that particular problem doesn't matter to her.

She should still be suing your (Chief Constable's) socks off though!



21 April, 2008 03:17

Blogger uniform said...

You can drop a caution in any old time, with witnesses of you like; I find it sharpens people up no end.

The problem here is that younger officers tend to have lost some skill in eliciting information from persons who like to give the police the general run-around. (Not in this story by the way)

A knowledgeable cop should always have leverage over most people; you can ask anyone, anything which is unconnected to an arrest process

Whether they tell you anything is down to skills and abilities you just can't learnificate at training school.

21 April, 2008 09:12

Anonymous Inspector Gadget said...


21 April, 2008 19:21

Anonymous Anonymous said...

They should never have dispensed with Judge's Rules. PACE made recording confessions from villains very difficult - they even had to be there with you at the time!

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