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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Risk

A radical shake-up of the police is reported today. I am delighted to see that so far the shake-up consists of:
  • Scrapping one national crime agency and replacing it with another.
  • Getting rid of the people who oversee each police force and replacing them with some others - albeit locally elected.
  • More general claims and statements by Theresa May that she wants to free the police from bureaucracy.
I am one hundred percent behind plans to reduce bureaucracy, and PC "Stuart Davidson" Copperfield has some great ideas/examples in The Telegraph.

The trouble is, the true heart of bureaucracy in the police and other public sector agencies is Risk. The fear of getting it wrong, being castigated, sued or even criminally prosecuted, is the key driver behind half of the hoops we jump through.

We need to see concrete examples of the IPCC, CPS and senior officers backing those who act in good faith, supporting those who make mistakes, and accepting that you cannot prevent all annoyances nor all tragedies without unacceptable impingements on the liberty of the wider public.

That is something the public are going to have to get on board with if they want a functional police force. I don't see it happening any time soon, and stories like the case of Ian Tomlinson do not help our cause.




Side-note: sawn-off shotguns do not "spray out" pellets until the shot has gone 15-20 metres, due to the velocity with which it leaves the barrel. In fact the spread is barely any different to a non-sawn-off one.

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14 Comments:

OpenID allcoppedout said...

I'm with what you say here, except that much more needs to be done and seen to be done about rotten cops. The IPCC is useless and should just be scrapped. A national PSD with a non-government appointed civilian (elected) ombudsman could do discipline and improvement work in place of loads of other silly bureaucracy.

I lied for a mate who head-butted a MOP in bringing a disturbance to an end, but regard Harwood as a pathetic coward and thug. If things were going OK, cops would be much less resistant to civilian supervision.

26 July, 2010 05:03

 
Anonymous DJF said...

You write:

"We need to see concrete examples of the IPCC, CPS and senior officers backing those who act in good faith, supporting those who make mistakes, and accepting that you cannot prevent all annoyances nor all tragedies without unacceptable impingements on the liberty of the wider public."

How or why should the IPCC or the CPS "back those who act in good faith" or "support those who make mistakes"?

I'm not saying officers "who act in good faith" or "make mistakes" should be hung out to dry.

I'm just saying that the CPS and IPCC have no role whatsoever as police cheerleaders.

Public confidence in the integrity of the criminal jusice apparatus is at rock bottom. The CPS has just refused charge in case that should have proceeded to Court. A police officer was filmed demonstrably conducting himself in a criminal fashion and due to ineptness on the part of the CPS(and, in my view, incorrect interpretations of the law by the DPP) charges have not ensued.

To suggest the IPCC or CPS should adopt an actively partisan line is incredible.

26 July, 2010 09:45

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

DJF, actually that's not quite correct. The CPS in particular has a role in decided cases that are in the public interest. Moreover the matter of "criminal intent" is vital to most prosecutions and it would be nice to see the CPS applying the same standard to police officers (obviously taking into account their role, experience, professionalism etc).

The IPCC likewise has a duty to weed out and help prosecute corrupt, violent and negligent cops. If they are indiscriminate in who they prosecute, they are not doing their own cause any good.

In actual fact, in any prosecution, the party that is meant to be least "partisan" is the police, who should gather evidence on both sides.

26 July, 2010 10:54

 
Anonymous DJF said...

Bloggs, police officers are afforded much greater scope for using force than civilians. Looking at the Tomlinson case, though, it's obvious that the officer went beyond the boundaries of what was acceptable.

He struck a member of the public who:

i) was not acting in a provocative or confrontational way,
ii) in the back,
iii) as he walked away,
iv) with his hands in his pockets,
v) who was clearly disorientated.

Ok. So the officer was pumped up. He found himself caught up in a fast moving, potentially confrontational situation. That might be mitigation. Not a defence. And certainly not a reason to refuse charge.

Had Tomlinson been holding a weapon, gesticulating, being abusive or conducting himself in some way that warranted force then the officer's conduct would not (necessarily) be criminal.

This case was about as clean cut as it gets though.

I agree, there are circumstances where the CPS apply the public interest test and don't pursue charges. But that's still by and large an objective test and usually pragmatic (e.g. TICs). My concern with your post is the notion of the CPS or IPCC "backing" officers.

26 July, 2010 12:18

 
Anonymous Bill said...

further to the side note:
With a shotgun, sawn off or not, the shot will act as a solid mass for the first 10 feet or so, as quite often it is retained within the "wad" ,now nearly always a plastic moulding, until the wad looses its mometum & falls away.

26 July, 2010 13:44

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Perhaps it was a poor choice of words, but it very often is a case of the CPS/IPCC deciding who they believe, which is the same thing as siding with someone. Law revolves around the idea of what a "reasonable person" thinks.

Re Tomlinson, the reason not to charge was that they were out of time for Common Assault and could not prove any more serious offence. Simple as.

26 July, 2010 17:48

 
Blogger blueknight said...

DJF
Just credit where credit is due. No one is asking for cheer leading, but when it is appropriate the IPCC should make on a statement that exonerates the Officer and explains why no discipline or other offence has been committed.
Most of the public have not been in a riot or even a bar fight and they do not understand how the force continuum works in practice.

26 July, 2010 21:10

 
Anonymous DJF said...

...Misconduct in Public Office. The DPP's advice on why this wasn't charged is manifest nonsense.

27 July, 2010 12:54

 
Blogger Little Duck said...

To be perfectly, honestly brutal:
If the Tomlinson case/concept is applied to any other working organisation such as... Social services, or a school, the unprovoked attack would certainly not be tolerated. As the daguther of a teacher in a senior position, I know very well the nature of incidents that occur within schools and how they are dealt with. Even in the case of Peter Harvey, all I can say is that at least the attack was (more or less) provoked!
When I refuse to cooperate with the police force, it is due to a lack of trust on the basis that police are above the law. The kind of thing would never be tolerated anywhere else, except in medical profession I suppose. (It certainly isn't a one-off; who was held account for the arrest of Colin Stagg while a murderer was free to rape and murder a four year-old girl?)

27 July, 2010 15:25

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DJF,
Manifest nonsense?
Please expand.

Tang0

28 July, 2010 15:02

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All true Ducky...

BTW, you do know that the real world we live in (not CSI Miami) the cops are real people that make mistakes?

You do know that don't you?

That the Police, like other public servants, make mistakes and are not perfect?

I am not sure how long I can do this fcuking job any more with people like ducky's opinion of us...

20-years... I would rather be a bin man now...

28 July, 2010 20:48

 
Anonymous DJF said...

Hi Tang0

From the advice:

"The offence of misconduct in public office cannot simply be used as a substitute for other offences and simply being a police officer who commits a criminal offence, even one of assault, does not, without some other aggravating factor, automatically amount to the offence of misconduct in public office. Mr Tomlinson's death would be an aggravating feature, but for the reasons already stated, the prosecution cannot prove a causal link between the alleged assault and the death to the criminal standard."

That just isn't right!

There is no such test as "assault plus aggravating feature equals misconduct" and there's definitely no need whatsoever for the Crown to prove a causal link between the Officer's conduct or the harm suffered by Mr Tomlinson.

Take by way of example:

http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1204636_jail_for_pc_who_assaulted_teen

You'll notice some similiarities with the Tomlinson case:

1) In both instances CCTV footage forms a main element of the Prosecution evidence,
2) In both cases the aggrieved party did not assist the Prosecution (in the one I've linked to the AP was unwilling to attend Court),
3) No medical evidence could be called in the case I have highlighted due to the unwillingness of the injured party to assist the Prosecution.

The CPS says a misconduct charge cannot be brought simply in substitution of an assault charge or to overcome problems in the evidence.

Ok. Arguably. But my argument is that the charge would actually better reflect the conduct than an assault charge would. Misconduct in Public Office would be my preferred charge.

The CPS says that there would need to be "aggravating features" (...whatever that means...)to warrant a misconduct charge (..I presume it means features that would make a Misconduct charge more appropriate than a "mere" asault charge...). Hmmm, how about:

i) evidence to indicate the officer's number was concealed,
ii) the officer did not come forward after the death of Mr Tomlinson until the footage was uncovered - a week after the death,
iii) aggravating features of the assault itself - i.e. injured party facing away, hands in pocket, looking disorientated and causing no provocation.

You might conclude a jury would still acquit. Maybe you're right. I don't know. I still think the charging standard has been met, though.

One thing's for sure...the bit in Starmer's advice about needing to prove the cause of the injury to prove the offence is absolute ballards!

I guarantee if you were prosecuting this case you could open it to a jury without seeking to rely on medical evidence.

The trial judge could issue a direction to the jury as part of his summing up, directing them not to speculate as to the impact the blow had upon Mr Tomlinson.

29 July, 2010 15:28

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone see the piece in The Times Wed July 28th?
"MET CHIEF IS 'OUTRAGED' THAT G20 OFFICER FILMED HITTING MAN WILL NOT BE CHARGED"?
Then next to it a piece entitled
"PIGS HAVE FEELINGS TOO"
Wonderful. Give that type setter a huge pay increase. HA.

29 July, 2010 16:35

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DJF,
Not sure what authorities you would cite to back up your claim “That just isn’t right”
The CPS charging guidelines are taken from (amongst others) the two cases below.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2004/868.html
The elements of the offence of misconduct in a public office are:
1. A public officer acting as such (paragraph 54).
2. Wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself (paragraphs 28, 30, 45 and 55).
3. To such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder (paragraphs 46 and 56 to 59).
4. Without reasonable excuse or justification (paragraph 60).

There must be a breach of duty by the officer, [which is wilful and which is such that the conduct is] an affront to the standing of the public office held. The threshold is a high one requiring conduct so far below acceptable standards as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder" (Para 56).


http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKHL/2000/33.html
The Three Rivers case :
Lord Millet : It is important to bear in mind that excess of power is not the same as abuse of power. Nor is breach of duty the same as abuse of power.

The case you link to in The Manchester Evening News referred to an assault in custody on detained prisoners.
Though there are similarities - CCTV, A/P who does not wish to assist, no medical evidence – there were relevant aggravating factors – most importantly the a/p was in custody and therefore owed a duty of care by the police

The aggravating factors you mention – concealing numbers is the only one with any relevance to the offence of misconduct, and that would tend to be undermined by the fact that the officer did come forward.
Point 2 the delay in the officer coming forward – He came forward the day after the footage was published. It is entirely arguable that this was the first time he realised that he had had contact with Tomlinson.
Point 3- Is not aggravating in relation to misconduct – though I suspect it is relevant to the CPS decision on the “unlawful” nature of the assault.

A more comparable case would be the alleged assault on the soldier in Wigan,

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/8136745.stm

As with Tomlinson – the offences charged were assault, with an additional charge of conspiracy to pervert/ perjury in relation to the soldiers trial. Misconduct was not an appropriate charge in this case either, as I understand it - the assault not falling into that category and the administration of justice offences providing suitable sentencing powers (as per CPS guidelines)

Tang0

01 August, 2010 15:10

 

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