This is the official blog of Sgt Ellie Bloggs, a real live police sergeant on the front line of England. It's not the official opinion of my police force, but 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 pay my salary.


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Friday, May 27, 2011

One Rule For Them

Believe it or not, the Director of Public Prosecutions did not read my post about the double standards and disproportionate use of public resources when it suits those in power.  And so PC Simon Harwood faces charged for manslaughter.

In Blandmore, if the custody sergeant is overheard in conversation using the word 'caution' in the hearing of the solicitor for someone arrested for theft, assault or criminal damage, and later on that person is charged with one such offence, the case will be binned by our Criminal Justice Inspector as an "abuse of process".  The detainee was led to believe he would be cautioned, therefore you cannot later charge.  If the guy who beat his partner senseless on a Friday night is released without charge on Saturday because she doesn't support a prosecution, he cannot be rearrested or prosecuted without new evidence or information coming to light: again, abuse of process.

PC Simon Harwood was told in the national media that he would face no charges over Ian Tomlinson's death.  Whilst it was concluded he DID assault Mr Tomlinson, the prosecutor felt that the chain of cause and effect was not made out, and that a common assault charge was out of time under statute.  The only new evidence that has come to light since is that a lot of people aren't very happy with this decision.  So now, just two years and two months after the original incident, PC Harwood will face trial. In another year or so.

If that's a basis for justice in any country, it's time to take a long, hard look at the system.

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19 Comments:

Anonymous uniform said...

nob on Blogster

what a , (c)(u) next Thursday, the stupidly named ,Keir Starmer is , sounds like an early socialistmentalist.

Please please Wiggy throw it out dead early just to piss off the great unclean

How can Starmer seriously hold on to his professional dignity knowing he is the plaything of the mob ?

27 May, 2011 21:13

 
Anonymous A Polis Man said...

Having read prisoners comment three times I think I agree with him!

Spot on post, how the AG can even think he has some credibility left is beyond a joke/milestone

27 May, 2011 21:26

 
Blogger Lex Ferenda said...

Don't agree with you on this one Ellie. As you point out, criminals are escaping justice all the time on 'abuse of process.'
Usually, this is complete bunkum and the offender should go to court but gets away with it.
We criticise this process and so we now cannot complain because it is not applied to one of our own.
Secondly, Starmer has decided that significant new evidence was available in terms of medical evidence that was clarified at the inquest. I agree this was a pretty naff excuse and he should have clarified the medical evidence before the original decision.
Thirdly, as you know, police officers will always be treated differently by the justice system and will face charges when a member of the public would not.
Personally, rather than have the leftie 'police state' 'police brutality' tossers forever bleating about it, I would rather this matter went to trial.

27 May, 2011 22:01

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it's right to say that a decision not to charge cannot be reversed without it being an abuse of process - every CPS no further action letter I've ever seen includes the disclaimer that the decision is not binding.

It's also pretty disingenuous to say that no new evidence emerged during the inquest. Patel was grilled at the inquest in a way that he could have never been in a criminal court (because the prosecution would have had to call him as a witness to the primary facts and the court would not have allowed them to treat him as hostile).

The idea that Harwood is the victim of an injustice is ridiculous. He's a thug and there is no excuse for how he behaved.

28 May, 2011 10:04

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Covering for rogue police puts all police at risk. It is not worth it.

28 May, 2011 10:07

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Lex Ferenda, I don't think it is wrong that the prosecution have to have a fair and efficient system to get people before a court. You make an assumption that the police complain about that, but on this specific issue it's long been accepted that you cannot re-arrest someone without fresh evidence, and cannot charge once you've NFA'd it. All people deserve to know whether they are going to be prosecuted, whether police officers, hardened criminals, or innocent parties ignorant of the Criminal Justice System.

And nothing new came out of the inquest - the medical evidence existed before and could/should have been clarified. New evidence would be something like a new witness coming forwards, previously unseen video footage, or advances in forensic techniques that weren't available before. Just getting more detail on previous evidence does not satisfy the definition.

28 May, 2011 10:36

 
Anonymous PJW said...

In fact there was fresh medical evidence presented to the inquest by Professor Kevin Channer, a heart expert who contradicted the theory that Mr Tomlinson died of a heart attack. This is what has paved the way for a prosecution
Besides, I couldn't care less if Harwood is the victim of an abuse of process. Looking at his track record this guy is a thug who has hidden behind and abused the system for years. Eg Harwood faced two misconduct hearings in the late 1990s and in 2004. The first arose out of a road-rage incident during which he reportedly assaulted the other driver. Before the case was heard, Harwood retired from the Met on medical grounds and was awarded a pension. Three days later, he rejoined the Met as a civilian computer worker. During his time in Surrey, there was a complaint about his behaviour while on duty; it was investigated and found to be unsubstantiated. After working there for 18 months, he applied for a transfer back to the Met as a police officer, and was accepted in November 2004. Also, it doesnt do very much for the credibility of the police that his collegues lied in their initial statements by claiming that they attempted to administer first aid to Mr Tomlinson but came under attack from the crowd. Video footage proves they stood by and did nothing, nor were they under attack. Who cares if he feels that he's been unfairly treated by the the system, what goes around comes around. Reading "uniform said"s comments it sounds as though your in the same public hating, we can do as we like cos we're coppers, ignorant, pig - headed camp as most of your collegues accross the country who turn into frustrated, spoilt pre-madonnas when held to account. You refer to the public as the unwashed, when will you learn that your not the masters of society and police officers can be account just like any member of the public. An example should be made of Harwood and his TSG collegues whose behaviour often borders on the criminal.

28 May, 2011 10:59

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the above. You are also subject to the law and many Police blog comments recently show a disturbing contempt for the public and arrogance. A lot [by no means all] of the poor image of the Police service is self-inflicted, due to lack of leadership [chronic] and lack of discipline.

28 May, 2011 12:03

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

If you are happy for prosecutions to take place following a serious abuse of process, just because the defendant is a police officer, then don't complain when the same standard is applied to members of the public in future cases. PC Harwood was already due to face misconduct proceedings which would ruin his life, so he was not being let off.

But fair processes are important, as long as the points being used are not loopholes or legal nitpicking. In this case it is a serious and important issue as to whether you can continually re-hash old cases and drag people back into court after the case has been closed. The medical evidence presented at the inquest WAS available to the DPP prior to that.

28 May, 2011 12:47

 
Blogger Lex Ferenda said...

I understand your point of principle here Ellie but I do think that the medical evidence presented at the inquest was significant. Patel was pretty well discredited and death by natural causes possibly ruled out beyond reasonable doubt. The decision of the jury that Tomlinson was unlawfully killed made it inevitable that the decision to prosecute would be reviewed.
I understand that it is unprecedented for the DPP to overturn the decision not to prosecute in these circumstances. I do hope that this means less abuse of process cases in the future and more suspects in Court.
I don't think we do ourselves any favours trying to absolve PC Harwood on technicalities. I still think it should go to trial and all parties accept the result.

28 May, 2011 14:13

 
Anonymous PJW said...

Bloggs, in any profession, someone losing their job as a result of disciplinary proceedings should never mean that they can forfeit a prosecution if it is believed that they have committed a criminal act. Especially if a death is involved. Maybe, if in the future any sentence is passed, then the judge could take the result of any disciplinary into account when passing sentence. If I was to assault someone at work I would loose my job and the victim would probably still press charges. Ian Tomlinson isn't here to press charges so the state has to act for him.

28 May, 2011 15:31

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But despite this, I still maintain you are a brilliant and perceptive woman.

28 May, 2011 21:43

 
Blogger StumpedMolar said...

Hi there,

I think you're off the mark on this one, PC Bloggs.

Firstly, I don't think the caution analogy helps. If a police officer dangles the promise of a caution as an inducement to have someone admit something (or offers an FPN and tells the detainee they will avoid anything showing on their record) then in all likelihood there would (could?) be an abuse of process if a Prosecution ensued...

...But no inducements were offered to PC Harwood and there is no suggestion he made inculpatory comments off the back of any such inducements.

So... if there is an abuse of process in this instance it's of a different type to the example you give... as Harwood hasn't acted to his detriment and in reliance on anything "the state" has said.

In this instance the ECG expert, the liver expert, the second pathologist all gave testimony at the inquest that undermined Freddy Patel's account...

Significantly, the cardiologist's evidence had not previously been bottomed out by the Crown. I suppose you could be a little bit critical of the CPS because it looks as if they'd not considered that angle... Even so, it's still "new evidence"... just because it took privately instructed solicitors (rather than the state) to pursue that line of inquiry, it doesn't alter the fact!

...It does dramatically (perhaps fatally?) undermine Freddy Patel's "heart attack" theory.

Why do you think there has been an abuse of process?

29 May, 2011 12:36

 
Anonymous NottsSarge said...

There would have been no abuse of process if this matter had been dealt with properly at the outset. The initial NFA-ing, based in part on the flawed medical evidence, was that the only offence Harwood may have committed was common assault, which was out of time at the point the DPP had reached his conclusion. Rubbish, the bruising from the baton strike was documented from the outset so ABH is made out.

I cringe when these sorts of things happen because it lends weight to the argument that there really is 'one rule for them...'. The verdict of unlawful killing was unsurprising, whether Harwood will be convicted in a criminal case with a higher burden of proof remains to be seen. The u-turn on prosecution is damaging to the DPP, CPS, the Met (and by extension all other forces) and to what little faith the public may have in the legal system. The verdict will be irrelevant, the damage has already been done

30 May, 2011 11:46

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

New evidence categorically is evidence that was not known about before. It's not just getting more detail and "bottoming out" evidence that already existed. That's kind of the point, to do a full and thorough investigation at the time. If a witness turned around at the inquest and gave totally new evidence that might justify reopening it, but only if it were corroborated somehow as by then that witness' evidence would be so tainted it could hardly be considered at all.

30 May, 2011 19:24

 
Blogger StumpedMolar said...

Hmmm,"bottomed out" was a euphemism to be honest. I used it as I don't want to come across as though I'm "bashing" the CPS.

To be clear, what happened (and what Keir Starmer hasn't exactly come clean about)is that the Crown didn't instruct a cardiologist to consider the ECG data. It was the representatives of the Tomlinson family that had the presence of mind to do that.

... And at the inquest the cardiologist gave expert testimony, saying that, in his view, Mr Tomlinson could not have died of a heart attack (as Freddy Patel originally concluded).

I'm sure you'll agree this was totally "new evidence" of a kind that the Crown had not considered before.

Remember - Prior to the inquest the Crown carried out postmortems to try to establish whether or not Mr Tomlinson could have died as a result of the blow he received... But it was only the Tomlinson family representatives (and let's be fair... they were on the ball to think of it...) who inverted the question - i.e. "If we can't prove Mr Tomlinson DID die from being struck, can we prove he DIDN'T die of a heart attack?"

They adduced compelling (and crucially - wholly new) evidence that may prove he didn't.

The CPS had to act on this, I think, though it's maybe galling and unfortunate for everyone involved (PC Harwood and the Tomlinson family alike) that they didn't think to do the leg work themselves.

So... No double standards... no abuse of process... Not even caving in to public pressure. After all, the less professionally embarrassing thing for Starmer to have done would have been to maintain the "refuse charge" stance, as nottssarge says, the u-turn IS "damaging" to the CPS's credibility... But it was untenable.

It's a messy decision but it's emphatically the most just one.

31 May, 2011 13:44

 
Anonymous painauchocolat said...

Mmmmm, it's a messy situation and I'm sure there are politics involved.

I just hope that - whatever the outcome - front-line police officers are not over-restricted in their use of force when dealing with potentially volatile situations.

And also that front-line officers are not "scared off" from using force (when appropriate) due to being frightened of being hauled up on a manslaughter charge. That might cripple the police's effectiveness and - ironically - result in more crime.

Personally I don't think he will be found guilty.

01 June, 2011 13:32

 
Anonymous Mooman said...

There are often double standards applied to police officers by the CJS .Sending officers to prison for minor first time offences and disgustingly lesser sentencing for offences committed against officers.

However I dont think this is one. The potential for abuse of process will have been considered but given the seriousness of the allegations provided the evidence justifies it, then a prosecution should rightly go ahead. I have seen this happen on numerous occasions when suspects have been told NFA then the victim has complained to CPS and the reviewing lawyer has charged. Usually results in an Abuse hearing prior to trial.

05 June, 2011 08:53

 
Blogger Bagpuss said...

I agree that there is no abuse of process becasue there was new evidence in the cardiologists report.

In terms of whether police are treated differently to other offenders, I think this is difficult to quantify - in a lot of cases there will be elements of misconduct in public office or breach of trust involved, which are legitimate aggravating factors which justify a more severe sentance than for similar offences where those aggravating features are not present.

I do agree that assaults on Police and other emergency workers (ambulance staff in aprticular) are often not treated with the rigor that they should be.

I also think that the big problem with the Tomlinson/Harcourt case is the lack of proper investigation by police and CPS at the outset.

09 June, 2011 10:54

 

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