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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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Everything that can be counted

If I were a government minister whose job it was to set the culture and tone of a fundamental public service like the police, I'd like to think that when I announced something, the leaders of that public service listened.

I'd like to think that if I told them to scrap a worthless gimmick, ditch time-consuming performance indicators, and abandon bureaucracy, I'd feel pretty humiliated if I found out that every Chief Constable in the United Kingdom had totally ignored what I asked.  I might actually prefer not to know, so that I could go on blithely proclaiming new measures to be similarly ignored in favour of sticking to the old performance and blame culture.

Fortunately, Our Lady of Police has a better grip on ACPO than that.  Luckily, she's able to stand up to the throngs of self-serving chief officers mindlessly pushing through their vision for a new police force with themselves squarely at the centre of it.

Which is why, in Blandshire Constabulary, we no longer have targets for crime detection or reduction - as long as each area does better than the area next door, nothing will be measured at all.  We are daily introducing extensive policy documents to get rid of bureaucratic processes foisted on us by the last government.  And every other week I receive a three-line email telling me to stop doing things that I had eight hours' training and daily emails telling me how to do for the last two years.

I'd like to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with Theresa May.  Specifically, I'd have just one question for her:  It just so happens that we're not detecting too many assaults right now, whereas burglary we're way up on last year.  Funnily enough, this morning I had to ring up three burglary victims and tell them I had no officers to send them because all my staff were dealing with petty assaults and squabbles between family members and schoolchildren.

My question to the Home Secretary: Coincidence?





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

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

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Myth Perpetuates

For some reason otherwise intelligent and sensible people turn into ranting lunatics as soon as the word Rape is mentioned.  Politicians start blithering, feminists start burning things, and police officers make fools of themselves.

Here are some phrases I have never heard on walking into CID:
  • "You know, most burglaries are a load of rubbish.  They just never happened at all."  
  • "Real street robbery is so rare - most of the time the victims just regretted walking down that dark alley." 
  • "What a waste of time investigating any stabbing, they always withdraw their complaints in the morning."
I live in the real world, and blog about it. 90% of the people who use up 90% of the police's time are benefit-claiming, unemployed, binge-drinking, drug-using or simply criminal.  Tax-paying, law-abiding, hard-working folk have very little contact with us, and when they do they often apologise for bothering us with their problems.

Every day, false reports of burglary, robbery and assault are made, and withdrawn.  Motives range from insurance claims to domestic revenge, to drunken confusion or mental vulnerability.    Even taking all this into account, the best estimates are that 3-4% of reported crime is attributable to false allegation.  There will be another few percent that are suspected false but cannot be proven either way.  The police spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with this tiny percentage of false claims because the type of people who make them are the type of people we spend most of our time dealing with anyway.

We all know this.  And yet, for some reason, seasoned detectives and brand new probationers alike seem to think that rape is somehow different.  That "real" rape is so rare, and hidden, that you cannot expect to come across a proper example throughout your career.

There's also a lot of hysteria on the feminist side of the debate.  Phrases such as "rape is rape", "any woman can be raped", etc, are particularly unhelpful.  The refusal to acknowledge that most rape victims fall into certain categories (mentally ill, alcoholic, repeat victim) means that those categories are not educated and protected the way they should be.  It also means that the police take the flak when prosecutions fail, when the fact is that no case could possibly succeed when relying on the evidence of someone who is inarticulate, incoherent, incredible, or just plain unlikeable.  It doesn't mean they have lied, and indeed if you're going to rape someone they're a good choice, for all of the above reasons.   But to expect convictions in those cases is unreasonable.

Likewise the oft-quoted 5-6% conviction rate for rape is utterly misleading and unhelpful.  It includes every rape reported, which definition covers third party reports where the victim never wanted to involve the police at all.  It includes women who wake up drunk in a state of undress and call the police because they fear they may have been raped but aren't sure.  It includes the mentally ill, who report rape but aren't entirely sure what rape actually is.  There is no malice in these reports*, but only the occasional one reflects an actual rape and they will never result in convictions - nor should they - and they should not be held against the police or anyone else.  *(Yes, it also includes false allegations that cannot be disproved.)

Where can this debate go next?  Is it, as Inspector Gadget suggests, simply the fact that the media is not ready or able to have an intelligent conversation about it?  Can anything constructive come of it, when as soon as you dissent with the majority view, you are written off as hysterical?  Can the debate even take place, when the majority view is itself taboo?

All I know is, rape is real.  More common than murder, rarer than assault.  And controversial at its core: from the debate surrounding it, right down to the act itself.
    
On the plus side, here are some myths that are, categorically, untrue:
  • The police treat underage sex as rape.  In fact, reports of underage sex where both parties are under 18 will normally not even be crimed.  If they are, it will be "sexual activity with a child" (or words to that effect) and a prosecution will depend on the age difference, the vulnerability of the parties, and the views of the victim.
  • The police will not prosecute false accusations of rape for fear of putting off genuine victims.Where evidence exists that proves the allegation to be false, the police do prosecute.  They will not, however, prosecute women who report rape just because they withdraw the complaint, are inconsistent, or because the investigating officer has a personal opinion that it's a load of bollocks.
  • If you report rape, you'll be called a liar.  Despite all of the above, police forces are professional in dealing with rape and will investigate every report.  Yes, some officers may have their doubts, and may discuss it with their colleagues.  But all the enquiries that need to be done will be done, and attitudes are improving all the time.  If your rape can be proved by realistic means, it probably will be.
Next time: proof that there are indeed rapes and RAPES - the incomparable case of Bristol rapist Ross Parsons.

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

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shh - it's the R Word

Kenneth Clarke has become the latest politician to say something stupid about rape and is now experiencing the wrath of feminists everywhere.  As a massive proponent of improvements to rape investigation and prosecution, I am not so sure this is a sensible bandwagon - apart from for Ed Milliband, who probably needs to jump on any wagon passing at the moment.

Every crime in British statute has a list of "aggravating" and "mitigating" factors used by the judge for passing sentence.  This is because while law is black and white, real life is accepted to be scales of grey.  To suggest that rape is any different is nonsensical, not to mention unhelpful to judges.

Aggravating factors might be:
  • Group offence (gang rape).
  • High level of violence or threats.
  • Child present/nearby.
  • Element of trespass/burglary.
  • False imprisonment/repeated rapes.
Most rapes don't contain the above, hence why they are aggravating factors rather than just a common feture of the crime.  It's hard to think of any mitigating factors for rape, as with murder, but the limited mental capacity of the offender could perhaps be one.

So it is commonsense to suggest that rape is like other crimes, and varies in its degree.  Where feminist activists get into difficulties is in trying to put across that even those rapes that appear less violent/savage on the surface, can have just as profound an impact on the victim.  In the same way, a "minor" street robbery or burglary can traumatise a victim significantly, whilst someone who has been stabbed or beaten up might shake it off.  As a criminal, you are dicing with the mental health of your victim whatever crime you inflict on them, and the results are unpredictable.  How you take this into account when sentencing is tricky.

Kenneth Clarke is an intelligent man, and I think he understands the above.  However, I fear he has fallen into the date rape trap.  Just because a rape happens after the offender identifies his victim from among his drinking party, or within the nightclub, and sets in course a series of events that will result in him getting to have sex - with or without consent - does not make it a less serious example of rape.  It may in fact make him a predatory offender, repeating his crime week after week with no one ever reporting it due to what they see as their own "guilt" in allowing it to happen.  Equally, it may be a guy who went home with a girl fully expecting consensual sex, who makes an ill-judged and repellant decision to force her when she changes her mind.  Both are date rapes, but perhaps the premeditation and recidivist nature of the first offender merits a greater sentence.

As well as misunderstanding the nature of date rape, I think that Mr Clarke has also made the mistake that many judges in both rape and violence cases make: that along with the sentence, they are passing a judgment on whether the offence has actually occurred.  I recently sat in on an ABH trial where two defendants were found guilty, and the judge summed up saying, "I am willing to accept there was an element of self-defence, and that you may have thought he had a knife."  At which my jaw dropped, because this was the main feature of the defence and by finding the defendants guilty, clearly the jury had not been convinced.  Yet it seemed the judge had license to override that and sentence the men as if they were innocent.  

I see this in rape cases too, where having been found or pleaded guilty, the defence put forwards mitigation that "she gave confusing signals" or "they were drunk", and this is then used by the judge to reduce the sentence when those excuses have already been discounted by the jury.  In Kenneth Clarke's mind, date rapes are harder to prove and often have conflicting evidence.  He is muddling up the seriousness of a genuine case of rape, date or otherwise, with examples where rape cannot be proved.

We all know that Kenneth Clarke thinks prison is a waste of money.  And that he would (and will) happily see violent and predatory offenders for numerous crimes walk free from court with nothing but the terrifying prospect of "probation" hanging over them.  No doubt he feels the same way about rapists.  

But it is legitimate to state that rape, like all crime, comes in many forms, and that sentencing should reflect that.  To shut down the debate, and claim otherwise, does not advance the cause of justice.


 




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

Rape Crisis is a charity that provides support and information for rape victims, and assistance to Rape Crisis Centres across the UK. A proportion of proceeds from my book are donated to it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

None of Our Business

Breaking News - 18th May: "Wife says she took penalty points for husband." 
Is it just me, or is anyone else unimpressed at the ex-Mrs Huhne's announcement that she will testify in court that she did not commit the speeding offence in 2003?  She may well have done so, she may well have taped the minister making some kind of admission to it.  But if so, then he did not put pressure on a parliamentary aide, or abuse his position in some way, but approached his wife - who probably knew if would be her driving him around if he were banned - and they both agreed to the deception.  In which case, I expect to hear any day now of Vicky Pryce's arrest for conspiring to pervert the course of justice, as a co-suspect with her ex-husband.  As the officer taking her statement of confession, that would give me the greatest satisfaction as she signed on the dotted line.

I'm no fan of Chris Huhne.  In fact, I wouldn't know him if he came into Blandmore Police Station to report that his car had been stolen and someone else had been speeding in it without paying the congestion charge.

But I must say I am squarely on Mr Huhne's side when I read that Essex Police are considering investigating a claim that he asked someone else to take a speeding fine for him in 2003.  It appears that a "complaint" by a Labour MP has prompted this, despite the fact that Chris Huhne was banned from driving in 2003 as a result of "totting up", and therefore any such attempt by him to avoid said ban can be concluded a wholesome failure.

The last couple of weeks have seen a few police investigations dredged up from the slurry to be pored over under public scrutiny.  The Met are now going to try and find Madeleine McCann, and the CPS is considering - yet again - whether to prosecute PC Simon Harwood.

It's not that I want MPs to get away with perverting the course of justice, nor any officer to evade his comeuppance if he has abused his authority.  And anyone who doesn't want to find Maddie must have a heart of stone.  But I do question whether the police or Criminal Justice System should really function on the basis that if someone makes enough song and dance about something, it should immediately take centre stage and suck in a load of resources.

To my knowledge, David Cameron has not asked the police to launch a massive review into the disappearance of ten-year-old Iasmine Rostas, who went missing from her home in Barking in 2009.  She is just one of dozens of children who have never been found and are suspected to have come to harm.  Very few of them are blond, blue-eyed and the offspring of doctors, but they are all vulnerable young kids who have met uncertain fates.  Why should poor Madeleine be any different?  (Unless you count the political coup that would be achieved should she be found as a result.)

It is also a tenet of British justice that the system should be, above all, fair to those it seeks to try.  I have seen case after case dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service because of factors such as: 
  • The suspect was kept on bail for an extended period, because of police indecision or slow forensic examinations.
  • It was intimated to the suspect that he was eligible for a caution, but following admissions he was charged.
  • The case had been discontinued previously.
In many of these cases the suspect is almost certainly guilty, but the police must be held to account for slow or unfair processes: in other words, it's not right to mess people around.  Yet PC Simon Harwood still remains unclear about whether he will be prosecuted, despite the most public of decisions by the CPS that the case had been dropped.  In the world of ordinary people, and that of career criminals, once that decision is made the only thing that can reverse it is fresh evidence that was not available before nor known about. 

On occasion, vigorous campaigning by activists can bring to light an injustice or controversy that rightly deserves scrutiny.  Vigorous campaigning by jilted spouses or- dare I say it- grief-stricken relatives- is no basis for a police investigation.  Let alone a random complaint by an MP trying to oust a political rival.

The police and CJS in this country could not be subjected to more scrutiny.  They should trust in that scrutiny and stick to their guns when their processes are challenged.  With the greatest of respect, Essex Police need to tell MP Simon Danczuk, "Thanks for taking an interest, now sod off."  

In fact, if that phrase was used more often, up and down the country, when MPs and local Councillors decide to intervene in investigations that have nothing to do with them, we might achieve 20% budget cuts without any other action at all.

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I am not a crook. Unless you count gross misconduct. You do? Oh.

The Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police has had a final warning for trying to give his relatives a leg-up into the job.  After denying any wrongdoing for the best part of a year, Grahame Maxwell has suddenly realised that cheating his force's own phone system by making an outgoing call to get his cousin/child/auntie an application form was in fact immoral and therefore a discredit to his force.  

The cause of this eleventh hour epiphany?  Dare I suggest that the "cough" came when he was promised a final warning rather than the sack.  Along with the admission was a statement that "a very difficult week led to errors in judgment".  Good thing he isn't in an important job then, where he might have to make life and death decisions under pressure.


Maxwell and Briggs: Where did it all go wrong?
Perhaps when they wandered off the set of Dixon of Dock Green.



The situation of having a Chief Constable who has admitted to flagrant nepotism and spent six months trying to crawl out of the hole he'd dug himself is unusual, to say the least.  I wonder if the two members of police staff who were fired for similarly bypassing the recruitment process, will appeal against the different treatment they got to that meted out at the top.  




A baffled Mr Maxwell: "But I joined up to help people... no one told me I wasn't supposed to help my own family get a job."







Of course, the papers have missed the real scandal in all of this: that North Yorkshire Police aim to recruit the best candidates for their force by a race to the phones in a first-come first-served application form bonanza.


Then again, at least they still have application forms.  I believe Blandshire's planning to recruit next year's batch by throwing rugs over people's heads on the street and dragging them into a transit.  If you fight your way free without uttering any racist epithets, you're in.


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

Monday, May 09, 2011

Picture the Scene

Last night at work we received a call from a member of the public saying that two helicopters had flown over a neighbouring property and one of them had crashed nearby and then blown up.  Then twenty-four blokes abseiled onto the roof of the address and a few shots were heard inside.

In the control room, the tactical inspector asked for background checks on the caller, in particular any record of them on the mental health database.  Then intelligence checks on the address, only the caller wasn't sure exactly which house was targeted only that it had a big high wall around it and the family kept themselves to themselves.

After ten minutes, the inspector decided to get some Armed Response Vehicles into the area, but had them hold off a few miles away waiting for instructions.  When the second and third calls came in, reporting loud noises in the air and gunfire, the ARVs were told to wait while a local unit did a drive-by in a marked car to try and confirm the account.  From half a mile away, the neighbourhood beat officer reported seeing smoke and a military helicopter hovering over a property not far from the local army training school.

The ARVs were stood down and the control room got on the phone to the training school - no, they had no exercises running.  Next they phoned the army itself - no, they weren't aware of any drills or operations taking place in that area of Blandshire.  Finally the call went in to the SAS, who said they'd get back to us.  Half an hour had now passed.  

Some local units put on a wide containment around the area, waiting for instructions.  After a further fifteen minutes they reported seeing one helicopter lift off and fly away.  It didn't appear to be a British chopper either.

The SAS scrambled their own helicopters and fast response teams, getting them in the air within twenty minutes.  But they still arrived nearly two hours after the action from the nearest army base with that kind of emergency call-out capability.  At which point they were miffed to find people with gunshot wounds and the extended family of an internationally-renowned terrorist.

OK, this didn't happen in Blandshire.  But it's my best projection of how we might respond if it did.  And that's assuming anyone would dial 999 at all - I think most Britons would assume this kind of operation was ratified by the government.

Pakistan got its military teams to the site near Abbottabad within the hour, just missing the US Seals flying off with Osama bin Laden's body.  Pakistan is much bigger than Britain.

The options:
  1. Pakistan has action-ready SWAT teams all over the country, to deploy to such an incident at a moment's notice.
  2. The US phoned up as the mission started - though that would still make it a quick response.
  3. Pakistan knew of and approved the operation, but can't admit it for fear of civil unrest.  The charade being played out now in the media is just that, and it's the price America agreed to pay for getting OBL.
Thoughts?  Comments?  I know where my money is.

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

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Ding Dong

 Usama was buried at sea, for fear of his grave becoming a shrine.  The drop zone was just off the coast of Fukushima.

There are those who believe he secretly survived, and that this photograph was faked by the White House.






Believe it or not, Blandmore is a hotbed of terrorist activity.  Only the other day, a Chinese man was found taking photographs of Very Important House - the home of a celebrity unlucky enough to live within our police area.  Within minutes of the report coming in, the Metropolitan Police had appeared from nowhere.  It was the DPG, or RPG, or RGB, or something.  Whatever they were, they turned up in a plain car, armed to the teeth, and knew about the incident before we did - probably via the CCTV they have installed on every country lane in Britain.

Being a serious terrorist incident, I was immediately dispatched to the scene to act as Bronze Commander.  I don't think it's showing off to say that I did a superb job taking control.  Indeed not one car hit the back of the unmarked DOG vehicle while I directed traffic so the Met could bundle the fanatic inside.  Not one car actually passed our location at all, which only goes to show how effective my virtual cordon was.

At the time all this was going on, the only real threat posed to the residents of Blandmore was that of a royal stalker blowing himself up in front of The Crown public house.  Now that bin Laden is dead, I can only imagine the carnage being dreamt up on the other side of the world, designed to wreak havoc in our town.

In fact, it has become quite difficult to go about our daily work without stumbling across a potential terrorist plot.  Only this morning I saw a Muslim gentleman, pausing for a moment to lean on a litter bin with the hand not holding his walking stick.  No doubt checking out suitable targets for his improvised explosives.  At least, I am pretty sure he was Muslim: he had a beard.  Or some sort of skin condition.

It is now imperative that the government release more funds to assist us in fighting terrorism on our streets.  We also need to order some more of those red notices describing the risk level as Critical.  Yes, it's that bad.
 


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

 

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