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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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mad McCombe McMad

When Liberty is on the same side of the argument as the police, you know the judge has got it wrong.

The after-shocks of the McCombe Madness are continuing in Blandshire.  Every day further instructions are being emailed forth to try and explain what action we should now take in relation to the hundreds of people on police bail pending further investigation.  Now it appears that emergency legislation will be introduced before there is time to appeal Justice McCombe's lunatic decision on bail.  Which only goes to show that my advice to my officers has been sound: bail everyone for at least six weeks because within that time the decision will have been overturned and we can carry on as normal.

This story has been covered in the mainstream media, but it's unlikely that the wider public really understand the problem unless they take the time to read up on the law.  If a High Court judge, conversant in criminal law and the workings of the police, has no idea how an investigation works, how can the public?

But regardless of that, if you asked any right-thinking passer-by whether the 24-hour detention limit should apply only to the time actually spent detained, most of them would think it was a given.

Mr Justice McCombe, alone in a room on a bright May morning, felt differently.  And as a result of one man's moment of madness, police forces in England and Wales have been plunged into chaos.  If that isn't an argument to look closely at the Criminal Justice System, I don't know what is.





"Today, I plan to spend the morning making mincemeat of twenty-seven years of policing.  Then I might have a cup of tea."







Of course, there's one man in the middle of this storm who has not been named and shamed as far as I can find, who actually set the whole thing in motion: the clerk of the Manchester Magistrates Court that heard the case in the first place.  Somebody take that man outside and shake him.


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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Clear? Then Read It Again

If anyone wants a summary of how screwed up the Criminal Justice System is in this country, go to three different neighbouring police forces and ask them how they plan to implement the recent High Court ruling by Justice McCoombe, the story to be found here

Without boring my non-police readers, from time to time an important legal precedent is set in a High Court or above, and it becomes binding on all future cases.  In this case, the judge has overturned an interpretation of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act that has been in place since 1984 with no quibbles.  The decision could potentially transform the way the police have to deal with suspects who need to be bailed for further enquiries.

That in itself is one issue, and there's an informative debate on the repercussions on Inspector Gadget's blog.

What I find far more fascinating is that Blandshire has taken a totally different stance to other forces around it, and to Gadget's Ruralshire.  While Ruralshire has decided to wait and see what an appeal or emergency legislation might bring, Blandshire's legal department have told us to immediately implement the change, even though they don't quite understand what the change is or how it should be actioned.  

If the thought of police forces next door to each other taking such a radically different approach is mind-boggling, I booked a prisoner in last night and the custody sergeant  on the back desk hadn't yet logged into his email, and was unaware of any change at all.  Whereas the one at the front was already actioning it.

This inability to swiftly act on vital legal information is not new.  When our powers of arrest were totally overhauled in 2005, most of us were lucky if we got the link to the online training package, let alone any face-to-face input on our new powers.

To make matters worse, senior officers in Blandshire aren't even consistent in what they think the new precedent applies to: whilst the case in question clearly relates to those who are detained under a warrant of further detention issued by a court, our legal department has decided it applies to all prisoners.

Not only that, but the decision was actually made on 19th May 2011, but it's only this week that we're talking about it.  Members of the shift were most perturbed, on reporting for duty, to find that the PACE clock of people they bailed a couple of weeks ago has now run out, and it is now questionable whether they can be detained when they answer bail, whether for reinterview, charge, or re-bail.

Happy days if you are one of the numerous criminals whose general approach to custody in any case is to cooperate in no way with any aspect of the Criminal Justice process: you will now be rewarded by being released from your bail.  Unless you are arrested in Ruralshire, in which case you can look forwards to putting in your claim for compensation if the decision is upheld on appeal.

Our force strap-line may have to change from "Blandshire Constabulary - Keeping Communities Safe Whilst Observing Human Rights and Health and Safety", to "Blandshire Constabulary - We're a Bit Confused".

Watch this space.

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

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Real Victim
















Mr "Loophole" Nick Freeman did not say that women who dress provocatively deserve to be raped.  This is, of course, how he has been quoted, after saying that racy garments somehow victimise men.

The fact that Nick Freeman feels victimised by women in skimpy apparel tells you more about Mr Freeman than it does about women, or men.  It tells you nothing whatsoever about rape.

What it does tell you is that you can't win.  Feminist commentators have erupted in fury at the suggestion that it might be a woman's fault if a man thinks she wants sex when she doesn't.  But would they be any happier about the honest take on rape: that many of the victims I have dealt with are so unappealing that you wonder why anyone would even want to have consensual sex with them if it were on offer?

This doesn't include those attacked out running, walking the dog, in their own home, etc.  But it does cover a massive proportion of rape victims, who may suffer with learning difficulties, alcoholism, low self-esteem, repetitive domestic violence and the like.  These women are not dressed provocatively, and their circumstances lead to a demeanour that the majority of right-thinking men are not attracted to.  I am not saying that these women bring rape on them in some way.  But it's a fact that predatory men will seek out vulnerable women, and the resulting abuse is not something that most of society ever have to worry about.

Of course there are cases of "date rape", where the girl may well be dressed to the nines, leading to suspicion that she wanted to attract a bloke.  Whether she wanted the bloke she ended up attracting is another matter.  And in actual cases, the issue of consent rarely comes down to clothing nowadays: despite repeated articles suggesting it, juries are not usually convinced by an argument that sexy clothing plus going home with someone equals consent.  Of course they are contributing factors to the overall story, but are separate from the very thorny issue of the act itself.  A case this week is a prime example, where the girl went to a hotel room and possibly into a bed with her attacker, but he was still found guilty of rape by a jury. 

Cases like this one rarely make it to court - not because they don't happen, but because they lack the kind of evidence required to make a decision either way.  And yet date rapes often involve the more "useable" profile of victim, who when sober is a student, or in employment, and has a network of friends and family supporting them.  What hope is there for the more common profile: the inarticulate, substance-abusing or mentally ill wreck, who has been abandoned by friends, family and society, and is at the whim of whichever violent predator she stumbles across next?

By all means, be outraged by Loophole Nick's injudicious comments.  But don't think it scratches the surface of the issues the police face in trying to bring rapists to justice. 

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

Friday, June 10, 2011

Shock: they were known to the police.

Whatever happened to the lawsuit threatened against Greater Manchester Police and the Crown Proseuction Service, following the tragic murder of Sabina Akhtar in 2008?

For those who don't remember, Sabina was stabbed to death days after the CPS decided to drop a case against her husband - it is unclear what offence was being considered but it followed a catalogue of violence and threats.  Despite the CPS apology, the charity Refuge has gone awfully quiet after their public denunciation of the police and prosecution service.

Believe it or not, it is highly unusual for someone to suddenly awake one day and decide to murder their partner.  Most humans possess the ability to weather divorce, financial hardship, infidelity and loss of custody without becoming hammer-wielding maniacs.  When a murder occurs, therefore, there are really only two explanations:
  1. The perpetrator was afflicted with a mental malady so sudden and overwhelming that s/he genuinely and truly was not in control of his/her actions.  In rare cases, this could be a one off, more normally the person is incurably ill and ends up here afterwards. 
  2. The killer is a violent bastard who has always functioned with the belief that his/her partner/family either remains with him and under his control, or dies.  The murder is either the result of a routine beating gone wrong, or a reaction to the victim leaving.
In the case of no.2 above, which describes the majority of domestic murders, people are still surprised/shocked to hear that the couple Were Known To The Police already.  The concept that a violent and cruel thug might have come to police attention before the day he accidentally/deliberately took his violence to the next level appears hard to grasp.

As a police officer regularly attending reports of domestic violence, and now even more regularly signing off reports by officers who have attended them, confirming that I agree with their actions, the burden is heavy.  I suppose I must have good instincts: none of the hundreds of domestic incidents I have written off as "low" risk have resulted in a murder.  Or would it be more accurate to say that of the hundreds of thousands of domestic incidents occurring nationwide, the proportion resulting in murder is microscopic?  And that none of the domestic incidents I have written off have resulted in a murder - Yet.

I hope that Refuge has decided against its lawsuit for Sabina Akhtar.  Those who batter their other halves will not be quaking in their boots at the thought of a Health and Safety tribunal against their local force. Domestic violence will not be stopped by extending the risk assessment by another two pages, nor by disciplining officers who were unaware that in two years' time the woman screaming at them to get out of her house is going to end up dead.
 
Instead, victims' memories would be better served by Refuge's continuing campaign to offer safe haven to those who flee abuse, working with the police to develop better and more efficient ways of prosecuting when victims do cooperate, and educating the wider public to take some responsibility for what is going on around them, in their streets, in their homes.

Perhaps Refuge could use the money set aside to sue GMP, to visit the neighbours of Christine Chambers in Essex and ask them: if they knew, as was shouted at the police outside her door, that Christine and her toddler were going to meet such a gruesome end, what exactly did THEY do to try and prevent it?

I don't like the term Big Society.  But if were're going to use it, let's do so properly.





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

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Four Blog Readers

Good afternoon, you are through to PC Bloggs' blog.  I'm sorry she can't be available right now, please select from one of the following options.
If you would like to hold a constructive debate about current political hot topics, including crime and criminal justice, press here.

If you would like to know the inside scoop on just how corrupt the police senior management is, press here.

If you would like to make sweeping statements about how useless the police are, and how many times you have been burgled, please press here.

If you are suffering from police harassment, have never done anything wrong and find that the police always take your ex's side, please try here.

If your enquiry relates to something else, please call back later: PC Bloggs will be back soon.

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

 

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