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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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Yet another "bail murder"

 Murder victim: Steven Grisales

Yet again a teenager in breach of bail - this time a court curfew - has murdered someone for challenging their antisocial behaviour.  It appears not much has changed since Adam Swellings kicked a father of three to death on his doorstep in 2007. 

No doubt the police will be blamed for failing to arrest this latest teenager for removing his tag and breaching his curfew for three days prior to the killing.

In Blandshire, the contract for electronic tagging lies with a private company.  When a tagging order is given out in court, the company turns up at the offender's door - this might be several days after they are released from court. The offender must let them in and allow them to install the monitoring box and the tag on his/her leg, otherwise he is immediately in breach of the tag.  Once installed, if the tag is not registered near to the box during the hours of the person's curfew, a signal is sent to the company, who phone the monitoring box. If the offender does not pick up, a breach is recorded and sent to the police to action an arrest. (If he does pick up, the company will attend to check the equipment.)

So far, so infallible.  Unfortunately, the system is plagued with issues, some of them the direct consequence of this job being farmed out to a private company:
  • The company turns up to install the equipment, and finds the offender doesn't live there and never has.
  • The company turns up to find the offender's mother/significant other, does not want their address used for bail.
  • A breach is recorded, but on police attendance it turns out the offender is already in custody. The private company has not got the message.
  • A breach is recorded, but it turns out the court have changed the bail conditions and not informed the company yet (or at all).
The Police National Computer will often show different times of curfew or addresses to that held by these companies.  None of this helps when we are trying to bring offenders before the court for breaching their tag, and they come out with the excuse that "the address was wrong", "my conditions had been changed", "I'm allowed to leave home early on a Tuesday to go to work".

As a result, most breaches result in a reiteration of the curfew, not exactly a deterrent.  Sometimes the court will even take it on faith that the offender lives at a new address, and bail the person to that address without the most basic of checks to confirm it is valid.  The police then end up looking for a person in breach of curfew, with no idea where they actually live and therefore no starting point for their arrest.

I am in favour of tagging, particularly for juveniles, but find it an eternal frustration that the police end up running after their tails due to a botched system.  You can bet it won't be the courts, or the private company, held to account for the latest "murder on bail".

Until we arrive at the point where the information is timely and accurate, and the courts follow up with an instant prison sentence for each and every breach, murders like that of Steven Grisales will continue to happen.  And the police will no doubt continue to carry the can for them.

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


Anonymous Kevin Lohse said...

The ECHR has a lot to answer for - this case is another. Until theHuman Rights of the public are placed above the Human Rights of the criminal, such cases will continue to happen. Would not the simplest way of dealing with the possibility of a offence be to hold the alleged offender in police custody until the facts of the case are ascertained AND?OR issue the offender with a Tag License to be carried at all times, and kept up-to-date by the offender's probation office? I hasten to add that I'm not a member of the forces of right - but you probably guessed that already.

14 June, 2012 08:35

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There does seems to be an established and definite statistical correlation between knife crimes and the colour of the cowardly thugs who wield those weapons.

However,taking sensible action based on such statistics is invariably condemned as being racial harassment. Just how many more lives will be lost for the sake of that wimpish and wishy-washy political correctness?

14 June, 2012 13:12

Blogger Ron Broxted said...

Kevin knows sweet FA about ECHR, 4 years on and Marper still is not implemented. I am 50% in agreement with you on this Miss Bloggs, scumbag attacks some quiet kid and ought not to have been on the streets. Meanwhile plod spends 99% of its time chasing ecology activists. Get. It. Right.

14 June, 2012 19:33

Blogger jaded said...

99%?Another statistic plucked from the air with no basis in fact.
100% of all people called Rehill or Broxted are complete idiots.See,easily done.

14 June, 2012 21:53

Blogger Ron Broxted said...

100% of those called Jaded are (cont p.9) Tell Sgt Kevin Edney I said Hi;)

14 June, 2012 22:30

Anonymous Tagger - said...

I work for one of the two major 'tagging' companies. Obviously, these views are my own. I read the entire NAPO report today from their website and I'm genuinely shocked at the anecdotal, incorrect and unsubstantiated claims that have been made by probation officers from around the UK.

How the system works, fundamentally, isn't a complex system, as you explained quite well, however the nitty-gritty details when it comes to using it for evidence, the technical side of things causes problems from those who don't understand the system or fundamentals of house the systems work (such as Radio Frequency).

Any probation officer, any Police Officer that calls and asks for an explanation about what's happened, 99.9% of the time will get a clear and concise explanation. I will personally go to great lengths to make sure that the impacts, information and system is understood should I be asked. Much of the time, particularly with Probation/YOS, they don't have the time or effort to understand, to make a call and say "How does this work? He's got a metal bath, how will this affect what you're telling me? Will this affect anything?"

I also read today "He says he's in a low-signal area, this means the box isn't working", this is completely and utterly wrong, being in a low GSM area has absolutely no affect on an absence being recorded; but does anybody ask? Rarely. Nobody, at all, in either company wants to issue a false Section Nine statement, nobody wants to Breach people when there's even a slight chance of the equipment being faulty.

The issue isn't that the companies are negligent, it's that they're constrained by - 1. Understanding of the systems/technologies and 2. Requirements with the Ministry of Justice, who dictate what we do. Sometimes, we have to issue a Section Nine when we know they are already in custody because they are absent and the MoJ do not account for "common sense" approach when it comes to Enforcement.

14 June, 2012 23:33

Anonymous Tagger - said...

As far as your blog reads -

>The company turns up to install the equipment, and finds the offender doesn't live there and never has.
This information is provided by the court. The companies are legally and contractually obliged to ONLY attend addresses provided by the Court. This comes down to a Court failure, as they are not always able to confirm a persons address when they provide one in the court.

>The company turns up to find the offender's mother/significant other, does not want their address used for bail.

This is essentially a human rights issue. Nobody can be forced to be put on a tag and equipment cannot be put in a persons house whom does not consent. My friends go to those peoples houses, they are not the police, they do not want to be (or they used to be); they have no intention of ever restraining a person. In this case, even if you are in support of forcing people to be tagged, why punish a persons mother by removing her right to decide what goes in or out of her home?

>A breach is recorded, but on police attendance it turns out the offender is already in custody. The private company has not got the message.

The police and custody consistently fail to inform the tagging companies once an person has been arrested. This is not to discount those police that do inform us, because some do, however we can only act on information that has been provided to us from a credible source such as the police. If somebody's girlfriend says that they're in custody, we're not going to believe them (although it is cause to look into further) - because a lot of other things get said that aren't true either.

14 June, 2012 23:34

Anonymous Tagger - said...

The fact is, the people who work for these companies, the people on the ground, they do care and they do want to do what is fair and right. The private companies policies and processes are dictated by the Courts and MoJ and they try their best to do what's right whilst staying in the confines of the law.

Yes, it's a private company and yes, it's ultimate job is a for-profit-machine and yes, neither companies are above making very rare mistakes but the majority of failures lay mostly with the Court, who are so disorganized that they tag a Domestic Violence Perp. at the address of the victim, they they only tell us of a new address three days after they have moved and who provide out of date and wrong information.

The system, in the majority, isn't broken (and the non-compliance rate is nowhere near as low as 40%, it's higher than double that), but the communication and amount of information share between the companies and the public services, including interpretations of the Data Protection Act are the things that will make the system work as it should.

For-Profit companies are evil by definition, but they shouldn't be the scapegoat for a public misunderstanding of what takes place, how it works, the limitations or even it's strengths. Communication is the key and every organization, public or private, that's involved (as a whole, rather than any named individuals within them) are to blame.

The things listed in that report, the media coverage, they annoyed me today for both my own role and their coverage of the police. My hope out of this, disregarding the media and the shocking attitudes and misunderstandings, is that it might actually create enough of a fuss things to actually change for the better. Everybody involved in the services should right now, including the companies, become more focused than ever to make positive improvements - just like they all should have been from the start.

14 June, 2012 23:34

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The companies are legally and contractually obliged to ONLY attend addresses provided by the Court."

The word 'contractually' says it all really.

15 June, 2012 00:02

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So does Bloggsy's boyfriend shout out her sister's name (whilst he clutches bloggsy's mane) at that critical juncture, or what?


17 June, 2012 23:29

Blogger Joe MacFarlane said...

My client is taking the 5th amendment on that Pete. Oh, you don't have a right to silence in Britain. Nor a right to trial by jury, nor a constitution. De facto police state huh?

18 June, 2012 10:42

Anonymous painauchocolat said...

Good article again Bloggsy (ignore the idiots, or remove their posts).

Sounds like a radical overhaul of the entire system is what's needed, as it's clearly not working as it should.

But then again, sometimes it's easier just to blame someone else, so that no-one looks too closely at yourself. That certainly happened in Force 12...

19 June, 2012 19:05

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ellie, just finished reading your most excellent book. You are indeed a satirist, humourist and erm, ironist of the very highest order. Virtually every page resonated with my own experiences and feelings, which you articulated in such a readable manner.

And thank you for exposing me to the word cachinnate, which just about sums up what I was doing for most of the book anyway!

29 June, 2012 21:48


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