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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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

There's no such thing as a caution

(By the way, you can read an interview with me in The Sun today. Haven't seen the print version yet so it might be longer.)

One of the greatest calamities brought on by the
National Crime Recording Standards is that it has utterly deprived police of discretion, especially in cases involving children. This week I was standing in custody looking at the "whiteboard" (the board showing prisoners details) and was amazed to discover that ten of the twenty prisoners were juveniles, most aged 13-14. Custody was swamped with crying/shouting/sullen teenagers and their crying/shouting/sullen parents. Most of them had never been arrested before and were there for shoplifting or criminal damage.

As the kids and parents paraded past me, variously claiming their angel wouldn't hurt a fly/their little rascal was going to get it when he got home, they had to duck out of the way of Kenneth Wilkins, a nasty convicted rapist here on suspicion of trying to kidnap a woman and having to be taken everywhere in the company of two gaolers. In the holding area were four coke-ridden burglars demanding to see the doctor, and from the cell-block a variety of screams, howls and crashes as the who's who of Blandmore's under-class performed their weekly cabaret-in-search-of-acquittal. Not surprisingly, a lot of the kids were pretty scared.

Don't get me wrong, Jason Rogers and Luke Durning were in custody too - they're 15, require Social Services to represent them because their parents are sick of spending the entire evening in custody, and this is their fourth arrest this month for theft from motor vehicle. They weren't scared.

But the regular kids probably shouldn't be here, their parents and the custody sergeants know it. They get interviewed, admit their various crimes, and get bailed off to receive youth reprimands or warnings (ie they have to return to the station another day to get a lecture from someone qualified in telling off kids). Rogers and Durning deny everything, and the case is dropped because a granule of glass was seized from the wrong part of the window they broke into.

Never mind the farce that is adult cautions. NCRS has meant that we can no longer attend a crime and write it off with the words "advice has been given to all parties". * If there is a suspect, for any offence no matter how minuscule, we are expected to arrest them, log their fingerprints and DNA, and "dispose" of them in such a manner that it causes a detection for the superintendent's monthly figures. Many adults unused to the criminal justice system believe that if they cooperate, everything will be all right. In fact if they cooperate they receive a Caution, supposedly a warning that drops straight off your record and has no effect on your life.

Wrong. A police caution can and will stop you getting jobs, travelling abroad or being involved with children. Even a common assault where you've had a scuffle with your adult brother can preclude you from a job as a teacher, police officer, or even taxi driver.

The result, the criminalisation of a vast tract of society who should never have seen the inside of a police cell. While the real crooks play the system with their entourage of Mr and Mrs Loopholes, and walk out laughing.

* For a fuller explanation of this, see here.

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


Blogger Hogdayafternoon said...

These bean counting bureacrats, who somehow got their spindly hands on the throat of our policing system, totally ruined a job that for 20 out of my 30 years, I quite enjoyed. Have they never heard of a sound criminological theory called `Labelling`? Its pretty basic and pretty simple. Maybe that's the problem?

29 July, 2009 15:10

Anonymous Fee said...

While I don't think it was all great in the "thick ear from the local bobby" days of yore, this sounds absolutely awful.

Must get my kids to read this, because hopefully your graphic description will keep them on the straight and narrow the way fear of the enormous local bobby (and my parents) kept me free of a criminal record.

29 July, 2009 15:49

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Raja" needs a thick ear from the local bobby for comment spamming, I reckon.



29 July, 2009 16:36

Anonymous Paul G said...

Cracking post. A real education in real-world policing - thank you.

29 July, 2009 17:38

Blogger uniform said...

isn't a caution the same as a PND ticket ? do they get recorded the same way ?

29 July, 2009 22:52

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

uniform - I wonder if PNDs come up on an advanced CRB check, does anyone know? If so, then they are actually worse/higher than cautions as not only will they show on a CRB check but also involve paying a fine.

29 July, 2009 23:24

Blogger blueknight said...

Years ago we could detect on the basis of 'juvenile admits, no useful purpose in prosecuting'. the admission was usually a contemp. note interview at home. No arrest, DNA or FPs and no record.
The other day a barrister was arrested for assault at the High Court. I suspect that his arrest had more to do with detection figures than anything else.
If he complains, perhaps some good will come out of it

30 July, 2009 00:28

Anonymous Retired Sgt said...

The sad thing is that if less time was spent on the really minor crime committed by juvies-ie returning to the system of a quick
interview at home and a good bollocking then more time could be spent dealing properly with the Rogers and Durning of this world.

30 July, 2009 12:43

Anonymous MetAnon said...

i'm not sure about this, i cant help thinking that for some kids the unpleasant-ness of the whole experience of custody would put them off their criminal past times...

30 July, 2009 17:55

Blogger blueknight said...

If they don't learn the lessons the first time and commit another crime, they would get nicked

30 July, 2009 20:54

Anonymous MetAnon said...

yeh, i meant that unless i'm not understanding whats meant in the post, Bloggs seems to be suggesting that there could be a better way of dealing with juveniles.
i just think that arresting them straight away, taking them to the custody suite and processing them alongside the 'real' criminals might make them think twice about why their there and that they dont want to be there again - perhaps saving money in the long term. Rather than some socail worker trying to 'understand' their problems.

30 July, 2009 22:29

Blogger Hibbo said...

Saddeningly (is that a word?) good post Bloggster. Whilst the police may be patting themselves on the back with their nice big 'detection' tallies, an ever growing proportion of the law-abiding public are being criminalised and turned against the police.

When the inevitable happens and there is no longer anyone left who thinks "I've done nothing wrong, so I'll cooperate with the police and all will be well" as the police have walked over all such people too many time; will those smug officers really think it was worth it?

I am baffled why the police thing these tactics are the way forward.

31 July, 2009 02:04

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand the reasoning, but as someone who lives next to an (expensive) school with a large quota of toe-rags, I don't have that much sympathy with the view that arresting kids for criminal damage is a bad idea. And I'm not sure how criminal damage is not criminal because it's committed by a teenager with no previous.

Now, if we could still kick the shit out of them in loco parentis stylee without getting locked up, that might be a reasonable alternative. But of course that's one of the few ways you can still get locked up these days.

31 July, 2009 08:53

Anonymous Anonymous said...

PNDs do not show on CRB enhanced or otherwise

31 July, 2009 10:19

Blogger uniform said...

It was a test.

All recordable PND's, theft, damage, sect 5 , have to have a crime number, and be an offence detected and bought to justice.

Will create a PNC record of the crime if it is your first offence, just like a caution would.

You do not get a criminal record,only courts convict, it's a RECORD of your admitted crime.

If asked say on an job application form if you have a CRIMINAL RECORD you can say no to both a PND and caution, if, however you are specifically asked about a PND or caution , you best fess up.

As such it is available for disclosure under the rules which apply to simple cautions.

It can be used for ASBOS, evidence of bad character, CRB checks for notifiable offences.

PND's have conned the public , and police into thinking it was some simpler way of dealing with certain offences, it's not if they are recordable.

31 July, 2009 12:15

Anonymous Hunter Rose said...

You lot really are a bunch of hypocrites.

Don't agree with it?

Then don't do it.

You time-serving, public-purse parasites.

31 July, 2009 12:32

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nightjack (much missed) had a posting containing advice for otherwise law-abiding MOPs who come into contact with the police. Real-world advice, that is, for people like me who, before I read it, might have been naive and stupid enough to cooperate with a police officer.

Is there any similar such advice still available? Or could PC Bloggs post her wisdom regarding what a MOP should do in the event of coming into contact with the police (e.g. never ever admit anything, don't speak at all without access to a solicitor, complain about everything, get your counter allegation in first etc.)?

31 July, 2009 13:05

Anonymous Mac said...


You beat me to it. The particular post NJ wrote was the one used to justify 'outing' him as he was allegedly giving advice to criminals.
In fact he was eloquently explaining how honest people who think co operating with police will ensure common sense will prevail, get shafted while the seasoned villains get away with it.

31 July, 2009 17:02

Blogger blueknight said...

Hunter Rose don't do the job they pay you to do (or don't sign on the dole)see how far that gets YOU. We all agree that the change has to come from the top

Met Anon,
The sorts of crime I am referring to are Timmy pushes Jimmy and Tessa harasses Jezza by texting 'You slag'. If they have been crimed, the only way to get a detection now (I believe)is arrest and caution. 5 years ago so long as we got a genuine admission, we got a genuine detection.
However if was a 'real' crime with injury or damage caused, or they do not remember the warning you gave them last time, it is straight into custody and quite often for a charge rather than a caution.
As Beat Officers we worked the same patch all the time and knew all the miscreants. It seemed to work. I retired before NPT came in, so I do not know whether that works as well as the Beat system did

31 July, 2009 21:35

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

I'm talking about the kind of criminal damage where a kid kicks a football through a window ie "reckless" criminal damage. It used to be sorted out between the families with the kid being forced to work off the cost. Now the victim calls the police and sets in motion this charade. If the police didn't cooperate, they'd stop calling and go back to sorting it out themselves.

I fail to see how hauling an 11yr old through custody for pocketing a packet of chewing gum instead of paying for it is going to frighten him off crime. He'll just learn first hand how hardened criminals a few years older than him have never gone to jail despite far worse crimes.

As for Anon 13:05, nice try :-) I would post some advice, but anything that could get me fired/outed would be coated in two or three layers of irony so no one would know exactly what I was advising anyway.

31 July, 2009 22:13

Anonymous Hunter Rose said...

Bluefright @21:35

you are a coward.

01 August, 2009 01:16

Blogger blueknight said...

Hunter Rose, at risk of sounding boring and ignoring the warning 'Dont feed the trolls'. I was my own man when I did the job nearly 5 years back. I had a lot of latitude and I always did whatever I thought was best in the circumstances.
The Officers that do the job now do not have that luxury. They can do what the Govt makes them do, or they can help make the unemployment figures reach 4 million.
If you work in Burger King and don't like it, there is always MacD. or Wimpy. For a Police Officer the only option is emigrate and join a foreign Force. If you read these blogs you will see that this happens.
A Police Officer's job is like no other. If you did it you would know.

01 August, 2009 17:30

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Sun interview was good, 'tis unfortunate that the power game is the way it is.
It is very sad the male/female interface be so horrendous, until we can control the testosterone & hormone levels, uncivilized [brainless ] animal behaviour will continue.
So few relate short term pleasure to long term pain.

People do what they do because it is rewarding.
Back in the days when salt pellets were used to save the farmer's apples from the scrumper, it worked for some and for others, they liked the extra the salt intake.
it like a fine for speeding for the local Gillionair wot be a 1000 quid, cheap thrill, for the minimum wage guy that is a lot of hamburgers.

When a teenager is caught pilfering , it should be recorded, so a repeat is known, but they have to pay the price of the items times the number of repeats plus 2 plus run [not walk] around the block for each item taken.

it will work for some but others i

01 August, 2009 19:28

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure about those comments in the Sun piece about Officers rolling their eyes at 'certain types of rapes'. We train Detectives to challenge everything and test evidence, unless it is rape, where we blindly believe anything the person reporting has said, regardless of the fact they may have said it 20 times previously.

02 August, 2009 21:52

Anonymous TheBinarySurfer said...

Are you as paranoid as I am and wonder if the whole caution farce (with the associated fingerprinting & DNA) isn't the first (or 2nd depending on your viewpoint) step in a national DNA database?

Hunter Rose - you've clearly never been in any disciplined service of any kind. At worst refusing orders gets you stripped of your job and pension, and depending on just how far they want to take it and the circumstances you refused them under, with a short jail stay.

03 August, 2009 00:01

Anonymous Hunter Rose said...

Bluefright@17:30 - most of you lot could always try out for that security guard job at Argos.

That way you could be a bit more honest -and still perform exactly the same function

03 August, 2009 01:27

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although you pointed out that a caution has the seriousness as a conviction for any future job prospects, you did not mention that, for job prospects, accepting a caution is worse than a conviction.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 enables some criminal convictions to become 'spent', or ignored, after a 'rehabilitation period'. After the rehabilitation period, an ex-offender is not normally obliged to mention their conviction when applying for a job or obtaining insurance, or when involved in criminal or civil proceedings.

No matter what the offence, the same is not true for a caution. A Caution is never 'spent' and so will affect your job prospects for the rest of your life.

That is why I have been advised to never under any circunstances accept a caution. Take your chances and go to court. If convicted the sentence is higher (but will usually be just a fine for any offeces deemed suitable for a caution), but the chances it will be dropped before going to court is pretty high.

03 August, 2009 12:04

Blogger Emily said...

Great article in The Sun. Stranger rape is acutally in the minority of rape allegations when compared to known suspects. This is what makes it so difficult to prove, particularly when some sexual practice has taken place but it goes beyond the consent of the victim. One thing I do disagree with though, is that the male police officers will resort to 'eye-rolling' when allegations are made. I take every rape seriously and never make a judgement on its veracity. It's for the investigating officer to get to the bottom of that. As such, it is often from the female SOIT officers I observe the 'eye-rolling' to come from, which always surprises me.

03 August, 2009 14:04

Anonymous Anonymous said...

NCRS has meant that we can no longer attend a crime and write it off with the words "advice has been given to all parties"

I do this all the time and have never been told off.

03 August, 2009 19:47

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Actually whilst I probably did tell the Sun reporter that some male (and female) officers roll their eyes on hearing a rape has come in, the point of the comment was that they do this because they know it means a lot of work with little prospect of a conviction, rather than because they think it is false (though a surprising number of officers of both genders are ready to doubt every rape allegation before they've even heard it).

03 August, 2009 20:05

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Numerous convictions for violent offences, including assault on a Garda, are no bar to getting a P.S.V license in Ireland.Plenty of criminals, including major gangland figures, happily ferry passengers around. This also provides a legitimate front when questions are asked about the source of their income. At least the system you have in place seeks to potect the public.

06 August, 2009 11:28

Blogger Unknown said...

I disagree with your comments about the DV policy. I agree arrest isn't always appropriate but the reality of domestic incidents mean that police are often called BEFORE an assault or that there's no proof that one's happened. It's usually easy to not arrest if you don't think it's the best course of action.

Attitudes towards domestic violence are horrendous. At least the DV policy means that police officers can't ignore DV and are less likely to openly belittle the victim. The policy is far from ideal but I think it's the best thing the police can do that will actually in anyway work.

Agree with what you say about rape cases though. Another area where good quality training is desperately needed.

07 August, 2009 13:35

Blogger PCDC-Copper Bottom said...

cautions- mmm...

i know that in the past - i have risked my job- because i have said to people i have arrested that turned out to be 'ordinary sorts in trouble'- 'look, its not my place to give you advise but... just say nothing or deny it completely without explaination.. cps will likely drop it without further evidence...'

naughty... but, its got to be done sometimes....

in the 'old-days' we did it all of the time... we were trusted to make those decisions... sadly because of various incidents- some of our own doing- we have lost those commonsense powers we were admired for...

also- the various 'do-gooders' like Liberty etc have forced us down a path of almost robotic adhere-to-the rules type of Policing... to protect ourselves..

Thing that irritates me about liberty is- if they were on tv or in the papers complaining about human-rights abuses in Iran or China I may have more respect for them.

They dont though... they complain about the Police of the most stable and soft country in the WORLD!!!

09 August, 2009 17:56

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What our management seem to have forgotten, is that in the post-SOCA world, NOTHING is arrestable. If whoever it is that we're speaking to says, "I am the person you wish to speak to about this matter, these are my details and i will attend the police station tomorrow morning at nine with my solicitor", there is shag all we can do about it.
As for yoots, i still phone the little buggers parents up and take them home if its the first time and bollocks.
My power of arrest is mine and mine only, i am not going to use it to satisfy a pie chart. If they really want the person swifted, they can go and do it themselves.

12 August, 2009 10:05

Blogger john said...

read my story if you dare.

17 May, 2011 23:56


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