Nice One Mr Winsor, Nice

I’m going to do something now that I don’t normally do, and that is speak my mind.  I know, a bit of a shock, and I shall probably lose a few ‘friends’ along the way, but I’ve carried out the obligatory Risk Assessment and it’s a risk I’m prepared to take.

HMIC released its long-awaited report into the Savile scandal and the predictable failings of certain agencies.  It was released into the wild at midnight last night/this morning, and intriguingly entitled Mistakes Were Made.  I could probably have predicted that weeks or months ago.

Now I’m no lover of the late Mr Savile, I in no way stick up for him or condone his behaviour, nor that of those associated with him.  However, to quote the HMIC Press release;

“HMIC found that the police made mistakes in their handling of the five allegations and two pieces of intelligence information. While there were systems and processes available that could have enabled the three forces involved to ‘join the dots’ and spot patterns”

I’ll accept that as factually accurate, because it undoubtedly is, but I personally (prepare to abandon ship all those who side with Mr Winsor) think that the findings of this report should be taken in context.

OF COURSE Children and Young Persons should be, and feel, safe from predatory paedophiles.

OF COURSE Children, Young Persons, Adults, Males and Females should feel that they are able to report such wrong-doing and be taken seriously.

OF COURSE all of the above should be able to EXPECT their allegations to be investigated.

BUT, the first (and possibly the 2nd) of these 5 allegations were made to the Police 50 years ago.  It was reported on the news this morning that the first allegation was made by a young male to an officer in Cheshire 50 years ago and no trace of a subsequent investigation could be found.

What was the Police Force like 50 years ago?  Messages received at the station were recorded on pieces of paper on a spiked pad and when the pad overflowed the completed messages were taken off the spikes, put into a box and a new set of pieces of paper took their place.  Where are those boxes now?

Investigations were recorded on big pieces of paper (A3 if I recall) and kept in a loose leaf binder.  If you were important enough you had your own ‘binder winder’ so that you could insert or remove pieces of paper as required.  When the investigation was concluded, or discontinued, those large pieces of paper were put into a large cardboard box and stored.  Where are those cardboard boxes 50 years on?

I suspect that messages and investigations, indexes (or should that be indices?) of investigations and all other associated pieces of paper have long since been destroyed due to the expense and impracticability of long-term storage of same.

When I joined the Met in the early 70s people reporting crimes such as these would probably have been dealt with by the Women Police, an almost separate Police Force, even had their own set of Divisional Numbers.  Don’t shout at me, that’s just how it was.  My point is, that apart from Murder I can’t think of a single crime that had its own Specialist Squad, and apart from whoever was at Scotland Yard, even Murder Squad detectives were drawn from the ranks when required and returned to their stations when the investigation was over.

Allegations such as those made against Savile are exceedingly unlikely to have come to the attention of ANY specialised investigators 50 years ago.

When I was trained we were taught that if a child under the age of 14 years (I think it was 14, but someone will correct me I’m sure) made any sort of allegation, it wasn’t worth very much without some corroborating evidence.  Well in the absence of any DNA evidence (DNA testing/evidence was not born until 1985) there’s not likely to be any corroborating evidence because of the nature of the offence.  Yes, we can go back now, but only if the samples still exist, if they ever did.

The report also highlights that Police did not SHARE INTELLIGENCE.

I don’t have a clue how intelligence was handled in the 60s, but when I joined it was recorded on different coloured cards and stayed in a metal box in the Collator’s Office.  You were lucky if your adjoining Station sent you some intelligence, never mind a nick 100s of miles away in a different force area.

I’m not saying that any of these practices is right, but it’s what was happening AT THAT TIME.  All Polices have evolved in the last 50 years, allegations such as these should be taken seriously, they should be investigated and links, where they exist, should be made.  Forces have invested a lot of money in training Analysts to do exactly that, but they didn’t exist then.

Even the PNC didn’t exist before 1968.  In 1969 the Met established the Serious Crime Squad and before that came C10 in 1960 to deal with Stolen Motor Vehicles, Sexual Offences didn’t get much of a look-in.

HM Inspector of Constabulary, Drusilla Sharpling, said:

“The findings in this report are of deep concern, and clearly there were mistakes in how the police handled the allegations made against Savile during his lifetime. However, an equally profound problem is that victims felt unable to come forward and report crimes of sexual abuse. It is imperative that all those charged with protecting these victims do more to encourage reporting, taking the right action to bring perpetrators to justice. We welcome the new measures announced recently by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Association of Chief Police Officers. But more needs to be done, and it is neither enough nor correct to say ‘This couldn’t happen now’.”

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor, said:

“It is imperative that children and other victims of sexual crimes have the knowledge, the means and the confidence to report what has happened to them. HMIC’s report identifies policies and practices which the police must reassess and improve in order to be better able to deal with historical allegations, and to keep our children safe. Building on this examination of Savile, HMIC’s programme for 2013/14 will take this work deeper and wider.”

So I take your point Mr Winsor. However, I believe that this is the first major piece of work published since you took the helm of HMIC (or at least it’s the 1st I can think of) and you seem to have used it as an opportunity to Bash The Police NOW.

Mistakes were made, let’s hope they won’t be made again, but in the case of the earliest allegations it isn’t the fault of any currently serving officer or system.  Beat the Police up if they deserve it, I can be very critical of mistakes that are made, and I will voice that criticism, but it all smacks of Let’s All Blame The Police once more without considering what working practices were like at the time in question.  Policing has moved on, it has evolved, it has improved already.  Why not acknowledge that and build on it?  Instead we’ll just slag off a Police Force that’s already been demoralised by……….now who was it again?  I forget.

End of rant, and if you haven’t already Unfollowed me, I thank you.


24 thoughts on “Nice One Mr Winsor, Nice

  1. context is all…you also need to bear in mind the cultural norms of the times…how respectful blind acceptance that elders and betters always spoke the truth. How attitudes towards child disclosure have, thank goodness altered since then.
    On the whole for the better…but there is still a residual culture to blame the victims that is alive and well today. well written piece.

  2. An excellent article.Yes,it’s too easy to make sweeping accusations of incompetency and perhaps corruption against the Police based on allegations reported 30 years ago.Agreed, The Service has moved on in leaps & bounds,& todays service can not be justifiably plagued by criticim levelled at officers who have long since retired or collected their last pension payment.

    What I would say, is that there were allegations and investigations up until the mid 90’s. ( Elm Guest House). I believe that these enq’s were closed down by Government with MI5 assistance to protect ‘Priviledged persons’. Op Ore was a fiasco, and tainted by D – notices …It stinks …& that was in recent times. So, any Senior Officer who ‘ followed orders’ or closed such lines of Enquiry needs to account for their actions. Many will be a few years into retirement,but if you can nick Retired Officers for talking to The Press 5 years ago , then lets get this lot into an interview pronto !!!!

  3. This rpt is absolutely ridiculous and is obviously written by someone with an axe to grind(Winsor) or someone who hasn’t a clue about the workings of a modern Police Service(Winsor).
    Shall we blame the current Govt.for British atrocities throughout history
    Or today’s school teachers for administering corporal punishment in the 60’s
    Or today’s Dr’s for failing to cure certain illnesses 50 years ago

  4. Well written piece. Thank you for saying what I’ve been thinking since reading the article this morning.

    Just to put it in context I am a serving PC in my mid twenties. My mother was three years old when the first allegation was made. I think times have changed ever so slightly since then.

    Plus, the major issue seems to be that of sharing intelligence. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that was a finding of the enquiry into the Soham murders and I the reason that the PND was set up…?

  5. Excellent points. Couldn’t put it better myself. When I joined in 1981 you would be surprised if the next station 3 miles away shared anything with you. Anyone commiting crime on both patches would be considered a “travelling criminal” ! Different times, different world. Blame today’s police for failings 20, 30 or 50 yrs ago. The Hindsight Police are still clearly alive & kicking.

  6. This sums it up really. However as always, lets blame The Police. Must be their fault even though people making the allegations did so anonymously!

    • Did they ? How sure of that are you ? I think you will find that alot of the victims were not ‘anonymous’ .They made a complaint /allegation of abuse / assault & it was not pursued by The Police in any Constabulary !! That is the story ………The failure of The Police to investigate. & why was that ? This is what needs to be investigated further in these ‘modern’ times.

      May I ask, what is ‘Op Fernbridge’ about, and where are the ‘High Profile’ arrests that the team forecast months ago ????? Still waiting, and waiting ……Is there a ‘Problem’ maybe ???

  7. Well said! HMIC have judged events from up to 50 years ago by the standards of today and the two are not comperable. There is a complete lack of context in their report, but it is only to be expected.

  8. Someone fetch my Delorean please, I need to go prevent a few more failures that my policing ancestors committed because they didn’t have 21st century crime fighting tools at their disposal – I may be gone some time.

  9. I joined in 1974, and am very sorry, Mr Winsor, that I didn’t catch Jack the Ripper, obviously my fault…

  10. Excellent post Alan, this report is fairly typical of the type of thinking that is applied to many such situations. What happened way back when is judged by what happens now and people are found wanting because they did not have access to shared intelligence or to the safeguards that now exist to ensure that such allegations are investigated.

    I can imagine many of the individuals who knew that Saville was a predatory pedophile & rapist will be breathing slightly easier today as the blame has been laid at the door of the police yet again. They will be hoping that the focus does not switch back to them and remains on the police. I hope that is not the case and some questions are asked of those who were in the know.

    • A fair point Steve, those that knew and did nothing are far more culpable in my view than a Police Force from 50 years ago that bears no resemblance to today’s Police Service. Right or wrong, good or bad, times were different then. I hope they can sleep at night

  11. Pingback: Nice One Mr Winsor, Nice | Policing news |

  12. Well-written and very well thought out. It is obviously a failing of the police that time travel has not yet been perfected. We are dealing with people who know nothing and yet maintain that they know best. Well said, I think that I would have resorted to sarcasm which you did we’ll to avoid.

  13. A fair article. To add to the points made, when I was a teenager in rural Essex in the mid 60s, it was common knowledge that Jimmy Saville liked young girls so if we rustics had heard of it why then did the press, who are so keen to point fingers at the police and the BBC, not expose the man. If we knew they did.

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