If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It–What The Country Voted For

In Camoron’s first incarnation as the Nation’s Prime Minister he set about reforming the Legal System system, amongst others.  In doing so he aimed to save about £450 Million from Legal Aid bills.  This led to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO coming into force.

This Act, which personally I had never heard of before, seems to only apply to Civil cases, but some of those Civil cases might affect us at some point in our lives.  It has removed countless cases from the scope of the Legal Aid scheme.

LASPO reverses the position whereby legal aid is accessible for all civil cases other than those excluded by the Access to Justice Act 1999. Whole categories of law have been taken out of scope for legal aid; others only qualify if they meet certain criteria. The categories now out of scope include:

  1. Family cases where there is no proof of domestic violence, forced marriage or child abduction. There has been a 60% fall in family cases granted funding and two thirds of cases in the family court now feature somebody representing themselves.
  2. Immigration cases that do not involve asylum or detention
  3. Housing and debt matters unless they constitute an immediate risk to the home
  4. Welfare benefit cases; except appeals to the upper tribunal or high court
  5. Almost all clinical negligence cases
  6. Employment cases that do not involve human trafficking or a contravention of the Equality Act 2010

The 4 out of 6 that I have highlighted are the ones that are most likely to affect us at some time. Don’t think that Criminal Law has escaped either, as from last April the government has cut the Criminal Legal Aid budget by £215 Million as well.

To clarify, this is what I wrote about the (then) forthcoming changes on another site;

“Changes to legal aid

Welfare benefit appeals

You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you make an appeal against a decision on welfare benefits unless you’re making an appeal to the Upper Tribunal or higher courts.  So, once again our caring sharing government has excelled, not only do they slash benefits, ATOS assessments abound, everyone being forced off the rock and roll, but we’ve taken away the only way an unemployed/ill person can use to challenge that decision.  Without a sudden increase in charitable funding, how are these folk going to pay their legal fees to challenge what they undoubtedly see as an unfair assessment etc etc?  Surely this is akin to the school bully nicking your dinner money and then tying you up so you can’t tell anyone?  Or is it just me that thinks that?

Debt

You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you with your debts unless a creditor is making you bankrupt or taking court action to evict you from your home

Housing

You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you with housing problems unless:

  • there’s serious disrepair in your home
  • you’re homeless
  • you’re being evicted from your home
  • the council is taking action against you because of anti-social behaviour.

Employment

You won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with an employment dispute or go to an employment tribunal unless it’s a discrimination case.

Private family law

You won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with private family law problems unless you’re a victim or are at risk of domestic violence or there has been or is a risk of child abuse These include:

  • divorce
  • dissolution of civil partnership
  • financial disputes
  • property disputes
  • disputes over children.

Asylum support

If you’re an asylum seeker, you won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with asylum support unless you have applied for both housing and financial support.

Non-asylum immigration

You won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with an immigration application unless you:

  • have been detained
  • make an application under the domestic violence rules
  • make an application because you’re a victim of human trafficking.

Education

You won’t get legal aid to help with education problems unless the child or young adult has Special Educational Needs.

Consumer and general contract law

You won’t get legal aid for any action you want to take for consumer problems or problems you have with general contracts.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority cases

You won’t get legal aid to help with the costs of trying to get compensation because you’ve suffered a criminal injury.

Clinical negligence cases

You won’t get legal aid for most clinical negligence problems.

What will you still be able to get legal aid for

You’ll still be able to get legal aid for the following problems:

  • care proceedings
  • family mediation
  • asylum applications
  • mental health proceedings
  • community care cases
  • discrimination. “

I seem to recall reading somewhere previously that we can no longer get Legal Aid to challenge Government Decisions but as I write I can’t quite lay my hands on that gem, or I might just be getting old.  I did however find this which might mean that I’m NOT going senile.

“In a judgment handed down on 3rd March 2015, the High Court ruled that regulations brought in by Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor, in April 2014 to cut legal aid funding for judicial review are unlawful.

The case hinged on the MoJ’s decision to restrict legal aid for Judicial Review challenges of decisions made by public bodies

Now we’ve had our General Election and the country voted.  They voted Tory and brought in a (small) majority government with Camoron at the helm.

One of his avowed policies is to scrap the Human Rights Act.  By doing so he will be removing the following collection of Rights from the Statute Book

  • The right to life
  • The right not to be tortured
  • The right not to be a slave
  • The right to a fair trial
  • The right NOT to be punished if you haven’t broken the law
  • The right to private family life
  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion
  • The right to freedom of expression
  • The right to marry and start a family
  • The right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions
  • The right to education
  • The right to free elections
  • The right NOT to be given to death penalty

Some are clearly more important than others, and I’m certainly not saying that these rights and this Act won’t be replaced by something else, but what guarantees do we have?  Do we trust a Tory government not to weaken our basic Human Rights? Will there be a replacement Act?  Why replace the one we have?

People of Britain this is what you got when you voted.  Personally I’d rather not replace something unless it’s broke. In terms of Public Protection we seem to be considerably worse off than we were.

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Ponder This Cruella

Thursday saw a bizarre event.

The people voted and it seems that the people voted for five more years of Cuts and Austerity, and that is absolutely the country’s right, if that’s what they want.

However, within 36 hours of the result being confirmed we had civil disorder outside Downing Street.

I am neither condoning nor discouraging civil disorder, but I AM anticipating it.

Are we heading for a new Summer of Discontent?  Because if we are, think on this, you and Milky have already disposed of over 17,000 warranted Police Officers since 2010, PCSO and Special Constabulary numbers are also down I believe, as are Police Staff.  If this isn’t bad enough you’ve kept your job and are about to embark on 5 more years of cuts leading to the loss of a similar number more.

What are you going to do when the wheel comes off?  When the Met has to ask for Mutual Aid like it did in 2011 something has gone terribly pear-shaped.  We’ve got even less than that now, more destined to go, where will the Mutual Aid come from.  17,000 officers, as has been pointed out elsewhere, is the equivalent of FOUR entire Police Forces along the South Coast, and you intend to DOUBLE that? Think about it I implore you.

Take a look at what happened only yesterday.

Can you hear the people sing?

Can You?

who you gonna call

Have Your Say, Tell Me What You Think–The Results Are In

A while ago I posed the question – Would you be willing to pay a small amount more each month to help safeguard our Public Services? I posted a short online survey for you to tell me your views, and the results are in.

Shown below are the actual responses received, minus names and email address etc, apart from that untouched.

I’m not certain that the volume of respondents constitutes a statistically significant sample (I’m sure it doesn’t), but most folk who replied would be willing to pay SOMETHING extra on their taxes, NI contributions etc to help keep our Public Services afloat.

Just a shame that the government never thought of asking the question really, they might have got a bigger response.

Would you be willing to pay a small amount more each month to help safeguard our Public Services? Police NHS Armed Forces Education Coastguard What is the Max amount PER MONTH you would be willing to pay on top of your current taxes?
yes yes yes yes yes yes 10
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 100
Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes 10
Yes Yes Yes Yes No No £1
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 5
Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes £50
Yes Yes No No Depends which sector No 10
Yes. Already paying extra via CT to POLICE Yes Yes No Yes Yes 10
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 100
yes yes yes yes yes yes 10
No No No No No No 0
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 25
no no no no no no 9
yes yes yes yes yes yes £10
yes yes yes yes yes yes 5
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 50
yes yes yes yes yes yes 6
no yes yes yes no no £40
yes yes yes yes yes yes 20
Yes Yes No Yes No Yes 10
yes yes no yes no yes 2
yes yes YES yes yes yes 2
yes yes yes yes no yes 10
no no no no no no 0
Yes Yes def Yes def Yes defs No Yes £5
Yes Yes No Yes No No 5
no no yes no no no 10

You Have Only One Target – To Reduce Crime

Well I suppose I need to start with an apology, this story is not about Targets or Crime, just the opposite really, and if any of you are feeling a tad squeamish you might want to turn over to something else.

Some of you may have heard this story, most of you won’t. At least one of you was serving with me at the time in question and presumably heard about it. It wasn’t a well-kept secret.

Back in the 80s I was what used to pass as a Community Bobby, or Home Beat as the Met liked to call them then. One Saturday morning I was called up and asked to return to the nick. The Duty Inspector wanted to talk to me urgently, and No he couldn’t tell me what it was about over the radio.

So I hopped on a bus and got myself back as quickly as I could. It was not good news.  It turns out that a colleague of mine from an adjoining Division had gone missing. His wife had come home on Friday night to find a note, together with the remains of a bottle of pills and some empty booze bottles.  She’d called an ambulance, he’d been taken to hospital, still alive and had now done a runner from the ward he was on.

The Inspector’s next words will remain with me till the day I die “You’re the only one on duty who knows him, you can deal with the Missing Person Enquiry”.

So began the single darkest investigation of my illustrious career.

First stop the hospital where things were due to get a whole load worse.  He’d. Been put on a ward on the 8th floor overnight while the medical & psychiatric staff assessed him and he’d done no more than try to jump out of the window. Two attempts in 24 hours.

By now he’d walked out of the hospital building wearing nothing more than his hospital gown.

Not very long after this a crackly voice on my radio told me that the driver of a passing train had seen the body of a woman by the side of the tracks. About 10 minutes walk away.

It didn’t take long to establish that it wasn’t a woman but my mate, or what was left of him. I called up the Duty Inspector and informed him and he graciously sent a Sergeant to come and supervise me at the scene. He was far too busy to leave the nick.

The Sergeant who pitched up was a good one, but I found I was spending more time stopping him from stepping on the live rail than briefing him about the unfolding tragedy. So I’m afraid I shouted at him, he took in good spirit and we both got on with doing what needed to be done.

It goes without saying he was dead. Mercifully he would have died instantly. I now know what drove him to this terrible deed, and all I will say on the matter is that it was something that he SHOULD have been able to take in his stride and deal with it. It was neither related to the Job nor his marriage. That is all.

Once we’d finished at the scene, for continuity purposes, I had to accompany his remains to the hospital, then the mortuary and ultimately the Post Mortem and Inquest.  Offering him what little dignity I could.  The Coroner was brilliant and returned an Open Verdict on the grounds that nobody could say he wasn’t pushed, so at least his poor widow was left with the Life Insurance.

So after a day rushing around first trying to establish what had happened, then trying to find my mate and then dealing with the bloody aftermath, what words of comfort did my Duty Inspector have for me when I returned to base?

“Nice job, see you in the morning”

I’m not after your sympathy, these events are safely stowed away in a box and now only come out when I let them.  The nightmares have stopped. It certainly wasn’t a typical day in the Met, but neither was it unique.  I believe that the Met is slightly more enlightened these days, and hopefully, being the only Cop on duty who knows somebody might be the perfect reason NOT to deal with it.

But I won’t have any haggardy witch telling me that Police work is all about CRIME.

Take the Police Officers out of the above scenario for a minute.  Who would have dealt with it?

NOBODY

There isn’t another single agency that would have dealt with the events I have relayed above, and not a single crime was committed or alleged.

That is only one tale from a 30 year career, multiply that by 130,000.  Allow for more than one such instance in a career, most officers will have many such tales of trauma to tell.  Still no crime involved.

So Cruella, you can do one, do yourself a favour.  If you want to get it right and improve your (much) tarnished reputation just trying listening to them that do the Job, they just might know better than you what’s involved, and maybe even, how many are needed to do it.

Or you might just try carrying on with the wrecking ball.

Either way, I won’t be voting for your party, so you can stick that right up your Purdah.

wreathRIP Colleague

Many know who you were

 

Have Your Say, Tell Me What You Think

Good morning one and all.

I’ve been giving some thought to the awful Draconian cuts that this government has inflicted upon many if not all of our Public Sector Services.

I have written a short, online survey, which should take no longer than 2 minutes to complete.

You can remain anonymous or you can put your name to it, I don’t mind either.

It doesn’t ask your occupation, previous occupation or current employment status and makes no mention of any political parties whatsoever.

Time will tell whether sufficient people respond to make the results meaningful, but if you could spare 2 minutes of your time, at the very least we’ll have some answers to questions that I haven’t actually seen any government ask the population before.

I will leave it open until the day before Election Day and then analyse and publish the results.

Some folk have already taken the survey, some left names, some didn’t. I thank you all.

 It doesn’t matter to me, it’s the answers that count.

You can access the survey HERE

Thank you for your time

Policing Under Theresa May – Some Undeniable Truths

While I sit and ponder my future I found myself thinking about a couple of ‘Improvements’ that Theresa May has made to Policing.  My experience and knowledge is really linked to the Met, so if I say something which does not extend to your Force please forgive me, unlike Ms Khan, any unfair generalisations are not intention.

Back in 2011 she promised to cut Red Tape, whilst at the same time blaming Police Chiefs for that very same Red Tape

Just two months ago, she stated in the House that she had “cut red tape and freed the Police from Central Government control”  Is that what she calls it?

But, getting down to the Nitty Gritty, one of the most profound statements that she has made on practical policing was in relation to Stop and Search.

Firstly, the changes restrict the controversial “no suspicion” powers, which allow officers to stop and search members of the public even when they do not suspect a crime has been committed. This refers to s60 Stops, which in my experience were seldom used, and then mainly at Public Disorder, or occasionally sporting events. I’m not sure that is going to make a huge difference, but does shine a light on to Imelda’s way of thinking.

In the second measure forces will have to record the outcome of searches in more detail. 

Officers who carry out a stop and search will have to make a note of the outcome– such as whether it led to an arrest, a caution or no further action. 

The Home Office has previously reduced the complexity of paperwork required by stop and search after criticisms that it was overly bureaucratic and officers were being tied up with red tape.

Alex Marshall, chief constable of the College of Policing, said: “Stop and search powers are necessary to help us tackle crime and keep people safe but it is clear that they are being misused too often. 

“Under this scheme search outcomes will be recorded in more detail so we have a greater understanding of how the powers are being used.

Well, in my humble opinion this is just the College and the rest of AVPO (or whatever they’re called today) rolling over to have their bellies rubbed.

There is no doubt that Stop and Search is Intrusive, no doubt whatsoever! but unless someone has rewritten PACE while I’ve been asleep it has always contained the following;

1 Power of constable to stop and search persons, vehicles etc.

(1) A constable may exercise any power conferred by this section—

(a) in any place to which at the time when he proposes to exercise the power the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission; or

(b)in any other place to which people have ready access at the time when he proposes to exercise the power but which is not a dwelling.

(2) Subject to subsection (3) to (5) below, a constable—

(a) may search—

(i) any person or vehicle;

(ii) anything which is in or on a vehicle,

for stolen or prohibited articles [F1, any article to which subsection (8A) below applies or any firework to which subsection (8B) below applies; and

(b) may detain a person or vehicle for the purpose of such a search.

(3) This section does not give a constable power to search a person or vehicle or anything in or on a vehicle unless he has reasonable grounds for suspecting that he will find stolen or prohibited articles [F2, any article to which subsection (8A) below applies or any firework to which subsection (8B) below applies

2   Provisions relating to search under section 1 and other powers.

(1) A constable who detains a person or vehicle in the exercise—

(a) of the power conferred by section 1 above; or

(b) of any other power—

(i) to search a person without first arresting him; or

(ii) to search a vehicle without making an arrest,

need not conduct a search if it appears to him subsequently

(i) that no search is required; or

(ii) that a search is impracticable.

3  Duty to make records concerning searches.

(1) Where a constable has carried out a search in the exercise of any such power as is mentioned in section 2(1) above, other than a search—

(a) under section 6 below; or

(b)under section 27(2) of the M1Aviation Security Act 1982, he shall make a record of it in writing unless it is not practicable to do so.

(2) If—

(a) a constable is required by subsection (1) above to make a record of a search; but

(b )it is not practicable to make the record on the spot,

he shall make it as soon as practicable after the completion of the search.

(3) The record of a search of a person shall include a note of his name, if the constable knows it, but a constable may not detain a person to find out his name.

(4) If a constable does not know the name of a person whom he has searched, the record of the search shall include a note otherwise describing that person.

(5) The record of a search of a vehicle shall include a note describing the vehicle.

(6) The record of a search of a person or a vehicle—

(a) shall state—

(i) the object of the search;

(ii) the grounds for making it;

(iii) the date and time when it was made;

(iv) the place where it was made;

(v) whether anything, and if so what, was found;

(vi) whether any, and if so what, injury to a person or damage to property appears to the constable to have resulted from the search; and

(b) shall identify the constable making it.

(7) If a constable who conducted a search of a person made a record of it, the person who was searched shall be entitled to a copy of the record if he asks for one before the end of the period specified in subsection (9) below.

(8) If—

(a) the owner of a vehicle which has been searched or the person who was in charge of the vehicle at the time when it was searched asked for a copy of the record of the search before the end of the period specified in subsection (9) below; and

(b) the constable who conducted the search made a record of it,

the person who made the request shall be entitled to a copy.

There’s a whole load more to PACE than that, but in my submission, that is our first Undeniable Truth, Stop and Search under s1 PACE is already regulated sufficiently by statute and if the perception is that this power is being abused then this is surely a Supervision or Training issue, not something for Politicians to meddle in.

My second concern, to the best of my knowledge, only concerns the Met, but if the same practice has happened in the County Forces please let me know, as we would all need t know.

When I last worked on a Borough, I worked in an Intelligence Unit, and it was an important part of my job to produce briefings 5 days out of 7 for the 3 main shifts, Early, Lates and Nights.  These briefings would contain details of recent crimes of note, any Crime Patterns that had been identified by the Analyst, names and/or descriptions of any suspects for those crimes including photos if applicable, and recommendations for where any ‘spare’ officers could be posted to Prevent or Detect Crime (I know there aren’t any Spare officers any more).  It was on the basis of these briefings that many s1 Stop and Searches may have been conducted in ‘Hotspot’ areas.

Word has now reached my ears that these Intelligence Units at Divisional and Borough level have gone, been Winsor’d, labelled as Back Office functions and dissolved.  There is a Service Intelligence Unit staffed by some faceless warriors in Central London, but how effective can they be at preparing meaningful and timely briefings for troops in Croydon, or Barnet?

Time spent chatting with the old ‘Collator’ was seldom wasted for a good Thief-Taker, chats in a cosy over office over a brew were often productive, and, within limits, to be encouraged.  Even the next generation following on from Collators had crowds of enthusiastic young bucks picking brains in the quest for their next ‘body’. I don’t see anything wrong with that, as long as the privilege isn’t abused, but again, Post May/Winsor there probably isn’t the time left for such luxuries.

So, in the era of Smaller, Smarter Policing, how exactly are we supposed to function more Smartly when May and Winsor have taken away our Intelligence Units.  If this is not true PLEASE let me know, it’s important to me to know.

Intelligence-Led Policing With No Intelligence Unit – that would work every time.  Bloody good job Crime Is Down is all I can say.

Our Second Undeniable Truth?  The absence of Intelligence Units at a local level adversely impacts upon our ability to fight crime in an efficient and timely manner?

Lastly, I need to go back to Stop and Search again.  I often hear rumours that Sergeants and Inspectors in the Met (not necessarily only the Met) set their troops numerical targets as a Performance Indicator for their Appraisals.  How can this be right?

As we have seen above before a Stop/Search be conducted there has to be Suspicion and Grounds. I’ve scoured PACE thoroughly but I can’t find performance Indicators listed as suitable grounds to conduct a Stop/Search.

Stop/Search is clearly a very emotive subject and if there are abuses of the powers then these need to be addressed, but NOT by watering down the powers, of course Turkeys are not going to vote for Christmas but I truly believe that if Mr or Mrs Average is subjected to a Stop/Search by an officer who was polite, explained their actions and complied with the provisions above, then they would neither Complain nor Need to Complain.  Do we need to pay undue heed to the Turkeys complaining that Christmas is coming and they don’t want to be slaughtered?

My 3rd and last Undeniable Truth is that Numerical targets have no place in Stop/Search in particular, and quite possibly Front Line Policing in general, it breeds bad habits.  Any Stop/Search conducted in pursuit of such Targets is, at best, Unethical, and at most, arguably Unlawful.

The Numbers Just Don’t Make Sense Imelda

Nearly 17,000 trained Police Officers have been discarded by the current coalition since they came to power.

A similar number of Police Staff (civvies in old money) have also been turfed onto the scrap heap.

It is estimated that a similar scale of carnage will be committed in the following years due to the coaltion’s absolute refusal to ring-fence the Police Budget.

A total loss to the Police Service of somewhere in the region of 68,000 by the end of the next term.

In whose world does that make sense?

 Blunderwoman. That’s who.

In tandem with the decimation of Policing as we know it comes the predictable onslaught on Stop and Search.  Apparently it is a much over-used and misused tactic. Allegedly a disproportionate number of ethnic minority citizens are finding themselves on the receiving end of a Stop and Search conducted by an overwhelmingly white Police Service.

“Crime is down is” the constantly repeated mantra churned out by the Home  Office and Senior Officers alike.

Is it? Is it really? Do we actually have a reliable set of #CrimeStats that we can feel comfortable quoting yet?

Have the number of Stabbings and Shootings really gone down, is it only in my head that there seem to be more? Those weapons are transported through our streets, under our very noses, and we are expected to conduct LESS Stop and Searches.  Before an officer can conduct a Stop/Search on a person of ANY ethnicity he/she has to have ‘grounds’ to conduct that search. Every officer is accountable for every Stop/Search he/she conducts. If those ‘grounds’ exist, are we saying that the Stop/Search should not be conducted, despite those ‘grounds’  just in case the person being Stop/Searched is upset by it? If one of our officers failed to Stop/Search a person who was subsequently found to have been carrying a concealed weapon which was used to kill somebody, at the very least the Daily Fail will be crying for that officer’s career to be terminated, but maybe it’s just better not to risk upsetting anyone out on the streets?

Every Stop/Search must be recorded including the ‘grounds’ for it, and the subject of it is entitled to apply for a copy of that record. I wonder how many are actually requested, or is this just another smokescreen?

Now I read that HMIC are recommending/requiring that all Traffic stops are now recorded as there are concerns that these too might be unduly weighted towards certain ethnic groups

And this following on from Imelda’s promise to cut red tape and bureaucracy.

So, maybe now we need to scrap all ANPR machines, together with mobile and static Speed Cameras just in case they catch too many citizens from certain ethnic groups.

All I know is that if I were still serving I would be hugely offended that Imelda and the Milky Bar Kid didn’t trust me enough to use my professionalism properly and account for my actions, having acted ‘without fear or favour’ in my quest to uphold the law and maintain Public Safety.

It’s not about Ethnicity.

It’s not about Institutional Racism.

It is about professional officers trying to do their duty in the face of a barrage of diversionary tactics.

So you want to extract your revenge for your treatment at Conference? Give the Police a damn good kicking? Make them know their place, reduce their effectiveness so that they can never again show you such disrespect? Is that it? Well remember who the Collateral Damage is in your campaign, the Great British Public! or The Electorate as they are sometimes referred to. I refer you back to a previous post Home Secretary.

With rapidly dwindling resources, an increased terrorist threat and Stabbings and Shootings, not to mention the myriad of other assorted crimes, just how are we to achieve the Primary Objective’ i.e. The Prevention of Crime?

The numbers don’t make sense, they are stacked against us and smug soundbites like a Smaller, Faster, Smarter Police Service don’t really hold up to the reality of what is happening, and that is that #CutsHaveConsequences and we don’t need any more ostriches thank you, we have enough of those already.

The only thing more ludicrous than these proposals would be to hear that my old friend Sophie as standing for Parliament or was going to be a PCC somewhere.

Finally, one last number that bothers me personally, is to do with pensions. This government has royally screwed up the pension arrangements for thousands of serving officers. I haven’t heard of many officers who won’t be worse off in some way. But what about the already-retired? I have always understood that there is no ‘pension fund’, that our pensions are paid from the contributions of today’s members. So what happens when ‘today’s members’ have been slashed by 30,000 or more?  Less contributions going into the kitty but the same amount going out surely? The government picks up the shortfall?

As I said, the numbers Just don’t make sense Imelda.

#MaysMayhem