Monday, 7 July 2014

Did Rebekah Brooks Influence Appointment Of Met Commissioner?

Alleged attempt to interfere in appointment of London’s top policeman
  • Sir Paul Stephenson stood down as Met Commissioner in July 2011, hours after Mrs Brooks’s arrest on phone hacking charges
  • A senior News International figure – not Mrs Brooks or Neil Wallis – secretly told No 10 that Mrs Brooks did not want Sir Paul’s main rival, Sir Hugh Orde, to get the job
  • News of the World exposed Sir Hugh Orde’s love child
Rebekah Brooks faced fresh controversy last night, 12 days after she was cleared of all charges in the phone hacking scandal.
The Mail on Sunday has learned of an alleged attempt to meddle in the appointment of Britain’s top policeman – who was later forced to resign over his links to the former News of the World and The Sun editor.
Sir Paul StephensonSir Paul Stephenson stood down as Metropolitan Police Commissioner in July 2011, hours after Mrs Brooks’s arrest on phone hacking charges.
He admitted that he had employed former News of the World executive Neil Wallis as an aide and had enjoyed a free £12,000 stay at a health farm which employed Mr Wallis as a public relations adviser.
An investigation by this newspaper has established that when Sir Paul was appointed by then Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a senior News International figure – not Mrs Brooks or Mr Wallis – secretly told No 10 that Mrs Brooks did not want Sir Paul’s main rival, Sir Hugh Orde, to get the job.
Sir Hugh’s hopes of getting the role had been hit when the News of the World revealed he had an illegitimate child from an affair with an undercover policewoman.
They are the latest developments in a long-running controversy over Mrs Brooks’s relationship with the police, including the loan to her of a Metropolitan Police horse, Raisa, which was also ridden by her friend and Oxfordshire neighbour, Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mrs Brooks and her husband, the racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, were cleared of all charges in the phone hacking trial, which ended nearly two weeks ago.
No charges were ever laid against Mr Wallis.Sir-Ian-Blair
The new disclosures date back to the battle to succeed Sir Ian Blair as head of London’s police in 2009, which came down to a contest between Sir Hugh and Sir Paul.
The Mail on Sunday has been told that shortly before Sir Paul was appointed, a News International representative contacted No 10 and said Mrs Brooks was opposed to Sir Hugh getting the post.
Sir Hugh Orde‘The message was very clear. She did not want Hugh Orde to be the Met Commissioner, and she wanted that message conveyed to the PM,’ said a well-placed source.
Sir Paul got the job after he was backed by then Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, London Mayor Boris Johnson, and Mr Brown. There is no suggestion that his appointment was influenced by the News International approach.
Sir Hugh had long been tipped as a future Commissioner after winning praise for his role in the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, improving police relations with ethnic minorities and his record as head of the Northern Ireland police force.
But his hopes suffered a major setback in 2007 when the News of the World revealed that he had an illegitimate child.
The story appeared two weeks after Andy Coulson, jailed last week for phone hacking, stepped down as editor following a previous phone hacking scandal. Mrs Brooks was News of the World editor until 2003 when she became editor of The Sun. She was chief executive of News International, which owned both papers, from June 2009 to 2011.
Mr Wallis was News of the World deputy editor from 2003 to 2007 and executive editor from 2007 to 2009.
In his resignation statement, Sir Paul said that he had known Mr Wallis since 2006 and that the Metropolitan Police hired him as an adviser from 2009 to 2010.
Mail Header NOWsThe News of the World story in 2007 which revealed the extra marital affair involving Sir Hugh, then head of Ulster’s police force, said: ‘Loverat top cop Hugh Orde last night pleaded guilty to… adultery. His three-year affair with a pretty Detective Constable led to the birth of a secret son.’
It said a ‘pal’ of the lovers had revealed details of the affair and added: ‘What the news of his existence will do for Sir Hugh’s career is anyone’s guess.
‘The fact he’s got a secret son tucked away in the Home Counties does not look good on the CV.’
In September 2007, the News of the World was also first to report the affair had led to the end of his marriage.
It said: ‘Sir Hugh, tipped to be the next Met Police boss, broke up with wife Kathleen months after she found out about his affair.’
A source close to Sir Hugh said: ‘It is staggering that anyone from News International might attempt to influence the appointment of the country’s most senior policeman. Sir Hugh is fiercely independent and would have run the Met in that manner.’
Mr Brown could not be contacted. Sir Paul and Mrs Brooks declined to comment. A source close to her denied that she urged Mr Brown to block Sir Hugh.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Theresa May and That Speech

I am publishing below an article written by former DS Chris Hobbs. There are a few holes in his case but much of what he says is spot on! My sources tell me that the Federation response to this will not only be to take on board the Normington reforms. You should see an application to the European Court for the right to take industrial action. You cannot treat the police like any other organisation and then withhold those rights. The service can only take so much of your strap-on Mrs May!

Chris Hobbs

Can somebody please tell me what was so ‘brave’ and ‘courageous’ about Theresa May’s speech last week at the Police Federation conference?

What was the worst that could have happened to the ‘fearless’ Home Secretary? Booing, heckling, slow hand clapping all of which should be meat and drink to any politician be they a local councillor, MP or cabinet minister.
She was in no danger of being shot at, spat at, punched, kicked, stabbed, petrol bombed or of being terrified that the mob she was facing would literally kill her if they were given the chance.
Many of those in the audience would have faced some or all of the ordeals listed above yet had to sit and listen to a politician clearly on a mission to enhance her potential as a possible future leader of her party.
She would know only too well the results of a recent survey carried out by the University of the West of England which shows police morale to be on the floor with nearly 50% of officers stating that they would move jobs if the opportunity presented itself. She would know that police staff surveys amongst virtually every force in the UK shows widespread disillusionment that should send alarm bells ringing throughout the Home Office.
Yet despite that, like a cowardly street corner thug, she ‘stuck the boot in’ to a world renowned police service which is already on its knees.
Of course there were the usual insincere platitudes uttered as is always the case when either politicians or the sections of the media launch an onslaught on rank and file police officers. Seasoned, opportunist politician that she is, she would know that it would not be the platitudes which would grab the headlines but the scathing criticism that could only damage shattered police morale still further whilst bringing cheers from those on the right who have joined with the left in berating the beleaguered police at every opportunity.
No-one would deny, least of all rank and file officers, that the Police Federation has become a self seeking shambles. Police officers pay the monthly subscriptions purely because the nature of their work requires them to be able to obtain legal cover. Yet even obtaining this is a lottery with applications for help frequently being denied despite the millions festering away in federation coffers.
The rank and file were disgusted by the sheer lack of resistance by those at the top of the Police Federation to policing reforms which have worsened pay and conditions and made their job far more difficult on the streets. Just one protest march was organised and rank and file officers watched stunned as their representatives supinely acquiesced to reforms that would have been unthinkable years ago.
It wasn’t as if the Police Federation were short of ammunition. Met police whistle blower James Patrick’s book, ‘The Rest is Silence’ forensically dissected the dubious machinations around police reform to reveal dubious practises involving conflicts of interest bordering on corruption. Sadly James’s careful research became lost in the crime figures furore that surrounded the book and his appalling treatment as a police whistle blower.
In fairness to the Police Federation, the report by Sir David Normington which provided Theresa May with so much ammunition, was actually commissioned by the Police Federation itself and perhaps had she simply stayed with her criticism of the Federation, she might have escaped the wrath of front line police officers throughout the country.
That however would not have grabbed the headlines in quite the same way as her self-promoting, spiteful condemnation of the entire police service which included her listing every alleged transgression that has occupied the headlines over recent months.
Incredibly she even included incidents which are still the subject of ongoing judicial proceedings and investigations where conclusions still have to be reached.
From Hillsborough to Plebgate, Theresa May did not miss a trick in turning the knife in the already gaping police wounds yet, of course this ignores the fact that of the 132,000 serving officers and indeed a similar number of retired officers, only a tiny fraction of those not even numbering three figures, would be involved in the ‘transgressions’ mentioned almost jubilantly by the Home Secretary.
She accuses the police or more specifically Special Branch’s undercover SDS (Special Demonstration Squad) of ‘smearing’ the Lawrence family when the only evidence appears to some from one former disgruntled undercover officer. Of course, in the aftermath of Stephen’s death, the police had to ensure that the tragedy was not exploited by violent extremist groups and to the Lawrence family’s everlasting credit they rebuffed all advances from groups that espoused violence.
The police also had to ensure that the Doreen and Neville Lawrence remained safe from possible attacks by right wing groups such as Combat 18 which necessitated some knowledge of the family’s personal affairs, which unfortunately would have included the Lawrence’s marital split. This was later used to smear the police yet I was in Special Branch during this period and can clearly recall the overwhelming sympathy for the Lawrence family and the determination to keep them safe.
Theresa May’s mention of appalling behaviour by officers in one domestic violence case of course failed to mention the hundreds of acts of kindness and compassion shown by officers dealing with all sorts of incidents including domestic violence, across the country on a daily basis.
Thrown into this diatribe of contempt almost inevitably was stop and search. Previously Theresa May used the term “absolutely disgraceful” when referring to the issue yet neither she, the Inspectorate of Constabulary or other critics seem to have considered the fact that front line police in inner city areas have an aversion to dealing with young people who had their whole lives in front of them, lying dead or dying having been shot or stabbed.
Officers attending murders involving shootings and stabbings are not immune either to the trauma or emotion that accompanies these incidents and whether the victim is a gang member or not that victim is someone’s son or daughter and police have also to deal with the distraught family.
All too often young people have died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time or been wrongly identified. Kwame Ofuso-Asare, aged 17, Shaquille Smith 14, Agnes Sina-Inakoju 16, Joseph Burke-Monerville 19, Shereka Marsh 15 and Alim Uddin 17 are just some of the innocents who would be alive today if police had stopped and searched the perpetrator carrying that weapon through the streets before they reached their victim and who will forget little Thusha Kamaleswaren who was shot and paralysed in a gang shooting whilst playing in her uncle’s shop.
It also goes without saying that had the thugs who killed Stephen been stopped and searched by police he too would still be alive today.
These deaths are a tragedy too for those who carry out such heinous acts and who are almost inevitably arrested and sentenced for murder thanks to the expertise of officers so quick to be criticised by the Home Secretary; lives ruined by a murder conviction as opposed to one for possession of a weapon.
How duplicitous is it of Theresa May when she refers, in sections of her speech, to the ‘fall in crime’ to then, amongst the list of police transgressions speaks of; ‘Allegations of rigged crime statistics.’  It is of course these ‘rigged’ figures together with the hopelessly flawed England and Wales crime survey which provide her with the those very same ‘improved’ crime statistics of which she so frequently boasts.
Of course, one tactic by any politician whose country, party or department is in some difficulty is to a create a firestorm as a distraction and this particular policing firestorm is keeping attention away from the shambolic Home Office as it continues to blunder from one crisis to another under Theresa May’s leadership. Of course Mrs May’s political aspirations will remain unaffected as long as they remain out of the public eye or can be blamed on ‘something or someone else.’
Last week I attended the funeral of a truly exceptional customs officer who died tragically at the age of 46. He had become a living legend in his short life as, over the years, he and his team seized millions of pounds worth of Class A drugs at Heathrow.
Hundreds of his colleagues turned up to pay their respects in what was an emotional but nevertheless uplifting afternoon. Once proudly known as Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise the officers who worked on detection teams at UK ports have been passed around like an unwanted parcel, first being absorbed into the UK Border Agency and then, due to the pre-Olympic shambles of huge queues at airports, combined with Immigration into the UK Border Force thus terminating their proud history at the stroke of a pen.
After the Olympics the shambles quietly continued and after the funeral I spoke to numerous former customs officers who were now part of the border force and who are known patronisingly as ‘legacy customs officers.’
I listened to the same tale of woe time after time told by dedicated officers who I hadn’t seen for some years. I was astonished to find that since customs officers had been ‘absorbed’ into a more ‘efficient and effective’ unit the seizure of Class A drugs has dropped by a staggering 76%.
Officers complained that the priority was still queues and they were frequently taken away from detection duties to ‘stamp passports.’ Even when they were stamping passports, they were frequently unable to further question passengers they might be unhappy with due to ‘queues.’ Thus individuals are still entering the country in droves despite those individuals being of concern to border officers.
Many of these same officers have complained to their supervisors who, as former immigration officers, have little or no experience in drug detection and were less than keen to ‘create waves.’ According to these experienced officers, drugs seizures are no longer a priority and this view is supported by adverse comment by the Immigration Inspector, John Vine as to the lack of detection officers in the channels.
Amazingly many high risk flights are simply not covered at all and couriers are able to pass through the customs channels without even seeing a ‘legacy customs officer’ whose role is to detect passengers importing drugs. Little wonder that Britain’s drinking water is contaminated with cocaine.
After making their views known to their supervisors the complaining officers have no-where else to go. They are only too well aware that ‘whistle blowing’ will only result in them suffering the same victimisation as their police colleagues with the likelihood that they would lose their jobs.
This disgraceful situation is taking place on Theresa May’s watch; little wonder that receiving plaudits from her colleagues at ‘taking on the police’ is preferable to an exposure of her appalling failure in dealing with problems at the UK borders.
The standing joke however, is that if the true situation in relation to drugs importation were exposed then her spin would simply be that the fact that fewer drugs were being detected at the borders was as a result of ‘effective controls.’
So we have a situation where Theresa May is presiding over a totally demoralised police force, a totally demoralised Border Force and, a result, is being ‘touted’ as a future Prime Minister.
Storm clouds are however on the horizon. The commander of the Met’s elite firearms CO19 unit has publicly stated that 60% of his officers may hand in their firearms authorisations if the Home Office backed IPCC proposals as to procedures after shootings come into force.
What he didn’t say was that all CO19 officers are likely to refuse to carry firearms in any event if any firearms officer is prosecuted for the deaths of Azelle Rodney and/or Mark Duggan. This would result in the biggest policing crisis since the police strike of 1919.
It may of course be that Theresa May’s decision to mount such a ferocious attack on the Police Federation which is clearly designed emasculate it, may just have something to do with the recent decision taken by European Committee of Social Rights. This gives the Irish equivalent of the Police Federation the right to strike and clearly Theresa May would wish to ensure that there is no possibility of any UK police federation going down that same controversial road.
Over the last few years the federation hierarchy has incurred the wrath of its members by prevaricating on the issue of a ballot whereby officers would decide if they wished to legally pursue their right to strike. For that, Theresa May and her predecessors should be grateful.
One fact is certain; during the last few months many front line officers are making it clear to close relatives that if they are killed ‘in the line of duty’ they do not want ‘that woman’ anywhere near their funeral.
 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Plebgate - The Unpalatable Truth



I have come out of retirement briefly to put down some thoughts about Plebgate. I wrote about this earlier this year and I hate to say it, but I told you so.
The facts are very simple. Andrew Mitchell left Downing Street on the 19th September 2012 and had a hissy fit because a police officer wouldn't let him through the main gate. Mitchell admits being bad tempered and swearing; the only argument is whether or not he used the word pleb. It is an unusual word to use, one that seems unlikely for the police to make up?
Son of an MP, educated at Rugby Public School and Cambridge, and an arrogant member of the ruling classes; who would believe that Mitchell would say such a thing as 'Best you learn your fucking place. You don't run this fucking government ... You're fucking plebs?' If Michael Portillo is to be believed Mitchell has used the pleb word in private before.
An idiot police officer took it upon himself to write to his MP claiming to have witnessed the incident didn't help the situation and simply gave ammunition to Mitchell, his supporters and the anti police brigade.
A bit like Chris Huhne, Mitchell came out fighting for his career and produced video footage from the area, which he claimed proved that the police were lying. The anti police brigade and media were completely suckered. Anything discrediting the police was accepted without question. It was good work by Mitchell's team. People are still posting today that the video evidence proved the police were lying. You can view the video evidence and a detailed critique here.
A year long investigation has concluded that there is no evidence to support any theory of a conspiracy by the police against Mitchell. The CPS, rather weakly, say that there is insufficient evidence to show that the police officer was lying. There is no evidence other than Mr Mitchell's denial. The CPS also say they took into account evidence including “the fact that Mr Mitchells account has varied since the incident”
The biggest issue for me is the biased and edited video footage that was given to Chanel 4. The programme makers have made it clear that they did not edit the footage given to them. The CPS report says that the programme “showed edited footage that was less than clear in a number of regards”. It goes on to say that the unedited video evidence shows that the police officers account could be correct.
So who produced the footage given to Chanel 4, which appears to have been edited to discredit the police and support Mitchell's case? Why aren't the media asking this question?
I see today that Mitchell's case of libel against The Sun is not going well. He submitted his evidence late and has been told that because of this, even if he wins the case, he will have to pay his costs. He has had a year to get his story straight now. Why was it late? Don't be surprised if you see that case dropped before too long. He may say he cannot afford to fund it now he has to pay his costs. I say he won't want to appear in the witness box and face some difficult questions.
No one has come out of this sorry affair without blemish, but when it comes down to it, who do I believe? PC Plod doing his job on the gate or an arrogant, foul mouthed toff who thinks he was born to rule us?

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Rape Debate



You may have missed the recent case in the press regarding rape allegations. A woman made an allegation of rape on the basis that she consented to sex but told the man involved that he mustn't ejaculate inside her. He told her would if he wanted to and did just that. Prosecutors decided that they could not charge him as the man's action could have been spontaneous and the decision beyond the point of no return, so to speak. The woman challenged the prosecutors decision in the High Court and the learned judges have decided that breaking conditions placed on intercourse can amount to rape. They have ordered the prosecution to review its decision.

Rape allegations already cause significant debate and not inconsiderable hysteria. The usual, and sensible, argument of innocent until proven guilty doesn't seem apply to rape allegations. All men accused of rape are guilty and must be convicted, according to some. Some feminists and pressure groups are campaigning for the law to be changed; to reduce the burden of proof in rape cases; to upturn the law so that the defendant must prove that consent was given.

When most people think of rape they think of a woman walking alone down a street and an attacker forcing them into an alleyway or something similar. The truth is that the vast majority of rape allegations involve someone known to the victim. It may be a family member or friend. It is often a man met in a pub or club. The most common scenario is one where a woman meets a man and, after a few drinks, agrees to go somewhere with him and sexual intercourse takes place. The critical point to prove will be, was consent given? It can be very difficult to prove that consent was not given.

I saw another interesting article yesterday. After six months in post as HMIC, Tom Winsor has decided that, in these times of austerity, the police should focus their energies on crime prevention rather than catching offenders. Most of us who have been in the job for a while understand that crime prevention was always the first of Robert Peels nine principles of policing.

Crime prevention is good. I think though that Peel's vision of prevention was having a visible policing presence looking for potential crime and criminals. It was also catching offenders and a justice system that imposed negative consequences. In the case of prolific offenders or serious crime it probably also included incarcerating them, thereby protecting society from their offending. I wrote an article about our ineffective justice system. How the police have withdrawn from the streets. How victims are blamed for offences against them. How the justice system fails to punish offenders and in fact rewards them. I won't go on about it again. You can read it here if you wish.

Mr Winsor's advice simply confirms everything that I said in my article. We can no longer afford to protect the public. All we can do is tell them to get a house alarm, window locks, 5 lever dead locks on the doors. Don't leave valuables on display in, and lock, your cars. Don't walk around in public using expensive phones, iPods, laptops Etc. If you ignore this advice then it is your fault for being so stupid when your property is stolen or you are assaulted.

None of this crime prevention advice will apply to rape victims however. If we dared to tell women what to wear. If we dared to suggest they don't get drunk. If we dare tell them not to get in a taxi with someone they have just met, we will be met by abuse and rage from some quarters. Suggesting that women behave in a particular way to protect themselves is an abuse of their right of freedom to express themselves and men have just got to learn to respect that. If only these freedoms applied to all crimes.

For the record I believe that if any man rapes a woman; whether they are drunk or not; whatever they are wearing and however stupid they may have been; he deserves to have his appendage removed or whatever prison sentence comes to him. I don't believe that woman need to appear in public with nothing more than their eyes showing to enable men to keep control of themselves. But I have seen too many hungover young men arrested and put through the mill because a woman was unsure as to whether or not she had consented to sex the night before.

If we are now saying that women can be raped if men breach conditions of sex then it is even more important that the usual safeguards and protections in place for defendants are kept in place. Reducing the burden of proof or bringing about proof of consent by defendants will bring about injustices just as perverse as guilty rapists going free.

 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Federation RIP

Police Federation of England and Wales


The Chair of the PFEW, Steve Williams, has recently published a report on the Federation website following a meeting he had with the Prime Minister. Mr Williams describes this meeting as constructive. How he can write anything positive about it I do not understand. The Prime Ministers comments sound the death knell for the Federation. Does Mr Williams even understand this you wonder?

Mr Williams raised concerns about compulsory severance. He gave a rather weak and watery reason as to why it shouldn't be introduced. Did he raise the issue that the police have no industrial rights? Did he mention that the Scottish Justice Secretary has clearly stated that the police should be compensated for not having industrial rights?

The poorly organised and flawed ballot on industrial rights held by the Federation in February has given the green light for the Government to introduce compulsory severance and implement any other changes they wish to. This follows on from the beating they have already given the Federation by ignoring almost all their representations regarding the Winsor reforms and cutting police officers pay and pensions. The decision to hold the ballot before the Governments decision on compulsory severance; the lack of support in the top echelons of the Federation for the ballot and the decision that the ballot would be of no effect unless 50% of the electorate voted in favour were crass and short sited.

The Prime Minister then told Mr Williams that Federation Representatives must retain skills in front line policing. The Federation have a significant number of full time representatives. There are 30 national representatives based at the PFEW HQ in Leatherhead. Every Force has at least two local full time representatives. Most have three or more. That is a total of more than 150 full time representatives. These representatives have allowed the Federation to get heavily involved in national issues and represent their members locally in management negotiations and misconduct matters, for example.

Following a campaign in the media, Francis Maude made an announcement last year regarding full time union activists in the civil service. He has stated that they will spend no more than 50% of their time on union activities and they will not get paid time off to attend national events such as Conference. You can read a bit more here if you wish. This has been on the horizon for over a year but the PFEW only appears to have now woken up to the fact that these changes will affect them too.
Implementation of these proposals in the Federation will effectively leave them in a position where they are irrelevant. That appears to be the Governments plan. Officers are already leaving the Federation in significant numbers. When they find no one has time to represent them with regard to complaints or management decisions then they will leave in their droves. The Federation will lose much of its funding and implode into insignificance.

Finally, the Prime Minister told Mr Williams that his officers must behave themselves and be respectful to Government representatives at Conference. If they don't then the Government will no longer come to the party.

The Government have made it pretty clear that they are going to continue walking all over the Federation. The Federation have played almost all their cards by staging the failed ballot in February and unless they come up with an alternative strategy very quickly, the Federation may have to just take it. One avenue that may yet be open to the Federation is Europe. European police forces have the right to take industrial action and it may be that a case can be put to Europe that there is no justification for UK police forces having those rights withheld. This will take years though. I am not sure the Federation will be around to see it implemented. Assuming we are still in Europe, of course!