Sunday 24 January 2010

Edlington; A One Off or a Sign of Our Society?

I am sure most of you will have read the story of the two boys from Edlington who almost killed two others in the most horrific circumstances. The politicians assure us that despite the similarities with the Jamie Bulger case this is not reflective of our society. I disagree.

I have said before that I regularly attend partnership meetings with other agencies such as Social Services, Youth Offending Team, Education etc. where we discuss those young people that are causing concern in the community, usually by committing crime.

One child we discussed for five years was an 11 year old boy who became one of the youngest in the country to be made subject of an ASBO. He had also been excluded from school. He lived with his mother, who had no job. She spent her time sat at home drinking and smoking cannabis, which she shared with her son. The boy roamed the streets all hours and hung around with older boys committing offences, including harassing their neighbours. If any neighbours complained to the police the mother would be round their house threatening them.

Mother and son were regularly arrested for their behaviour but they threatened and intimidated witnesses and cases were dropped as witnesses refused to go to Court. We had intelligence that the boy was out committing knife point robberies and there were robberies in the area. The victims, who were also young people, either did not report the offences or refused to attend court as they were frightened for their future safety.

I wanted the family thrown out of their provided home and the boy put into care. I was scoffed at. The Housing Trust, Social Services and Youth Offending Team were only interested in convictions. Allegations and information that someone was committing offences counted for nothing in their eyes. It is pure luck that this boy did not become the murderous thug of the Bulger and Edlington cases. I suspect there are hundreds of similar cases waiting to become one.

This boy would have been far better off away from his mother in a decent loving home but there seems to be an over riding mentality in services that should be there to protect young people to leave them with their inadequate parents no matter what. Making excuses, doing nothing and hoping nothing major happens until they reach 18 when they can wash their hands of them seems to be the way they operate.

At the risk of getting into politics, what has gone wrong with our society that we are creating monsters like this? On the one hand we have the well educated and highly rewarded echelon with their huge salaries and bonuses. Is anyone really worth that much? And these people largely seem to be self interested gluttons rather than the philanthropists of the recent past.

On the other hand we have a significant part of our society that seems to be obsessed with celebrities and the idea that you can become somebody and rich just by appearing on television rather than working at school and getting a job and making something of your life. Your worth should depend on who you are not how much you are worth or how renowned.

The benefits system undermines the family. We have a responsibility to look after people, whether one-parent families or broken families, but we have created a society where broken families are the norm and living on benefits is a way of life rather than a safety net.

Banging out children should not mean a passport to a house and an all expenses paid lifestyle. The safety net needs to be there, but it needs to be tough to deter abuse of the system. The whole system should be designed to encourage the family unit. Families have to make choices; I reject the idea that you can have a career and bring up children. Most people cannot afford nannies and why have children if you want them brought up by the nanny and private education. For most of us, the mother or father needs to be at home while the other provides. The idea that you can have a career and children needs to be rethought for most people. Why bother having children if you are not going to bring them up with the love and time they need?

Incidentally, I hear the boys that murdered Jamie Bulger have been set up with new identities and lives in Australia. Have I missed something? I didn't think the Antipodes was a penal colony any longer.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Prison Does Work

The Commons Select Committee report on justice this week announced that the Governments proposed £4.2 billion spend on prisons would be better spent on prevention and rehabilitation. I do not disagree that Probation and the Youth Offending Team, for example, are under funded, but having seen what they achieve with the resources they have I am not confident that throwing money at them will bring about a sea change.

Liberals (with a small l) always espouse the view that prison does not work because those incarcerated more often than not re-offend. They choose to turn a blind eye to the fact that the majority of those given community penalties also re offend. I can suggest a few reasons why. Firstly, by the time an offender reaches prison, unless it is for a very serious crime, they will have been through the justice system an average of 9 times and received reprimands, conditional discharges, fines, supervision order, probation order, community penalties etc. etc. I contend that by the time they reach prison they are so far down the road of criminal behaviour that they are almost irrecoverable. If we sent them to prison the 2nd or 3rd time they appeared in Court then it might be more effective.

Secondly, because of the above, the justice system to the persistent offender is a joke. Go and spend a day in the courts and look at the staff hiding behind a protective screen while the offenders strut around swearing and intimidating everyone. Watch them leave the court laughing at the system and stating they have ‘got away with it’ because they got a fine or supervision order. The only penalty that persistent offenders actually believe to be a punishment is prison and we should not forget that and use it appropriately.

Thirdly, prisons are schools of crime and ineffective in reforming offenders because of a lack of resources, in prison, and motivation for offenders to reform. Let us have separate prisons for those sentenced to prison for the first time. Let us link early release to achievement in education and workplace training. It is obscene that we send people who cannot read or write to prison for 6 months or more and they still cannot read and write when they are released.

Fourthly, and possibly most important, prison works because it stops people offending. A burglar or car thief cannot commit offences when they are in prison and we must not forget that means thousands less people waking up in the morning to find their car broken into or stolen or coming home from work and finding their house broken into. I wish as much consideration were given to these victims as is given to the persistent offenders.

Thursday 14 January 2010


I wrote below that the charlatan Ali Dizaei was facing charges of misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice. The trial started on Monday and already you have to question some of Mr Dizaei's behaviour. Why does this man go into restaurants in full uniform, for example.

I also wrote about the proposed march by the radical islamic group Islam4UK. I am pleased to hear that the march will not go ahead and the organisation has been banned. I was further pleased to hear that some of these radical idiots were convicted of public order offences for their actions in Luton when soldiers paraded through the town.

I was sorry to see that the sad man I wrote about who was arrested for wearing medals he had no right to at a Remembrance Day Parade was prosecuted after all and sentenced to community service.

In November I wrote about the waste and unhealthy cozy relationships in some of the policing quangos. I highlighted the gravy train for senior officers who retire from the police and walk into cozy jobs with the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA.) Here is another example. Deputy Chief Constable Mike Goodwin of Leicester has just retired from the police. He picks up a pension consisting of a lump sum of around £350,000 and £56,000 per annum. His new job with the NPIA nets him £120,000 p.a. It's tough at the top!

Sunday 10 January 2010

More Controversy

So, the Met Police have issued an apology to the Black Police Association (BPA) and acknowledged that they are still a racist organisation. This has been done to break the deadlock with the BPA which has existed for 16 months. The BPA has openly recommended that visible ethnic minorities (VEM) do not join the Metropolitan Police and this has affected recruiting significantly. They claim that VEM officers are more likely to be dismissed and disciplined than their white counterparts and are not being promoted at the same rate.

When you look at the figures, at first glance they may have a point. Proportionately more VEM officers are dismissed and face discipline charges than white officers. There is a lot more to this however. I have worked locally with the BPA and this is what we found.

If we first look at recruiting, many VEM officers join the police in exactly the same way as their white counterparts, but approximately 30% do not meet the standard to pass the assessment centre and receive extra help to try and pass this. It seems inevitable that if we are recruiting a significant number of VEM officers who need extra help to meet the basic assessment requirements of the service, proportionately more of them are likely to fail as officers and end up being dispensed with under Regulation 13 as unfit for the role of constable.

With regard to misconduct, some of the above also applies, but more significantly, cultural issues play a part in the discipline cases of VEM officers and particularly Asian officers. Those officers come from a cultural background where the family has significant importance and influence over individuals. The majority of Asian officers are disciplined for abuse of police computer systems. They are put under pressure to carry out unlawful checks on police systems by friends or family. This has been recognised and Asian officers receive additional guidance and advice regarding the risks and pressures. The BPA has acknowledged this and is also trying to help address this problem.

Family pressures may mitigate some of these officers discipline cases but abuse of police computer systems and the imparting of information gained by that abuse is a serious matter that cannot be ignored. This would simply be turning a blind eye to corrupt practice and put officers and informants etc. at risk.

I have no doubt that there will be examples of cases where VEM officers have been treated differently to white colleagues but we have not found this to be the case in my own Force.

Turning to promotion, this is a more difficult area. We had the case recently of the Met number three Tarique Ghaffur accusing Sir Ian Blair of being racist as he would not promote him. I do not know Ghaffur or his capabilities but his accusations tell me something about him and I am not sure he would ever be fit to run the Metropolitan Police service. I am no fan of Blair, but one thing I do know is that he is no racist and did more for promoting equality in the police than anyone.

We all have a ceiling in our careers and throwing in the race card every time you don’t get a promotion is a dangerous game and not one I would support unless a candidate has obvious qualities that are being overlooked.

The BPA on the other hand back the likes of Ali Dizaei who is once again facing corruption charges, and who is a complete charlatan who has used and abused his ethnicity to achieve the rank that he already has. Time and again he has said promote me or you are racist and senior officers, frightened to death that their own careers will be ruined by being branded racists, have done just that. The BPA does itself a complete disservice backing the likes of Dizaei and should distance themselves from him immediately.

Now, before I am accused of being a white supremacist who is obviously racist and in denial of racism in the service; let me say that I am not na├»ve and of course there are racists in the police service. As someone famous once said “The police are the public and the public are the police.” We are the public before we join the police and there are racists out there. We do what we can to root them out before they join and during their entire service. There is more to be done but throwing around allegations such as the above does no one any good.

Monday 4 January 2010

Wootton Bassett Islamic March

Anjem Choudary - A Danger to Our Society

This is slightly off the usual subject of policing but there is a link and I think it is a subject worth covering.

Muslim extremists are planning to march through Wootton Bassett, the town that has become synonymous with our war dead returning from Afghanistan. They plan to march through the town with coffins, to represent over 100,000 Muslims who they claim have died in the conflict. The idea is abhorrent to most people and there have been calls to ban the march and there is a risk that there may be a counter demonstrations leading to violence.

The organiser of the march is Anjem Choudary, a Muslim born in this country but clearly radicalised. He is well known to the police and secret service and is an obvious danger to the society we wish to live in. He is a follower of Omar Bakri Muhammed, a Syrian, who sought shelter here and lived in London for 20 years. In 2005 he fled to the Lebanon concerned that the British Government were considering charges of treason against him. I am pleased to say, he was told he was not welcome back in this country. Choudary has written an open letter to the families of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan to justify his actions.

There are a number of important issues here. We must remember that the vast majority of Muslims are law abiding contributors to our society and are embarrassed by the radical views of some zealots that follow their religion. Some Muslim groups have spoken out against the proposed march.

We live in a society where men have fought and died for the right of free speech and freedom to demonstrate. Our laws are largely, although not wholly, built on this premise. We should not stop Mr Choudary’s march taking place. The irony is that if Choudary lived in the society he wishes us to and criticised that society in the way that he does ours; he would very quickly disappear never to be seen again. If Mr Choudary wishes to live in such a society I would ask that he finds one that suits and goes there. The vast majority of people have no wish for it here.
If he promulgates violence against non believers then he should be thrown in gaol. Perhaps he might flee to the Lebanon.

The people of Wootton Bassett came together of their own volition to line the streets and show respect to the British soldier’s bodies that are flown back to this country to nearby RAF Lyneham before they pass through the town on their way to their families.

If the proposed march goes ahead, the people of Wootton Bassett should show their contempt. Instead of turning out as they do to respect the British soldiers they should clear the streets, put down the shop blinds and shut their doors. A march through a ghost town with a small police escort will make this publicity stunt the non event it should be.