Archive for the ‘Police’ Category

It’s now such a farce that one must feel sorry for the Met.

2013 has been an absolute kicking for the Metropolitan Police. #Plebgate is nothing compared to the Mark Duggan inquest. And, the Mark Duggan inquest is mild when one considers the admissions that Doreen Lawrence was the victim of a police led smear campaign.

At the same time, the Met’s PR department, sorry ‘communications’ department, has gone from 150 to 100 members of staff. Despite the disasters, one of their PRs was promoted to the head of PR for Surrey Police.

The crisis in police PR was such that  in October, Henry Porter described police corruption as ‘rife’ and Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe had to promise to be ‘ruthless’ in rooting it out.

Stories have filtered through the robing rooms that the public, in particular some juries, have not reacted well to police malpractice. One story filtered through shortly after the ‘Watson’ settlement (defence lawyer locked up unlawfully – not the Met of course), one jury was heard repeatedly to say that they wouldn’t believe a word the police said.

And that’s really the PR problem. At present it is only certain communities which really are entrenched when it comes to distrusting the police. But, the wider community have no tolerance for the Doreen Lawrence type scenario.

‘Us and them’ is fatal to any police force that seeks to police by consent. And any other model of policing would never be accepted in a liberal democracy.

It’s in the context, of all this that I was recently asked about my, ‘policy’ toward police instructions. Quite simple, I will defend an individual officer, I won’t defend the institution (i.e I won’t act for police forces.)

I understand that the upper tiers of the institution do not reflect the reality of what goes on at the grass-roots. And despite the positive noises, the public are starting to realise the same.

In 2013 I’ve had two very conflicting experiences of the same police force. One morning, my car was broken into along with two of my neighbours. I didn’t call the police, my neighbour did. Two response officers attended, they were polite, interested and respectful. Then a SOCO turned up, she was even better. And, then, the DC assigned the OIC was very good too. In my view, the best PR the Met can get.

Later in the year it was a rare foray back to the Mags’. I was defending a private client on a minor matter. Three officers attended, there was an air outside the Court straight away. Slouching, exasperated huffs, attempts at staring me out and the Defendant. (I point out, this wasn’t even an assault PC job or similar…). There was even a touch of childish whispering.

I’d been on the receiving end of this plenty of times before in the Mags (there’s rarely senior officers around or officers knocking about from specialist, ‘high respect’ squads as you find in the Crown Courts of London) and ignored it.

After the first witness gave evidence, there was a break, I walked outside, and instantly, I find one of the police witnesses talking to the witness. A full blown conversation. I couldn’t believe it. I told them to stop it, another officer, the OIC, made some remark I couldn’t hear, but was clearly full brush of attitude.

The officer who had spoken to the witness, got in Court, I put to him that he had been having a conversation with the civilian witness – ‘no, just told him I wasn’t allowed to speak to him’. I had been there, close enough, I knew that wasn’t true.

And when that officer lied, that to me had more of an impact than Plebgate, Duggan or Doreen Lawrence. That was an affront.

I know that we don’t live in a Capital city where all the police are bad. That’s why I will represent individual officers.

I am convinced that those 100 Eddie Monsoons would be better replaced. With 50 good coppers in professional standard and another 50 good coppers training up those who don’t meet Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe’s gold standard.

Sweetie, darling, where’s the squad car…. from absolutely fabulous, to absolutely warrantable, constitutional, legit…

I revisit my opening again, it’s such a farce one must actually feel sorry for those good officers in the Met. But, those officers, those good ones must help pick out the rotten apples too.

FTD

It would seem that there is a national need for a national police force. Whatever that need is, I have never really understood.

I personally don’t understand how we can have a new National Crime Agency without a Royal Commission on Policing or similar. Apparently, it’s more than rebranding SOCA, apparently it’s a new way we do national policing.

I’m sorry, it feels half arsed to me. In short, SOCA has been rebranded, CEOP (a good agency) has been subsumed and the troubled bits of the UKBA has been absorbed into the National Crime Agency.

And it’s clear that the Coalition have a brand in mind. They want the ‘NCA’ to be the British FBI. That’s clearly the brief which has been given to the media.

I pause at this stage and note, there’s nothing terribly ‘federal’ about the NCA. It’s got no powers to institute proceedings Scotland and only minor powers in Northern Ireland.

And really, call me a cynic, I imagine that bundling a number of agencies into one isn’t about a national revolution in the way that we are policed, but rather instead a cost cutting exercise packaged in a bit of media excitement.

If…

We are to have a national police force, then in reality there are a number of areas that NCA are missing.

NCA has effectively four sections:

– Border policing

– Economic crime

– CEOP (and the cyber crime unit)

– Organised crime

A remit much narrower than the FBI.

The fear

The hype of our own FBI is that nobody is out of its reach.

And in terms of the FBI, that’s very true. Small town corrupt police departments ought to fear the G men and the financier with a proclivity to misselling financial products to little old ladies ought to have the same.

The FBI has eight top investigative priorities:

At number 5

Protect civil rights. If you’re a state official in the United States who misuses their power, who curtails the rights of the good folk of whatever county, then (nowadays at least – forget COINTELPRO for a mo) they ought to expect a knock on the door from a university educated law enforcement official.

If a Washington Police Dept had illegally followed, slurred and surveilled a murder victim’s family, they don’t have an ombudsman knock on their door, they have the FBI.

At number 7

Combat major white collar crime. We’ve seen the images of the likes of Bernie Madoff taken down by the FBI (and technically also I’m told the US Postal Service!).

In the UK we see nothing like it. The major white collar crime, when committed by an individual is investigated by a variety of folk, the City of London Police, the Met, the SFO and so on and so on.

Behind closed doors we don’t see the non-prosecution arrangements reached with companies or their agreements to pay fines.

If we were serious about a national police force to have a serious economic crime aspect, then those agencies ought to have been subsumed too. But let’s face it, there’s no drive in this government to really tackle crime in the City.

All publicity no panther

Was it a panther, or was it a bear that was the logo of SOCA? I have forgetten already.

If this new agency is to have any claws then charge it with protecting civil liberties and fighting big corruption. Otherwise it’s just a load of money on new logos.

FTD.

So says Francis Bacon

No says the Officer in the Case.

The Officer in the Case is the person in charge of the investigation of a crime in England and Wales. Their duty, in law, is to investigate all reasonable lines of inquiry which may go to a Defendant’s guilt or indeed their innocence.

“Did you Detective follow all reasonable lines of inquiry in this case?”

“Yes.”

I then asked between 25 and 30 questions. Each was an obvious line of inquiry.

“Did you follow X line of inquiry”

No says the Officer in the Case.

“Did you follow Y line of inquiry.”

No says the Officer in the Case.

At my 29th question, Counsel for the Crown had his head in his hands. And the jury were shaking their heads.

“I shall ask again Officer, did you, considering my questions, follow all reasonable lines of inquiry in this case?”

“Yes.”

The case was promptly dismissed for want of evidence. Counsel for the Crown simply shook his head.

If you go down to the Court today you’re in for a big surprise

In localshire Magistrates’ Court, in Court 1 they’re prosecuting 47 people for TV license matters. In Court 2, they’re prosecuting 20 people who have children who refuse to go to school and in Court 3 they’re prosecuting a man for strangling his wife.

Despite the fact he strangled her (and strangulation is a risk sign for escalation of violence), he is being prosecuted for battery. A Crown Court trial is too expensive because his wife might not co-operate.

In Court 4, they’re prosecuting a man for stabbing someone with a glass outside a pub, it’s been charged as battery. A Crown Court trial is too expensive and while a jury might not believe the witnesses (they were all drunk) they should be able to get it home with a Bench of Magistrates.

Unfortunately in Court 4 the trial can’t get up and running. Nobody remembered to book a Barrister. The CPS don’t really prosecute themselves in Localshire Magistrates’ Court anymore as it costs too much to get the staff there. The Defence Counsel sighs, they can’t have a trial anyway, despite four listings, the disclosure they require hasn’t been forthcoming.

Everything by now has come to a grinding halt in Court 2. The Legal Advisor in Court has noticed a large legal issue with one of the prosecutions. The problem is the Defendant was deemed not to be entitled to legal aid and has no lawyer. The lawyer for the Local Authority is baffled, they are usually a litigator in the office, they don’t usually go to Court. Now they have to, the Chief Executive slashed the Counsel budget overnight.

Back in Court 1, the fourth Defendant explains how he can’t afford the TV fee as he lost his job as a supervisor at Localshire Inc. Of the 47 people facing the charge at least 10 will say similar.

In a back office, with formica furniture, the Justices’ Clerk is trying to compose an email to the rest of the Legal Advisors in the area. Her desk is covered with the diktats of the Ministry of Justice and competing guidance from the Justices’ Clerk Society. Her email pings with another crimeline updating with another High Court case about something going wrong in the Magistrates.

She tries to think how to draft the email. The local defence lawyers are having cases stayed for an abuse of process. The CPS are simply not serving things. The CPS are blaming the police. The police are blaming the CPS. Witnesses just don’t turn up to trials, nobody tells them there is a trial. She writes, ‘abuse of process cannot be used to discipline the CPS’, she doesn’t know what else they can do.

She puts disclosure on the ‘Court User Group’ agenda again.

Affirmation – Judicial

“I, ____________ , do solemnly sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second in the office of ____________ , and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this Realm without fear or favour, affection or ill will.”

Best of luck chap,

FTD

On my long train journey today I caught up with various blogs and news stories about criminal justice. It’s a habit indulged by the various bits of kit in my court bag which connect to the internet at high speed.

Today’s highlight for me was this http://www.no-offence.org/content.php/178-Guest-blog

Written by a gentleman who described himself as a ‘Change Manager’.  As you’ll see, one of the reasons he concludes that the police are of low morale is because they aware that they aren’t providing a good service.

Respect

The Police Federation talk a lot about respect, they talk about how the Government should respect the police and how the public should do the same.

I actually agree.

However, what I don’t agree with is that respect is something automatic. I am not sure where this mantra came from. It seemed to first appear in schools, you must respect teachers, you must respect each other.

One of the reasons I became a barrister is because of schooling. When I grew up I thought it was unfair how students were treated by certain teachers, or how I was treated. I thought it wrong that I should respect people when they are doing things they shouldn’t do.  The requirement to automatically respect something or someone leads to injustice.

And actually, the criminal justice system has in built into it a lack of ‘blind’ respect. If ‘blind respect’ was to rule supreme then we wouldn’t have trials, we would simply take what the police and witnesses say for granted. We wouldn’t have appeals, we would presume that trial judges got things correct on the first time and there would be no appellate process.

My Recipe for Respect

As said, I do not expect blind respect. In fact I think blind respect is wrong. However, to earn respect, I think all actors (from Usher to Supreme Court Justice) in the Criminal Justice system should sign up to the same:

To admit mistakes are made and that no actor is infallible.

To act with honesty and integrity.

To follow the law (even when you don’t like it)

To be courteous to all involved with the system (from Defendant to Victim to Probation Officer to Parole Board Member etc etc)

To recognise that fairness is the central aim of criminal justice and without it the system cannot be fair at all.

Fairness and courtesy are linked

I think we overlook the link between fairness and courtesy. I personally think that reality police programmes do the police more harm than good. Often, the police are shown acting like law enforcement officials rather than officers of the peace. There’s a dispute, the police go and listen to the victim (clearly a courtesy as well as a duty) then often are seen arresting the complained of person, sticking them in the back of the police car and then start asking them questions about what happened.

It is a courtesy to listen. I know some people simply carry on when Magistrates start whispering to each other on the Bench, assuming they won’t be listened to. I don’t, I stand there in silence until they have finished. My biggest pet hate about the Magistrates’ Court is when Benches announce decisions without even turning to the Defence advocate, it is neither courteous nor is it fair.

I dislike in the Crown Court, colleagues who jump down people’s throats when they go off piste when answering a question. Just stop, ask the question again, and again, until the Judge directs the witness to answer. It has far more effect than being rude to a witness. A jury will prefer your courtesy and note the witness being evasive.

If an argument is being made ad hoc, or extempore, if you’re a Judge or Magistrate allow the advocate to at least set out what their argument is before dismissing it out of hand. Again a courtesy, but it goes to fairness.

If you’re a police officer at Court, don’t simply assume that your time is being wasted and don’t assume that you’re there because the Defence have demanded it.

And, if you’re an Officer In the Case, don’t  tell the defence solicitor to ‘fuck off’ when she asks you a simple question outside Court. (True story…)

Only human

Going back to my recipe for respect, I have to admit, I may sound holier than thou now but I’ve had my fair share of moments. I’ve gone hard on rude witnesses, bickered with disagreeable legal advisors, traded verbal blows with bobbies, argued with the Chair of a Bench or two.

But my default position is polite. And as my Mother says, I shouldn’t rise to it

If all the actors in the criminal justice system received a base line of courtesy then there would be an appearance of fairness. Those who appear to be fair are likely to garner respect. A system where there is an appearance of fairness will attract respect.

A fair criminal justice system deserves respect.

FTD.

MRS PUTNAM: You think it God’s work you should never lose a child, nor grandchild either, and I bury all but one? There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!

Replace Mrs Putnam with Phillip Schofield, he handed David Cameron a list this morning on This Morning and Cameron’s response: “There is a danger, if we’re not careful, that this could turn into a sort of witch-hunt, particularly against people who are gay and I’m worried about the sort of thing you are doing right now – giving me a list of names that you’ve taken off the internet.” Bravo, David Cameron.

Message boards, twitter, facebook are becoming the new finger pointed by the Salem girls and they’re picking on men, several of whom are gay.

I think the danger is real that there will be a witch hunt. And, I applaud the Prime Minister for warning of the risk.

My applause there endeth.

DANFORTH: The pure in heart need no lawyers.

So said Governor Danforth as he presided over the witch-hunt.

My applause ends for  the Government because at present there is a problem. The problem is that in the past we have not properly looked into child abuse claims. And when I say ‘we’, it is all of us because the child abuse has occurred within institutions, those institutions at present being identified as the BBC, various social services and so on. I say, ‘we’, too, because the institutions we employ to consider the abuse claims have failed to consider them properly. It would seem that is true for various police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Here is the problem.

So, the abuse has happened within institutions and there is an institutional failure to detect, prevent and cure (by which I mean remedy) the abuse.

The unfortunate reaction has been this:-

1 x Scotland Yard Inquiry

1 x BBC Documentary

1 x ITV Documentary

3 x BBC investigations

1 x Department of Health investigation

1 x Director of Public Prosecutions Review

1 x National Crime Agency investigation

1 x Judicial led inquiry

Numerous individuals who are pointing the finger with the fervor of Abigail Williams.

PROCTOR: Your justice would freeze beer!

Everytime, one of these reviews, or investigations, or documentaries goes out and starts poking about it should not be seen as getting to the truth. Quite the opposite. Instead, it is trampling over a crime scene. And we all know, when you trample over a crime scene you destroy evidence, taint evidence and it can lead to perverse results.

So back to my original headline problem: the abuse has happened within institutions and there is an institutional failure to detect, prevent and cure (by which I mean remedy) the abuse.

My solution. All current investigations are frozen.

Instead,

Operation Yewtree is expanded. To beyond Jimmy Saville. Operation Yewtree will investigate any allegation of institutional sex abuse that a party wishes to bring. The Met Police can be supplemented by officers from local police forces. No police officer involved in the case will have been involved in previous investigations which were discontinued/stopped for any reason.

Operation Yewtree’s evidence will then be reviewed. Firstly, by CPS specialist sexual offences prosecutors. Should they find that there is a case to answer then the matter is referred to independent counsel. My suggestion is a small team of around 5 barristers led by a QC. Let those barristers be at the independent bar, let none of them be Treasury Counsel and let them make the decision whether to prosecute individuals independent of the DPP, the AG/SG.  (This avoids the suggestion of bias, avoids the CPS being accused of a cover up, or Treasury Counsel being encouraged/discouraged to prosecute).

Experts investigating, experts prosecuting. All experts with relative independence.

Now as to the institutional failings. Expand the remit of Mrs Justice Macur. She can investigate: the BBC, the Health Service etc etc and their failings. To do so, she’ll need investigators and she’ll need lawyers. So:

Team approach:

Justice, investigate the failings of the police and CPS. Lead lawyer: Actions against the police specialist with, Investigators: IPCC investigators and seconded CPS inspectorate. Lawyers: Independent barrister reviewing charging decisions.

BBC, investigate the failings of the BBC/Media. Lead lawyer: Employment lawyer/whistleblowing expert with, Investigators:  PCC (or whomever replaces them). Lawyers: Independent barrister reviewing employment/disciplinary/child protection decisions.

Health, investigate the failings of health social care providers. Lead lawyer: Childrens lawyers specialist, with, Investigators: Independent social workers, Local Government obudsman investigators. Lawyers: Independent barrister reviewing employment/disciplinary/child protection decisions.

All of whom report to Mrs Justice Macur in an open hearing. All interested parties are entitled to be represented. All evidence given under oath. Mrs Justice Macur has the power to order and require disclosure and summons witnesses.

PROCTOR: I have given you my soul, leave my name

Without proper, centralised investigation people will be accused of being child abusers when they are no such thing. Other people, will walk free of child abuse claims because evidence has been trampled over by amateurs.

Cameron, I applaud you for stopping a witch-hunt. Stop that and instead put something sensible and just in the place of it.

FTD

I hate the sight of armed, British, police officers. Absolutely hate it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, in some places I understand it. For example, in airports, I get it. At the end of Downing Street, I just about get it, (although a friend of mine in the Army recently explained the strange historical  conventions about the Army guarding the monarch but not members of parliament…). There are some places where the police need to access deadly force quickly.

And, the wonderful (if you can say that) thing about our armed police is the huge level of training and regulation they are subject to. Whereas in the US, you might be the security guard at the local ASDA and they’ll dole out the artillery, here, armed police officers go through rigorous training and I understand interviewing and forms of screening.

What I hate about it is the symbolic acceptance that this country now has a gun culture.

Terror

Terrorism and the threat thereof is not the explanation for a proliferation of armed officers in and about London and other big cities. If it were they would have been there since the 70s and really beyond. Here is one of the most odd policing pictures of the 20th century. It’s from the Siege of Sidney Street in 1911. There are three things which I think are really interesting about this photograph. But, before I share. The Siege of Sidney Street occurred after a small gang of immigrants tried to robber a jewellers. The police caught up with them and three unarmed police officers were shot and killed. A couple of weeks later, the police are given information as to where they are hiding.

200 police officers descend on Sidney Street and form the siege. However, the occupants of the hide out have weapons and a large stock of ammo. So, down comes Churchill with a detachment of the Scots Guards. Churchill even ordered the deployment of a piece of field artillery. Before the artillery piece was fired, the occupants of the house were all consumed in flames and died.

 So, what’s important about the picture? It shows in my view that 100 years of policing later the same tensions still exist.

1) What role do the armed forces have in civilian policing? The answer to me is not none. The expectation is none. And the expectation ought to be none. Sidney Street is the first real modern example of where the civil police have quite frankly been outgunned. You see the in the picture, one bobby with a shotgun, probably there to protect Churchill more than anything else, the rest unarmed. And then, on the left, the Scots’ Guards rifles out, bayonets ready.

If Sidney Street happened again tomorrow, then the civil police would, 99% deal with it. Is that necessarily the right thing? In one sense it must be, the main focus of the police is the preservation of life and the detection and prevention of crime. Whereas, with the army, the main purpose is the defence of the national interest and the neutralisation of threats thereto.

But, gearing police officers up to do this type of armed, almost battle like, policing is perhaps difficult for wider police culture. And it’s also really difficult for wider police/public PR. In our recent most memory, Mark Duggan’s death and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes (of course the latter had army involvement.)

Comparatively, the Iranian Embassy siege and the army deployment at Heathrow in 1994 and 2003 were done relatively without incident.

Can we not accept then, as we have over the last 100 years that there will be moments that the Army has to be brought in. Can we say that we don’t want a police culture which has a ‘battle’, or ‘war’ like aspect to it in any respect? Because if that starts to set in then policing by consent and being officers of the peace really is over.

As an example, the Canadians from 1993 onwards relieved the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from their counter terrorism function and handed it over to the armed forces…

2) The role of politicians Churchill, symbolically is at the centre of that picture. One of the footnotes in history is that at the siege of Sidney Street, Churchill a) ordered the deployment of artillery! b) refused to allow the fire brigade through to the burning house to try and save the gun men inside. Thatcher authorised the deployment of the SAS to take over at the Iranian Embassy and Blair fortified Heathrow.

Forced to pause here and return to my aside at the start about the strange conventions on the military guarding the Queen and not parliament. Of course, the armed forces take orders and follow.

British policing has a central ideal of independence, which likewise is supposed to be present in the CPS, in barristers and in the Judiciary.

My worry about politicians having power over armed police officers and fraught high risk situations is, put simply, what the hell do they know? More cynically, the Iranian Embassy Siege gave Thatcher a huge political boost, I’m not saying she did what she did for that reason. But, there’s a risk isn’t there that the use of high level force could be authorised to gain political points.

The Federal Constitutional Court in Germany have been really hot on this type of risk. The Americans lay it down in statute. We open it up to the discretion of politicians and rely on British notions of separate policing power, political power and military power.

3) The arms race was really apparent at Sidney Street. The army were called in because the Police didn’t have the firepower to deal with the occupants of the house. At the Iranian Embassy Siege firepower wasn’t really the issue, more tactics (after all the PC guarding the Embassy did deal with one hostage taker using his .38 Smith and Wesson revolver.)

I do fear that there’s something of an arms race going on,  partly, because of how we have increased the number of armed police officers. I can only base this on my own experience, I don’t know yours.

When I  lived in the US, I would never see a police officer brandishing an assault rifle. That’s despite the fact that guns where everywhere and I could have got myself a shotgun with my McDonalds in the morning. Most police officers I interacted with had a similar weapon to what PC Lock did at the Iranian Embassy Siege, a .39 Smith and Wesson revolver in their holster. Or, else, a 9mm semi automatic pistol.

In Europe too, very rare one sees the police (outside of airports/palaces etc) brandishing rifles. Instead, most of got the Austrian made Glock in their holsters. So, the weaponry is there, but it’s not so obvious.

Here and I don’t really know the answer! The police are much more about their sub-machine guns. So the MP5 is a familiar sight, 15 or 30 9mm rounds that can be fired in 3 shot bursts. But more recently, I’ve noticed a change:

 Here we are, the Heckler & Kock G36, so much stopping power that it is standard issue to:

The German army

The Greek army

South Korea’s – ‘special sea attack team’

The Latvian army

The Portuguese Marine Corps

The Spanish Army and Navy

So now, we see, regularly, the Met Police carrying a weapon on our streets with huge stopping power. A weapon used by the armies and navies of other countries we are now using in civilian law enforcement. And that scares me. Are the bad guys going to step up to out do the G36? We’re hearing more about MAC-10s being found in London all 1000 rounds a minute of it.

Why in a heavy gun culture can the police cope with the gold ole fashion .38 Smith and Wesson and here, in a culture where guns aren’t the norm do the police need something as powerful as the G36?

What do we want?

We want to be safe. We don’t want police officers being killed, we don’t want kids being killed. We don’t want mistakes like the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. But where’s the balance?

I don’t want to live in a gun culture. The results of gun cultures are clear. When I sat down and watched the news last night and saw the South African police shoot dead 34 people, I couldn’t believe it. It might as well have been the Peterloo Massacre as far as I was concerned.

I don’t want to live in a culture where a state official might authorise that level of violence against a group of protesting people.

What do you want?

FTD

There can be no doubt that the CPS treat racially aggravated offending very seriously indeed. That has sometimes led me to find myself in trials that I can’t believe have come to Court, not because they’re not serious, but because there’s very little evidence. But the CPS guidance makes it almost always in the public interest to prosecute in such cases.

And, you can see why. Racism is in any form unacceptable. Racism does not have a place in 21st century Britain.

But how do you feel about paying for the prosecution of John Terry.

Let me do something which feels unusual, let me try and put this neutrally:

The everyday trial

Section 5 of the public order act is one of the most simple offences in our criminal law. In fact, it can be dealt with by fixed penalty notice.

The racially aggravated version of the offence cannot be dealt with by fixed penalty notice but remains an offence which:

a) Can only be tried in the magistrates’ court.

b) Can only result in the accused being fined.

Even if you were on a low income you would not be guaranteed legal aid to defend the charge as it not considered to be sufficiently serious in all cases to justify legal aid.

To prosecute this charge you would be prosecuted by either a CPS prosecutor employed directly by government, or by the lowest level of barrister, a Grade 1 prosecuting barrister.

To give you an idea of fees, the defending barrister on legal aid would receive between £75 and £150 for the half-day trial. The prosecution barrister generally is on between £150 to £250 for a day for the CPS. So, again, between about £75 to £125 for that half day trial.

The average trial of this type would be heard by 2 or 3 magistrates (who receive their bus fare and a chocolate biscuit and weak tea) and would probably take half a day of a Magistrates’ Court time.

The Court house itself would be guarded by the contracted security guards.

The celebrity trial

John Terry is being tried in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court. This is the Court where some of the most high profile cases in the country are heard. It is the extradition court, it deals with the cases of public protest and disorder in the capital and deals with the most humble shoplifting from Oxford Street.

The Court has a number of resident, salaried District Judges including the Deputy Senior District Judge and the Senior District Judge.

The John Terry trial is being heard, we are told for five days, by the Senior District Judge, the Chief Magistrate of England and Wales.

He is being prosecuted by Duncan Penny, Duncan Penny has been a barrister for 20 years, he is from the top prosecution set in the country. A set of chambers which advise MI5 / MI6 on policing terrorism.

His fee for the trial will reflect his expertise and his 20 years experience. This is being paid for by the tax payer.

Terry is being defended by George Carter-Stephenson QC, he is a barrister with over 30 years experience and has the magic two letters after his name. Of course, Terry is paying for that expertise.

I add, if Terry is acquitted then the tax payer will be liable to pay for those fees, although probably not in full, they will be required to pay a  signficant part.

The Terry trial has required the deployment of a large police presence.

So…

The cost, in lawyers, court and policing is huge compared to the everyday trial.

If you had the choice? Do you think it’s worth the cost? This is when less and less people receive legal aid, courts are closing, there are less bobbies on the beat, cautions are preferred to prosecutions in a number of cases.

Or, is it worth the money? Is it worth showing all society that footballers are not above the law, that racism will be prosecuted doggedly and that the CPS will deploy the resources necessary to fight this ill.

As I say, I’ve tried to keep this neutral, I’d love to know what you decide.

FTD.

Shortly before 4am on Sunday, I was on a nightbus rocking and rolling it’s way back to my part of London. In Reading, a 17 year old boy called Jordan Malutshi was on the floor of a bar, dying from a stab wound.

I predicted Jordan’s death.

Not in a  psychic Sally sort of way, but in the sort of way that any criminal justice professional could.

On Saturday, I was  out on a hen night in the centre of London. Yes, a hen night, save your jokes folks. And, I’ve got to be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve been out clubbing in the centre of London, and it’s been even longer since I’ve been sober whilst doing it. I say sober, I mean sober enough so I was compos mentis.  It was 2 o’clock  in the morning, I was on a sweaty dance floor in a central London club, and out of nowhere they started to blast YMCA. Slightly taken by surprise, my mind went for a wander. As I looked around, I realised why so many violent cases came out of clubs.

And it’s not just rough clubs, or bad clubs/bars/pubs, it’s a risk in many places simply because of the way these late night places work.

Booze means bovva

Of course, put any large group of strangers together and throw alcohol into the mixer and there is the risk of bother. I’m far from an advocate for prohibition but I am certain that licensing law could stop some serious injury and offending.

The Licensing Act 2003 had as one of its key aims the prevention of crime. Part 7 of the Act contains a raft of offences, offences which are designed to keep the boozer-going public safe. In general, it’s an offence under section 140 of the Act to allow disorderly conduct on a licensed premises – an offence which is fineable only.

And, again, under section 141 it is an offence to sell alcohol on such a premises to somebody who is drunk – an offence, again which is fineable only.

‘Drunk’ and ‘disorder’ are not precise terms of art. Indeed, the scope of circumstances they present means by their very nature that if you’re hardwired to defend like I am, then you can see ways around it for the license holder. What is apparent is that the penalties involved aren’t loaded with a heavy disincentive.

The reality is people will get drunk and they will get disorderly. Proving that a person was drunk when served and that it was the premises that allowed their disorder don’t seem like simple tasks.

That said, I see the intention behind the legislation, but I realise as I hope you do that the reality is that it doesn’t solve  much.

I came to the conclusion on that sweaty dance floor that it’s nigh on impossible to legislate against drunken stupidity.

Name’s not on the list, you’re not coming in

In fact, we got to the first club we were meant to go to that night, and despite being on the guest list, we were told, ‘we’re at capacity, you aint coming in.’ And capacity is often at the starting point of any club/pub brawl. Someone gets barged into, somebody gets a drink spilled, an elbow goes flying on a dance floor and then all hell breaks loose.

It’s not just my old man bones, but, quite simply at some points during the evening the club we were in was simply too full.  Could we have got out if there was a fire? Probably so. Were we likely to get crushed at any stage? Doubt it. But, the simple fact of the matter was that there were too many people in the potential ‘flash zone.’

I’m not saying that I need an EU approved bubble of personal space. But, in the algorithm that decides venue capacity, public order should be considered as well as fire safety.

I’ve had a look at the algorithm. It’s all very clever, you divide the standing area by something called occupied load factor. So in a restaurant, there’s an occupied load factor of about 1m2 per person, the same for a waiting room somewhere. In an amusement arcade or a bingo hall it’s 0.5m2 per person. But that’s the same as a nightclub.

Does it really compute that the local mecca bingo can have the same capacity as the local nightclub?

Somewhere, in the mix of capacity ought we not consider a public order, or public disorder factor?

And, it’s the same with staffing. I haven’t been able to find anything which differentiates the number of security staff one needs for a nightclub than that bingo hall – please correct me!

When I lived in the US, I remember one night, which I’ll never forget. It was the local hip hop night at a big nightclub. Off we pop and I’ve got to admit I was a bit disconcerted. My initial worry was the fact that on the front door were a couple of Sheriff’s deputies, armed. Alas, never worry they have metal detectors at Ministry of Sound I thought.

Inside, where usually would be stood bouncers, were fully uniformed, armed, Sheriff’s deputies – and they had civvy  security there as well. I’ve never been to such a well behaved club night in my entire life. I’d hate to have the police inside clubs here, but, numbers and visual deterrence really do make a difference.

The greater good

All the Westcountry exiles I know love the film, ‘Hot Fuzz’. In short, if you haven’t seen it, it’s a comedy about coppers in a rural town. And, if, like I did, you grew up in a rural town you go, yep, that’s the spot. And in the fi;m, they have, the greater good, it’s better that the kids are let down the local pub a couple of years early than they’re roaming the streets. Where I grew up was no exception, we were down the local nightclub at 16.

But age is important. The first place we went on Saturday night certainly would not have admitted the bum fluff crowd. The second place most certainly did.

Let’s face it, when you’re younger you generally can’t  handle your booze as well and you generally can’t handle yourself as well whilst boozed. Slipping a through elder teenagers  on the cusp of alcoholhood may seem harmless enough but essentially they are at risk. I say nothing more than this, as we don’t know the facts, but I note at this stage that Jordan Malutshi was 17 years old and murdered in a bar.

The younger clubbers were at the centre of the bother on Saturday. There was the standard pushing and chest puffing. And, amusingly for us blokes on the hen party (there were many blokes), the girls in our group were often the target of shall we say, ‘physical overtures’ by the younger drunker guys in the club. Chivalry being dead as it is, we left the ladies to deal with this young guys themselves which they did with ease, mostly with a cutting glance. However, you could see in other situations how it might of all got a bit primal.

Again, the Licensing Act 2003 protects children to a degree from being at these premises by creating a raft of offences in that regard. Sections 145 thru 154 deal with such offences. But, of course there are defences to some of those offences. It’s a defence to take all reasonable steps to establish someone’s age and there’s a defence that nobody could have reasonably suspected the person was  under 18 years old.

I point out here, the sale of alcohol to a child is again, fineable only.

In this respect enforcement is a difficulty. Unlike our American cousins, the general public do not see raiding public houses/clubs and checking everybody’s age as an acceptable way to interrupt our evenings off. Nor if  we’re entirely honest do the local police have the resources to mount this type of operation regularly enough for it to have any real deterrent value.

How do you legislate to keep kids out of trouble? You can’t simply, not that I can think of anyway. That was one of the very few attractions of Labour’s ID card policy, that this type of problem had some sort of solution. However, it was only really a solution in ruralshire where I grew up. If you’re in London, or Manchester, or Liverpool, you have no end of foreign kids visiting – do you require them to all carry their passports?

In this regard, I have to be honest, I think the potential for harsher sentencing may have a deterrent effect.

It’s all a bit obvious really…

… that over populated, under staffed, over intoxicated clubs, will be a flash zone.

What worries me is how obvious it was to me as a criminal justice professional whilst I was trying to look good on the dancefloor.

We don’t know as of yet if any of my concerns above contributed to Jordan Malutshi’s death. What we do know is that some simple pragmatic steps could be taken to reduce violence in late night venues.

And whilst we’re at it, another few Vomit and Kebab chariots (night buses) wouldn’t hurt you TFL.

FTD.

If you follow me on twitter you’ll know I’ve had one of those weeks. There’s a pain in my neck and I’m not entirely sure if it’s from leaning over a computer or sleeping on a train.

When I finally got out tonight I was ready to switch off. So I dialled up ‘Pretty Boy’ – not that he’s inane, but when I phone him I don’t have to talk about crime, criminals, coppers, prisons or anything like that …. the conversation is much more… extra curricular. And, after ‘Pretty Boy’ I was going to call ‘TV Blonde’ – neither answered.

So as I wandered along through the streets of legal London, dragging wheelie bag behind I got thinking.

First, I smiled to myself, a helpful message @MPSWandsworth my local police, they looked into something I had concerns about. And, they’re fans of my blog, I laughed to myself, funny how many police readers I actually have.

Then I looked at twitter as I wandered along. The tweets were quite sad really. Sam Hallam was a happy piece of news in a sense, but sad that justice had taken so long. The Law Society announced what can only be described as a laughable minimum wage for new trainee solicitors and the police continued to talk about Winsor. Meanwhile home affairs correspondents and police commentators were talking about police privatisation. In other feeds human rights heroes, Hugh Southey QC and Mark George QC were talking about the death penalty.

I was shocked to see how many people had retweeted, my simple missive of the day:

‘Cut legal aid, lower advocacy standards, destroy the independent Bar, privatise the police and then #samhallam will be the norm. #legalaid

There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will

I had a total selfish moment. Bloody hell I thought, when I signed up for my wig it was meant to be simple, do a job I love, defend people in a fair forum, be paid a decent wage, get silk if I’m good enough, retire, die happy.

Now it hardly seems possible.

And then I thought, look at what I’ve missed,Bushel’s case, Somersett’s case, defending the suffragette, marching with the civil rights campaigners for racial integration here and in the US, busting the corrupt police squads, the Guildford 4, Birmingham 6.

And it’s only going to get worse, hellish vision posited here: http://forthedefence.org/2012/04/14/the-way-were-going-criminal-justice-2025/

I got quite depressed, as if I’d missed my moment to make a difference.

But then, I actually realised that we’re standing at a moment in history. A fundamental change in how we deliver criminal justice in this country. It started slowly under the Labour Government.

So: PCSOs, unqualified prosecutors in the Magistrates’ Courts, cuts to legal aid, erosion of the rules as to hearsay, the right to a jury trial and bad character evidence going before juries. A prison service which was underfunded and actively supplanted by the private sector. The probation service’s culture fundamentally changed virtually overnight. Indeterminate sentences handed out all over.

And nobody really paid attention to the slow drip. People complained about the individual changes, but nobody stepped back and looked at things in the whole.

In that environment, Barry George, Sam Hallam wrongfully convicted, probably with many others. It took what, almost 20 years to get justice for Stephen Lawrence.

Now, because of the economic circumstances, that drip has become a gush.

The police have marched against Winsor.

Court staff have walked out.

I’m going to have to learn four languages as there’s no interpreters left.

Barristers are trying to work out if there’s a right for them to strike.

Judges are complaining about declining standards in prosecutions.

People are worried about declining standards in criminal defence.

Trainee solicitors in legal aid fields are looking at a better living in Tescos.

People are asking whether you get a better service if you pay for your own defence and some lawyers are saying yes.

Naturally, we’re all concerned about our own position. We’ve all been reviewed individually, the Bar had Carter, the police have Winsor, the prison service have endless reviews and the probation service have a new name every other week.

Now, we’re saying there should be a Royal Commission on Policing, there should be advocacy tests for defence barristers, we ask Serco to fill the gap where public services used to.

When we say, we don’t like that, we’re accused of self-interest. And, of course that’s true, we are self-interested to a certain degree. But I hope people who don’t work in the criminal justice system accept this:

We were never in it for the money. If I’d wanted to earn more, I could have sat in the office next to ‘Pretty Boy’ in the city.

We’re vulnerable, why, because we’re in a vocation, our vocation is to secure justice, that I hope is the same for lawyers, coppers, probation officers and the rest…

And that should be our focus.

Hold the line

Has been a popular hash tag of the police in their campaign. A terribly British phrase which conjures a mental picture of other glorious moments in British history.

So rather than fighting individually (with the risk of being accused of self-interest), explaining how the gush will wash away our part of British criminal justice, why don’t we fight together for a single vision.

My Moses Moment

In my view, the ten commandments of British criminal justice are these:

1) The purpose of the criminal justice system is to protect the individual. Be it, to protect individuals from crime, protect individuals from the coercive power of the state, stop individuals from patterns of destructive behaviour and provide their safety through the passage of the system if Defendant, witness or victim.

2) The police, must police by consent. The police are holders of public office and can never be privatised. They must remain independent from Government, prosecutors and the media.

3)  Every person accused of a crime deserves quality legal representation. Quality of defence should not depend on ability to pay or the financial arrangements between legal services providers and the state.

4) Every person accused of a crime deserves to be tried by an independent body of their peers. The Magistracy must be diverse in age, race and gender and reflect their local communities. The Magistracy must be able to perform their function without excessive interference of the state. If accused of a serious, indictable offence, then every person has an absolute right to trial by jury.

5) Children should not be criminalised for trivial offences. Grass roots discipline comes from teachers and parents/carers not from police officers, lawyers and Judges.

6)The mentally ill should not be punishment for offending. Their treatment is from the social welfare element of the state not the imposition of punishment by the criminal justice system.

7)Prison shall be used as a last resort. Effective community punishment should be the preferred method of disposal. Restorative justice should be common place. For those who custody is the only option, they should be held in public owned prisons where their rehabilitation is the main aim. Punishment, be it in the community or in custody, ought never be for profit.

8) The purpose of the probation service is to prevent re-offending. This  is not an actuarial science, instead it is an idiosyncratic process where well funded probation officers aid offenders in re-integrating into society.

9)The Crown Prosecution Service must remain independent. They must make decisions as to prosecutions free from pressures of the police and the executive. Prosecutions should be based on local need and the prosecutor’s code not concerns of the media and/or pressure groups.

10)The Criminal law protects all and applies to all. Nobody will ever be subject to scrutiny by the police or punishment due to their race, age, gender, nationality or sexual preference. Nobody is above the criminal law due to their occupation, office or income. The Criminal law is deaf to the media but is open and accessible so that the public can see that justice is done.

At the bottom of Mount Sinai

I hope we could all be there together. Those above are my ten commandments. I am sure some of yours would be different. But imagine if we could agree them.

What an amazing message that would be to Government and to the public.

If we all held that line together.

Imagine the march, where I stood there wig and gown, next to me was a Magistrate like Bystander, on the other side a cop, or @Chairforce1, maybe some senior members of the judiciary, QCs too and solicitors from the £6 per hour trainee to the big hitting leaders  of major legal aid firms and the prosecutors, probation officers and YOT workers. Marching behind, coppers in their tunics, Occupy protestors with their banners, victim support workers, legal advisors to the magistrates and qualified criminal justice foreign language interpreters.

That’s not just a line. That’s a dam which could stop the gush from washing away 100s of years of British justice.

FTD

  As said previously, I do not hate the police. I hate bad police officers.

And here is a reminder of what bad police officers can do.

This is a picture of Kelly Thomas. Kelly Thomas died on the 10th of July last year. Now, two American police officers are potentially facing a trial for doing this to him.

A little after 8 o’clock in the evening on the 5th of July last year, police officers in Fullerton California received a call about petty vandalism of cars near the Fullerton bus and train station. Two police officers attended and began to investigate. When they did, they found Kelly Thomas. Kelly Thomas was sitting down without a shirt on. He was homeless and schizophrenic. He was unarmed.

The officers who attended set about searching him. Seems to begin with one of them giving him a slap around the chops.

Then they take their batons out and hit him several times.

They then tazer him.

One of the officers, Ramos, put on latex gloves and asked Thomas “Now see my fists? They are getting ready to fuck you up.”

They did fuck him up as they punched him, hit him with the butts of their tazer guns. And in the end six police officers piled on top of him. He’d done nothing to resist them.

As Kelly Thomas choked on his own blood, he pleaded with them, they didn’t listen. He cried out, ‘Dad, they’re killing me.’  He even apologised to the officers as they were crushing his face and compressing his thorax.

Nobody deserves to die like this.

Culture

Tomorrow the police march in central London to fight against the Winsor changes in British policing. I think it’s a sign of how great our Democracy is that even the police can show dissent to the state. I am glad that they are unified and have a single voice.

The Fullerton police officers were unified behind their colleagues, to the extent there was a coverup. To the extent that the FBI had to come in and investigate.

So, if you’re marching re: Winsor tomorrow, enjoy that unity. But, if one of your colleagues shows unnecessary violence whilst on duty then expose them, report them and make sure it’s followed up. Unite and show that you’re a great police force, the model of policing by consent. The model of a police force in a Democracy.

If you’re Joe Public and you see the police using violence against someone, don’t simply assume they deserve it. Consider it, report it.

If you’re in power, push for a better IPCC.

If you’re a Magistrate, don’t simply believe that the police would never do such a thing.

And let’s all make sure that we don’t turn into a country where those who we ask to protect us, could turn on one of us like this.

FTD