Posts Tagged ‘Lawrence’

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

Advertisements

The last six days have seen the Metropolitan Police under attack, from the media, from Parliament and from their own brass. The reason? Racism. Or allegations thereof.

The BBC especially have put their extra special shocked faces on. But, how on earth can there be racism in the Met post the Macpherson report? This is 2012, nobody is racist anymore.

Toss. British society has racist elements. Police officers are recruited from British society. As such, there’s always the risk you’re recruiting a racist. It goes in everything, football, the Arts, on university campuses, in bars at the Bar.

Racism was not fixed over night with Macpherson and it’s stupid to pretend otherwise.

I’ve always imagined that the Prison Service and the British Military were more susceptible to racism than the police for a variety of reasons. But, both of those have accepted that racism was a problem and have taken steps to stamp it out.

If one makes an allegation of racism in a prison or in a military institution they receive specialist investigation. Although I have no doubt there are still failings in both institutions, I think they’re certainly more honest to themselves.

And they have to be, they don’t have the scrutiny of the public. People can’t spot what they’re upto on the streets, or overhear things. The army isn’t on the streets of London and the Prison Service don’t deal with road traffic incidents.

Being a public service which are truly in the public eye, we are to blame for continued police racism. And some of us are more to blame than others.

Defence lawyers

The criminal justice system is one of the biggest forms of scrutiny that the police face. Much more so than the complaints system or the civil/administrative court.

And on the most part it is for the defence to scrutinise what the police have done in a particular case. When I defend, I’m dogged, particularly when there have been avenues of investigation which haven’t been properly investigated. As too will I take points when evidence has obtained in less than proper circumstances.

But like a lot of other briefs, there’s a line of defence which makes me shudder. ‘They were racist.’ There’s been many a client who has said it to me. And once said and once part of the defence it’s my job to follow that instruction.

That doesn’t mean though that it’ll necessarily even be mentioned in Court. Why? Well sometimes it may not even be relevant. Other times we may advise our clients not to raise it.

Why on earth would you not raise a police officer being racist? One problem is the BBC effect. There has been a degree of post-Macpherson social conditioning that racism is a completely shocking thing and never happens, despite the fact is completely contrary to the reality of wider society.

And it requires a lot of bravery to bring racism into a case, for two further reasons:

The Magistrates

Of my Crown Court trials, racism only has ever come into one, and that wasn’t police racism.

Racism is often a Magistrates’ Court type of issue. A police officer was racist to me so I pushed them away from me. I swore at the officer as they used inappropriate words. I restrained the officer as they acted in a way which offended my religion and so on.

But one of the reasons we have to be so careful about ‘racism’ based defences, it because of the forum. I do not know a single black District Judge. It is incredibly rare that there is a black magistrate on a trial bench.

Does it matter? Yes, of course it matters, the point of magistrates is shared experience. If a section of the community is completely under represented then the Magistracy cannot access that element of shared experience. And I’m sorry to say but in London, being exposed to racist police officers is part of the shared experience of many minorities.

So why do we have to advise our clients not to raise a ‘racism’ defence? Because the Magistrates who hear the cases lack experience of the cultural reality of racism and therefore are less likely to believe defences which have a racial aspect.

And you have to think what type of person the Magistracy attracts. Some Magistrates are incredibly fair, in particular, the author of http://magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk/ Bystander. I am told (as I don’t know who he is) that I came before him a lot as a second six pupil, and if it’s who I think it is, he is incredibly fair indeed, he really took the oath to heart.

But others, some Magistrates are people who want to maintain order in their communities, their proclivity will always be to believe the police. And I’m sorry to say, but Magistrates are still too old, white and middle class (even some who match that description are some of my favourites!).

So defence lawyers can be blamed for police racism.

Magistrates can be blamed for it too.

And so can the draftsman.

Bad character

Within the eyes of the law, being racist is reprehensible behaviour. So if you accuse a police officer of being so, you risk all of your character going in under the bad character provisions.

This means?

If your client has previous convictions and he gets you, his brief, to accuse the cop of being racist, the convictions are likely to go before the magistrates/jury.

And that will always be a killer.

So we can’t blame entirely the police themselves for the racism that remains.

Society still has racist elements.

Defence lawyers will not expose racism as it is not necessarily in their tactical interest.

Until Magistrates are more diverse, racism will not be explored in the Courts. And until bad character rules are reformed, nobody who has been in trouble before can afford to make the accusation.

You can’t entirely blame the Met themselves for racism, when the system is set up in such a way it allows it to thrive.

FTD