Posts Tagged 'Police'

Police and Bailiffs resort to desperate measures to prevent court case exposing criminal phantom visits and illegal fees

Back in August last year we covered a story that typifies the behaviour of bailiffs, local authorities and the police when they respectively choose to break the law and refuse to take action against such law breaking.

It is an incredibly important and far reaching story with implications for many people and the way the law is applied in this country by the police, in what is a biased and uneven way which treats ordinary people differently to the agents of local authorities.  As we explained at the time:

A compelling and detailed case history has been sent to Detective Inspector Caroline Stainer by Peter North.  North’s stand against the illegal fees and refusal to pay for phantom visits has so far resulted in Rundles clamping his vehicle, even though they had no right to do so, North being convicted of criminal damage for removing it by cutting the padlock and Rundles then reporting his car as stolen even though they were not entitled to possession of the vehicle and did not have possession of the vehicle.

Avon & Somerset Police, like forces up and down the country, have turned a blind eye to such criminal behaviour by bailiffs, because they consider the activity of recovering debts on behalf of branches of the establishment – even by illegal means – as upholding law and good order.

Yesterday the case came to court.  Peter North, with barrister representation ready to fight the charges on clear points of law, was confident of victory.  Yet despite months passing since it was known that this case would come to court and be vigorously contested, the bailiffs and police hatched a new plan in front of the judge.  North picks up the tale in detail on his blog which is dedicated to this matter:

Click here to visit the blog

Click here to visit the blog

We were well prepared to go in there and knock their socks off. But Avon and Scummerset Plod had different ideas.  They sabotaged the trial by suggesting to the prosecution that they are “considering” filing a complaint of contempt of court and, get this… Witness Intimidation!

These claims are based on North having published the email address of a witness on his blog; but more pertinently he posted a scanned image of a witness statement, which could be considered contempt of court if he did not remove it, but which was removed immediately – months ago – when he was made aware of the situation. Although North was firmly within his rights to publish the email address of Nicola Spring, a Rundles employee who had anonymously posted comments in an effort to undermine North on a public advice forum, attempting to discredit and libel him while ironically using the forum username ‘truthful and honest’, posting the witness statement was an issue, hence his action to edit both of his blog posts.

Even so, subsequent to this, Rundles made a complaint of witness intimidation (ironic considering their behaviour in the matter over a period of months) on the basis of North publishing the witnesses email address.  Rundles have had months to do this if they felt there was a case to answer for what they are alledging and the police have had months to consider whether arrest is appropriate and have the the Crown Prosecution Service assess the merits of the case, if they believe there is one and if there is a substantial chance of winning such a case.

Yet neither party have done anything about it until the very moment a judge, the police (who would otherwise be on duty, you know, supposedly catching real criminals), two bailiffs, prosecution barrister, defence barrister and a defendant who would otherwise be at work earning his pay in gainful employment, have been assembled in court.  The only reasons they would have done this are:

  1. because Rundles realise their case is wafer thin (their case notes are apparently in complete disarray) and is being contested by a defendant who is rather more clued up and motivated than most people
  2. North has employed a barrister who is doing more than go through the motions and is seeking to make the law work
  3. Avon & Somerset Police consider the activity of recovering debts on behalf of branches of the establishment – even by illegal means – as upholding law and good order, and are desperate not to have the floodgates opened, forcing them to deal with bailiffs who act in a criminal manner when appointed as representatives of local authorities

The blatant abuse of the law, use of illegal methods to enforce collection of debts and even false reports of a vehicle theft to ensure harrassment of the debtor, as exhibited by Rundles, needs to be put to an end and punished severely.  The actions of Avon & Somerset Police yesterday appear to be a conscious attempt to prevent that from happening – to prevent the establishment from being held to account by the law when its agents break the law.

Readers should draw their own conclusions from what North has presented on his blog, but as we said last August, it seems the police have been backed into a corner over bailiff phantom visits and illegal fees.  Now they, with Rundles, seem to be resorting to desperate measures to prevent North having his day in court to expose this contemptible inaction and have it held to account.

Trust in the police is not damaged, it’s broken

Inspector Ken MacKaill, of West Mercia Police; Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton, of Warwickshire Police; and Sergeant Chris Jones, of West Midlands Police are the three Police Federation representatives who gave a false account of the meeting they held with Andrew Mitchell over the so called ‘Plebgate’ affair.

Yesterday they collectively flicked Mitchell and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) a middle finger, with a non-apology over their disgraceful, politically motivated actions when they knowingly lied while giving their version of events, in a press conference they called for the sole purpose of demanding that Mitchell resign.

We acknowledge the investigation’s criticism relating to our poor judgement in talking to the media following the meeting with Andrew Mitchell, for which we take this opportunity to apologise.

We would like to emphasise (as we did to the investigation) that in no way did any of us ever plan or intend to mislead anyone about what occurred during this meeting or otherwise.

Their ‘apology’ was only for talking to the media.  They have refused to apologise for their conduct and their attempted deception.  In effect, they are saying ‘Yes, we lied, what are you going to do about it?’  Now it is time these officers had the book thrown at them.  They do not deserve to carry a warrant card.  They have been shown to be dishonest.

Any person convicted of an offence on the contested evidence of any of these three officers, would seem to have sufficient grounds to appeal their conviction.  The fact is Mackaill, Hinton and Jones lied.  This has been proved by the secret recording made by Andrew Mitchell.  There is no escape from this fact.  They have demonstrated that their word as police officers cannot be trusted.  They thought they could get away with lying about the discussion they had with Mitchell, a Cabinet Minister.  So what else have they thought they could get away with in dealings with far more lowly people?

The public cannot have confidence in these officers – or their Chief Constables who are content to keep them in positions of power they have already shown they are willing to abuse.  They have no credibility.  They have no integrity. The public deserve better.

The fact that Mitchell took a recording device into the meeting before he had any certainty that these officers would lie, demonstrates he already had no confidence that they would tell the truth.  If a Cabinet Minister is that suspicious of police, what message does that send to the rest of us?

At the same time the IPCC was, for once, telling it the way it is regarding the conduct of these three officers, there was another officer giving evidence into his shooting of Mark Duggan.  An officer who, despite claiming he clearly saw a gun in Duggan’s hand, thus prompting him to fire, seemingly did not see that gun nestle some 10-20ft away, over a fence, from the scene of the shooting.

That officer’s evidence was contradicted by the previously silent cab driver, who told the court Duggan was trying to flee.  In years gone by I would have accepted the officer’s evidence, relying on honesty and integrity.  Today, not a chance.  Not without irrefutable evidence to back up his assertion.  From Hillsborough to de Menezes, dishonesty has become a stock in trade for too many officers, confident their colleagues will close ranks to shield them.

While minor in comparison, one consistent behaviour of many police officers up and down the country has reinforced my opinion.  Namely, their dogged refusal to act on complaints of criminal actions by bailiffs.

Despite the law being clear that bailiffs cannot practice unless they are appropriately certificated by a judge and remain so, despite the law being clear that bailiffs are not allowed to misrepresent their powers to debtors, despite the law being clear that bailiffs must not threaten or intimidate debtors and despite the law being clear that bailiffs may only levy certain charges above the debt as set down in a schedule, not one bailiff who has broken the law pertaining to these rules and had a debtor file a complaint against them with police, has been arrested and prosecuted.  This despite hundreds if not thousands of people having been victims of such criminal abuses.

That fact, moreso than any lie by a few bent coppers with an axe to grind about changes to police pay and conditions, demonstrates that trust in the police is not merely damaged, rather it has been completely broken.  Broken because the police are selectively refusing to uphold the law when they consider the offender is on their side and the victim has it coming to them.

Perhaps this explains the determination of the Chief Constables of Mackaill, Hinton and Jones’ respective forces to not bring disciplinary action against these untrustworthy officers.  Policing has become partial.  Its supposed independence abused for self serving ends.  Senior police officers repeatedly speak of policing by consent, but what far too many people in this country are experiencing daily is policing with contempt.  The bobby on the beat has been replaced by the paramilitary plod – separate from the community and viewing it as an enemy to be suppressed.

We cannot accept this any longer.  It is time to make a stand.

The UK, war and the British people

This is not a reference to the impending armed adventure in the Middle East.  This is not the UK being at war with Syria, but the UK government being at war with its people.

If there was ever a compact between the government and the people, it has long since rotted away.  The latest example of this is the news that the government and police are rushing to investigate an alleged fraud by the services provider, Serco, concerning irregularities in records kept for its £285m prisoner escorting contract.

The investigation focusses on the allegation that Serco overcharged the government a sum in the ‘low tens of millions’ of pounds.  As well as the probability of criminal prosecutions, the company faces being barred from tendering for other government contracts.  The punishment, if Serco are found to have engaged in fraud, will be swift and sure.  As well as column acres of media coverage, we can be certain the matter will surface in the House of Commons as MPs rush to criticise and condemn both outsourcing per se and the company’s actions and greivous offence against the ‘public’.

Here we see the government pressing the full force of the state into action to punish any offences committed against it.

Now let us compare this laser-like focus of the state on punishing fraud amounting to perhaps £20-30m with the state’s focus on a much larger and more widespread criminal enterprise made up of fraud, harrassment and threatening behaviour, amounting to many hundreds of millions of pounds – possibly over £1bn – committed in the last year alone against many of the more than 1.8 million members of the public who had unpaid charges put into the hands of bailiffs… the wilful overcharging and illegal application of fees by local authorities through liability orders and the illegal charges, false accounting and criminal behaviour of bailiffs.

This week another example of the many instances of this racketeering has managed to sneak its way into local news coverage in Wales, where a Caerphilly resident owed unpaid council tax just £180, yet despite receiving no warning letters was faced with bailiffs, acting as an agent of and on behalf of Caerphilly County Borough Council, at her door demanding payment.  Not only that, but the bailiff fraudulently added a further £200 charge to the debt for their services.  The amount set down in law that bailiffs can charge is £24.50 for their first visit and £18.00 for a second and final visit.  They can only charge for two visits.  Attempting to charge hundreds of pounds in the way they do is blatantly illegal.

The bailiff is reported to have returned to visit the resident last week and told her that if she did not pay £75 he would come back and change the locks on her house.  This is not only a clear example of harrassment, it is also an attempt to extract money with menaces as bailiffs do not have the power to change the locks on a residential property over an unpaid debt, and asserting such a course of action is a clear offence.  A fraud is being perpetrated against this resident, a mother of four with limited means. She is just one in over a million.

As is standard practice in such cases, which all too infrequently get press attention in this way, a Caerphilly Council spokesman said:

We are unable to comment on individual cases, but the council makes every effort to assist residents who are in arrears before taking further action.

You will note that despite Caerphilly being wholly responsible for the behaviour and actions of their agents and representatives, the council has not addressed the illegality of the bailiff’s effort to charge fees above the legal amount or taken any steps to address the harrassment and intimidation by the bailiffs they engaged.

The police’s readiness to investigate and take action against Serco, which is alleged to have committed crime through fraudulent overcharging for services and charging for services not undertaken, contrasts dramatically with the refusal of the police to investigate and take action against bailiffs who are alleged to have committed crime through fraudulent overcharging for services and charging for services not undertaken.

The double standard is clear.  The people of this country are being denied the protection of the law when the state and its agents break the law to suit their own interests, yet when the state feels it has been wronged its full arsenal is brought to bear on the alleged offender, be that a rich company being greedy or hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who struggle to pay the ever increasing sums demanded by government to service its activities.

And new methods of gouging money from the public are being developed all the time.  A report in the Telegraph explains how over 1 million drivers in the last year have had traffic enforcement charges (mainly parking infringments) put into the hands of bailiffs, with the AA observing that even when mistakes are made, councils seem to readily wash their hands of drivers trapped in a cycle of threats from debt collectors and bailiffs:

The bailiff process is virtually unstoppable, even for the innocent and getting someone to listen is virtually impossible.

The fact that bailiffs are now swanning around like bounty hunters in vehicles with ANPR cameras to find vehicles with outstanding warrants is sinister.

The story also includes a reference to evidence given earlier this year by the London Motorists’ Action Group to the Transport Select Committee that bailiffs “frequently and fraudulently demand fees which are far in excess of the permitted statutory level.”

Barrie Segal, who runs the AppealNow website also said for the Telegraph piece that, “It’s a bit like the wild west, but there are no good guys out there to look after motorist”.  And this is the point, the double standard reinforced, the police – the supposed good guys – are refusing to do their sworn duty turning a blind eye to fraud committed on behalf of the state, while always going after anyone who is alleged to have committed fraud against the state.

How is this not a war being waged on the people of this country by those who are supposed to serve us?

Police backed into a corner over bailiff phantom visits and illegal fees

No doubt this will be shamefully ignored by the media, including those journalists who read this blog.  It seems a determined effort by Avon and Somerset Police to not investigate the bailiff and debt recovery firm, Rundles, for the criminal application of attendance fees that exceed the statutory limits – and fraudulent phantom visits – has run out of road.

A compelling and detailed case history has been sent to Detective Inspector Caroline Stainer by Peter North.  North’s stand against the illegal fees and refusal to pay for phantom visits has so far resulted in Rundles clamping his vehicle, even though they had no right to do so, North being convicted of criminal damage for removing it by cutting the padlock and Rundles then reporting his car as stolen even though they were not entitled to possession of the vehicle and did not have possession of the vehicle.

Avon & Somerset Police, like forces up and down the country, have turned a blind eye to such criminal behaviour by bailiffs, because they consider the activity of recovering debts on behalf of branches of the establishment – even by illegal means – as upholding law and good order.  The blatant abuse of the law, use of illegal methods to enforce collection of debts and even false reports of a vehicle theft to ensure harrassment of the debtor, as exhibited by Rundles, needs to be put to an end and punished severely.

The self promotional claims of Rundles contrast dramatically with the reality of the behaviour of their bailiffs on the ground.  Rundles, which describes itself as ‘a 5-star debt recovery agency specialising in council tax, penalty charge notices and national non-domestic rates’ say on their website:

Our team of certificated bailiffs is one of the largest in the country. Each of them is handpicked for their skills, attitude and approach and given comprehensive training to make sure they continue to deliver excellent collection rates.

Integrity and transparency are vital to us. Our clients’ accounts are fully audited by an independent Top 20 accountancy firm and Dun & Bradstreet recently gave us a 5-star rating, which means the condition of our business is superior to other firms in the industry.

The evidence presented by North lays utter waste to these claims.  It is no wonder collection rates are ‘excellent’ when people who do not know the rules bailiffs are supposed to follow and are subsequently cowed into paying more than they owe, thus made victims of fraud in pursuit of debt recovery.  Particularly when local authorities who are responsible for the conduct of the agents they retain, also ignore the illegal behaviour and tactics deployed.  Councils seemingly feel their residents are fair game for such maltreatment if for whatever reason they don’t pay the monies demanded, at the time and in the way the council demands.

North has drawn a line in the sand and is refusing to be fobbed off.  Any failure by the police to act now, after so much detail has been provided that shows the bailiffs have engaged in fraud and criminal behaviour, would represent a scandal of immense proportions and destroy any faith ordinary people have in the police and local authorities.

Crime is crime.  The establishment does not have immunity under the law.  It does not have a free pass to behave illegally with impunity.  Our public servants need to remember their place and serve.  That process needs to kickstart with the bringing charges against the bailiffs from Rundles acting on behalf of South Gloucestershire Council.

Amnesia afflicts Wiltshire Police

October 2011

As reported by the BBC:

… Chief Constable Brian Moore urged the public not to call with things “clearly not matters for us to deal with”.

Mr Moore said cutting down on the number of irrelevant calls from members of the public was also essential.

“Don’t waste my time,” he said.

“Don’t call us for things that are clearly not matters for us to deal with.

“We don’t have the time to do that – we never have had but we particularly don’t have now.”

… The chairman of Wiltshire Police Authority, Christopher Hoare, said they were working “to ensure that the public only call the police when they need them for policing work”.

… Kate Pain, from the Wiltshire Police Federation, said officers want to get back to “core policing” and “can’t do everything for everybody”. […] “So as a result of the cuts and our restructuring we are going to have to be quite clear in our message about what is and is not a police matter.”

The message seems pretty clear. Cuts are reducing the ability of the police to perform their role.  OK.

June 2012

Now fast forward now to a piece in the Daily Wail:

School truants are being hauled out of bed by police and escorted to classes in a patrol car.

Officers are clamping down on truants by calling at the homes of any pupils who fail to turn up to school without a reason.

If they are still in bed, police get the parents to wake them up before driving them to lessons.

Clearly those deep, far reaching, unprecendented cuts are having a major impact on front line policing. That or Wiltshire Police have forgotten all those things they were saying last year before telling the public how officers are being deployed to round up children and masquerade as school bus drivers.

UK based Climategate 2 blogger has computers seized in police search

Question: Why have six police officers from the Metropolitan Police and Norfolk Constabulary searched a property and seized the computers and DSL router of a blogger for reporting the leak of the Climategate 2 emails, in order to clone his hard drives and inspect them, if he is not a suspect?

Details on Watts Up With That? / Jo Nova / Climate Audit

Welcome to the United Kingdom in 2011.

Phone hacking, the Met Police, corrupt sources and the Guardian’s DPP angel

Think back to September when the media went into full screech mode because the Metropolitan Police threatened to use the Official Secrets Act to force the Guardian’s Amelia Hill to reveal the police source leaking stories to her about the phone hacking investigation, Operation Weeting.

At the Guardian there was outrage.  Editor Alan Rusbridger started the wagon circling, declaring: “We shall resist this extraordinary demand to the utmost”.  His brother-in-law and the Guardian’s own self confessed exponent of phone hacking, David Leigh, also leapt into print to rail against the “unprecedented legal attack on journalists’ sources,” while carefully trying to distract people from the fact the source was a police officer whose actions broke the law.

As always when the Guardianista comrades find themselves in the legal mire, their celebrated barrister and proxy in the assault on the Murdochs, Geoffrey Robertson QC, waded in to bemoan that it was an “attempt to get at the Guardian’s sources is not only a blatant breach of the Human Rights Act and article 10 of the convention, but it appears to involve a misapplication of the Official Secrets Act”.

The Met Police backed down shortly after.  A ‘victory for press freedom’ was the way the media reported the Met’s sudden climbdown.  Of course, if any of them uncovered a police officer breaking the law by leaking information from an enquiry on which he was working, they would report it gleefully as an example of disgraceful police behaviour that risked perverting the course of justice.  But it seems as long as the copper’s actions are benefiting a hack, he is treated as an untouchable source to be protected at all costs.

Writing in the Daily Mail, cor blimey merchant Richard Littlejohn explained:

I’m told the Yard only backed down after the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, had a serious word in their shell-like and made it plain they would receive no backing from the CPS.

The intervention of Keir Starmer and its timing is something the media, in its own vested interest, warmly welcomed as it breathed a collective sigh of relief.  Had the media not been so self serving it might have chosen to look into Starmer’s links to the Guardian, and examine if his intervention was truly impartial, or influenced by something other than a legal standpoint.

Starmer had a history of left wing political and legal activism prior to becoming Director of Public Prosecutions.  When he was younger he was the editor of a magazine called Socialist Alternatives.  Almost a year after becoming DPP he defended himself against this history and the wider charge of being political when interviewed by the BBC’s Martha Kearney, declaring:

These are things of 25, 30 years ago now. They’re not relevant to the work I do now. I hope that since I’ve been in office I’ve made it absolutely clear that every single decision is made absolutely independently.

So just how independent is he?  This post will show Starmer was being very economical with the truth about his political activity and as such cannot be trusted to be independent.  His intervention on behalf of the Guardian against the Met Police needs to be put into proper context, and the media’s bias by omission exposed.

Starmer was not only a member, but Secretary, of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers which supports a variety of hard left causes and actively opposes anything considered right of centre.  That is in no way a thing of 25, 30 years ago.  Starmer’s left wing activism is long standing and has never gone away.  His first interview as DPP was given to, surprise surprise, the Guardian.  In it Stephen Moss explained of Starmer that: “[H]he has generally been seen as a Labour supporter and doesn’t demur when I mention that perception.”  Starmer was also kind enough to tell Moss that:

My background is not typical of a lawyer or a DPP.  My dad was a toolmaker before he retired, so he worked in a factory all his life. My mum was a nurse, and she’s been physically disabled for years. We didn’t have much money, and they were Guardian-reading, Labour-leaning parents. That inevitably created an atmosphere where my thinking developed.

How very cosy.  That same interview even saw Starmer reveal the fawning, high esteem in which he holds the Guardian, ironically on the subject of the phone hacking investigation:

Starmer also decided not to reopen the News of the World phone-tapping case following allegations made in this paper that its illegal surveillance operations went beyond its disgraced royal editor Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007 for plotting to intercept phone messages from members of the royal family. “I did get a review off the ground,” he says. “We looked at it and we formed the view that what was done at the time was the appropriate thing, and that it wouldn’t now be the right course to prosecute anybody.” But he does not rule out a case being brought at some point. “I keep an open mind. It might move on and develop if Guardian journalists or anybody else show us other stuff. What I don’t want to do is say, ‘We looked at that, we’re not going to look at it again.'”

Earlier in his career as a barrister, Keir Starmer had joined Doughty Street Chambers, founded and headed by one Geoffrey Robertson QC – the same chap who has doggedly pursued the Murdochs through his pieces in the Guardian, acted as counsel for the Guardian in the Neil Hamilton/Ian Greer libel case, and howled in protest against the Met’s proposed legal action to get the name of Amelia Hill’s police source.  Over time Robertson promoted Starmer to be joint head of chambers at Doughty Street.

Robertson as the boss had influence over Starmer and helped to advance his career.  Robertson as the joint head of chambers with Starmer arguably had an even closer bond with him.

Within days of Robertson popping up to defend the Guardian within its pages, imagine our surprise that Starmer stepped in to put an end to the Met’s idea of using the Official Secrets Act to use Hill’s notes to root out the law breaking police officer.  Was this a case of Starmer listening to his former boss, mentor and colleague and following his demands to the letter, rather than letting the police test the law in court in an effort to nail a bad apple?  If so it justifies the Guardian’s adoration of comrade Keir.

That would be enough to convince some people Starmer has too close an association with the Guardian to be an honest broker.  But looking back there’s more.  Not many people realise that in 2002 Starmer was himself paid counsel for the Guardian alongside Robertson.  Starmer even wrote for the Guardian, cementing his link with the paper.  If this was a couple of Bullingdon Club boys rather than Guardianista, you can imagine the howls of outrage that would have been flowing from Alan Rusbridger’s office.  As the Guardian will no doubt privately attest, the socialist strategy of getting fellow travellers into the top echelons of the state is paying off.

Alan Rusbridger, speaking after the Met Police dropped its action, described their attempt to confirm Hill’s source as “sinister”.  What is really sinister though is how one newspaper possibly enjoys special protection under the law as one of their favourite sons holds the senior criminal prosecutorial role in the land – and that the media turns a blind eye to a potentially serious conflict of interest, because it suits their own.

Why the Met Police is right to uncover the Guardian’s ‘phone hacking’ news source

The insipid David Leigh used space in Friday’s Guardian to moan and bluster about what he is portraying as an ‘unprecedented move’ by the police to force the paper to reveal its sources in the so called phone hacking affair. He told readers:

“The Metropolitan police are seeking a court order under the Official Secrets Act to make Guardian reporters disclose their confidential sources about the phone-hacking scandal.

“In an unprecedented legal attack on journalists’ sources, Scotland Yard officers claim the act, which has special powers usually aimed at espionage, could have been breached in July when reporters Amelia Hill and Nick Davies revealed the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone. They are demanding source information be handed over.”

Leigh is deliberately appealing to the vested interests of journalists everywhere to rally to the Guardian’s aid and whip up public disquiet about the Met’s actions.  But you have to get to paragraph 12 of Leigh’s piece before you get a clue that this is not an assault on the press and their desire to keep their sources confidential.  For it is there that Leigh explains:

The application, authorised by Detective-Superintendent Mark Mitchell of Scotland Yard’s professional standards unit, claims that the published article could have disclosed information in breach of the 1989 Official Secrets Act.

What has the Met’s Professional Standards Unit got to do with journalism?  Nothing at all.  This is not about an attack on the Guardian, it about a tightly focused police investigation trying to uncover evidence that at least one police officer – and possibly one or more employees of the Crown Prosecution Service – who corrupted their office and committed misconduct in public office by leaking confidential investigation details to the newspaper.  Not just any information, but details that still have the potential to undermine subsequent prosecutions over the very hacking for which the Guardian wanted people held to account.

The Guardian’s nose has been put out of joint since its police mole / one of its police moles was arrested, putting an end to their scoops about arrests that were yet to be announced or had even yet to be made, and details of material in police possession that was used to undermine a rival newspaper – the News of the World.  Leigh’s piece is the manifestation of the indignation its editorial team are feeling about that.

In no way is this about the Guardian challenging an injustice to protect the public interest.  The public interest element was concluded when the police re-opened its hacking inquiry after the initial scoop.  This is about the Guardian trying to protect a source(s) who knowingly broke the law to provide details about the investigation that were not in the public interest.  For example, what was the public interest in announcing the impending arrest of Andy Coulson a day before it happened?  There was not only no justification, the story could have prejudiced the investigation and may yet undermine a prosecution.  This was all about ego and wanting to be first with the scoop. Nothing more.

While this blog opposes police over reaching their powers and laws that infringe civil liberties and privacy, the Metropolitan Police’s action is entirely appropriate.  This blog highlighted the Guardian’s mole(s) inside the Met and called for action to investigate them.  That is what the Met is doing.  The Met Police action could actually go beyond the hacking investigation to include the unrelated matter referenced in the linked piece, concerning the Guardian’s ‘outing’ of an American blogger, ‘Jeff Id’ .

While it does not fall within the scope of the Official Secrets Act, the possibility that a police source used material in police possession to identify the true identity of an anonymous blogger and give that information to a Guardian journalist – David Leigh himself – is a clear breach of ethics and illegal act.  Draining the Guardian’s swamp of sources who break the law to leak information is something that is long overdue.  It is both necessary and appropriate.

AM take down! Detective arrested for leaking info to the Guardian

It has felt like ploughing a lonely furrow, using this blog and Twitter to try to make people sit up and question how the Guardian was getting information about the Met Police’s investigation into ‘phone hacking’ and getting unreleased details of arrests.

But it looks like this humble little blog has helped to make the right people take notice…

Sky News is reporting that a 51-year-old detective at the Metropolitan Police has been arrested at his desk and suspended on suspicion of leaking information from the phone hacking investigation team to journalists at the Guardian.

Innocent unless proven guilty of course, but this could finally underline the Guardian’s insipid willingness to take advantage of illegal actions to get a story.  Let’s see if this is Amelia Hill, Nick Davies and David Leigh’s Met Police ‘Deep Throat’ and if they are now quite so ‘johnny on the spot’ with their phone hacking stories.

Hopefully the investigation into this Detective’s conduct will also look into any links with how David Leigh managed to trace ‘Jeff Id’ from the Air Vent blog, as covered by Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit.

Update: The BBC is reporting the story – after a fashion – without mentioning the Guardian once. Unbelievable bias and a disgraceful attempt to withhold information from their audience. It should be unbelivable, but with the relationship between the Guardian and the BBC sadly it is not. The BBC, half the story – if you’re lucky – all the time, especially when their friends are part of the story.

As for the Guardian, there is nothing about this story on their ‘breaking news’ ticker or anywhere on their home page.  I wonder why… We must find out if money passed hands here. If it did then we must be told how high up in the Guardian’s editorial hierarchy this was sanctioned.

Further Update: Despite the story of the Met Police detective being arrested for allegedly leaking information to the Guardian being all over Sky News and various news media outlets and blogs, the BBC’s update of their story, 34 mins after the last version was published, doggedly continues to omit the name ‘Guardian’.

In fact, they are even trying to focus attention on the arrest of another News of the World journalist and unashamedly are even using the NotW logo as their story image, which could give the impression the police leaks were to the NotW and not the Guardian!  Utterly incredible.

Further Update: The third BBC version of the story in an hour, and finally the Guardian gets a mention! But no, not as the recipient of police leaks from the Opertation Weeting team, only named as the paper that broke the story that John Desborough of the NotW had been arrested.

The BBC’s determination not to tell its audience that the Guardian has been getting confidential information from a police source at the Met makes the corporation look ridiculous. Strange how the BBC was happy to name the NotW as the recipient of information from a police source on the Milly Dowler investigation though... Hypocrisy? Double standards? You decide.

And another update: Quick, quick, make it seem that this was just an innocuous bit of information sharing! Enter the narrative of ‘Off-the-record sources’.

Yes, at 17:50 (missed the screenshot, so off to Newssniffer we go) the BBC made another change to its story and, finally and reluctantly, wrote the name ‘Guardian’ in connection with the detective arrest story.  But even in this, like Soviet era Pravda, the BBC maintained its disinformation effort.  It deliberately tried to make it seem as if the Guardian is just a concerned newspaper with no direct interest in the matter and is passing comment:

The Guardian has issued a statement reacting to the arrest of the police officer.

It said: “On the broader point raised by the arrest, journalists would no doubt be concerned if conversations between off-the-record sources and reporters came routinely to be regarded as criminal activity.

“In common with all news organisations we have no comment to make on the sources of our journalism.”

Amazing.  Seems like the cat has got Rusbridger’s tongue.  But even this didn’t go far enough for the BBC in its effort to ‘run interference’ for the Graun.  So the story has been changed again!  This time a wholly unjustified and laughable caveat has been applied:

If your sides aren’t aching by now at the hilarity of watching the BBC’s contortions in its effort to cover the Guardian’s backside, you’ve got no sense of humour.  The BBC doesn’t even use the whole of the Guardian’s statement, which reads:

How very coy.  Such reticence from an entity that is usually so bold…

And so the Guardian’s police scoops continue…

Another day, another Guardian scoop by Amelia Hill of an arrest of another former News of the World journalist in the ‘phone hacking’ investigation. Another example of the Guardian publishing information apparently not available to other outlets. Another failure of the rest of the media and the public to ask how this clique of Guardian journalists manages to learn about police activities before they are made public.

The give away is in the BBC’s write up of the story:

Will the Guardian reveal how police information always seems to find its way to David Leigh, Nick Davies and Amelia Hill before anyone else?  Or will they continue to hide behind the ‘we’ve done nothing illegal and we always protect our sources’ line?

Who at the Metropolitan Police are Leigh, Davies and Hill in touch with?  There is a smell surrounding this that only gets stronger – unless one puts their head in the sand.

Time for IPCC to investigate The Guardian and David Leigh’s police sources

Back to business then.  Throughout the ‘phone hacking scandal’ there was a constant and unscrutinised theme… The Guardian newspaper was accessing or being given access to information no one else but the police had about the investigation, to break new stories and run exclusives.

Update: 18 Aug – And so the Guardian’s police scoops continue

A story this weekend show the seriousness of such behaviour, with the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigating a claim that an officer on the Milly Dowler murder case gave information to the News of the World newspaper.  If it is right for the IPCC to investigate an officer feeding information to the News of the World, then surely the IPCC should also turn its attention to the raft of stories published in the Guardian that appear to have originated with police sources.

These were not discoveries, these were pieces of information supplied to Guardian journalists verbally or in documents.  When it happened, the names of two reporters in particular from David Leigh’s Guardian team working the story were nearly always on display, Nick Davies and Amelia Hill. Surely when the key recipents of the information are known it should be easier to identify the person feeding them the information.  Taking just a five day period in the timeline there were a huge number of stories published, but some are worthy of particular attention as they demonstrate the likelihood of a Guardian-friendly police mole.

For example, on 4 July, The Guardian broke the story which proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, that Milly Dowler’s voicemails had been accessed and some deleted by private investigators.  The Guardian journalists said they had seen paperwork detailing how the News of the World set about getting the personal details of the Dowlers and then accessing Milly’s mailbox. However, the information itself was contained in the 11,000 pages of notes kept by Glenn Mulcaire that was in the possession of detectives from Operation Weeting. So how did the Guardian see them?

Just one day later the Guardian revealed that police were turning their attention to examine every high-profile case involving the murder, abduction or attack on any child since 2001 in response to the Dowler revelation. Again there was nothing in the public domain about the police’s intentions. So how did the Guardian know this with enough certainty to print it as fact?  The piece included the information that the name “Greg” appeared in the corner of notes taken by Mulcaire which was believed to be a reference to the News of the World’s former assistant news editor Greg Miskiw (arrested earlier this month).  As the documents have been in Metropolitan Police hands since 2006, how do they know this?

Two days later came the next big coup for the Guardian, with the revelation that Andy Coulson had been told by police that he would be arrested on the Friday morning over suspicions that he knew about, or had direct involvement in, the hacking of mobile phones during his editorship of the News of the World. Now it’s conceivable Coulson told someone he knew about the impending arrest and that they tipped off David Leigh’s chums at the Guardian.

But how likely is it that the police will have told Coulson the other revelation in the article, that a second arrest was also to be made in the next few days of a former senior journalist at the paper? Clearly the information came from elsewhere as the Guardian stated it knew the identity of the second suspect but was withholding the name to avoid prejudicing the police investigation. Someone told them and it wasn’t Coulson’s camp, because that would have clearly undermined the police’s intention to make the second arrest.

Then a day further on the Guardian published the story that police were investigating evidence that a News International executive may have deleted millions of emails from an internal archive in an apparent attempt to obstruct Scotland Yard’s inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal. The first reasonable assumption was that a News International insider tipped off the paper.

But that idea is dispelled by the additional colour the Guardian boasted about in its piece, namely that according to legal sources close to the police inquiry, a senior executive is believed to have deleted “massive quantities” of the archive on two separate occasions, leaving only a fraction to be disclosed. The legal entity that works with the police is of course the Crown Prosecution Service.  So is there a CPS mole feeding information to the Guardian as well as a highly placed police source?

Well its possible the idea of a police mole could be challenged as mere coincidence.  But the idea of coincidence falls away very quickly when one looks outside the phone hacking saga to an entirely unrelated story that again throws up all sorts of unanswered questions about how the Guardian gets its information.  This one concerns the concerted attempt to successfully identify by name, occupation and hometown an anonymous blogger who was critical of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) over the Climategate affair.  That link is to the full story on the Climate Audit blog.

The author of the Air Vent blog, “Jeff Id” had until that time been anonymous. As the article explains, his registration at WordPress was anonymous and his gmail account was anonymous.  To Jeff’s knowledge, there was no public information that would enable anyone to identify him.  So how is it that David Leigh at the Guardian managed to identify Jeff Id as “Patrick Condon, aeronautical engineer” from Illinois and locate his telephone number too?  As the piece on Climate Audit explains:

A few days before the article, Leigh had telephoned Jeff. Jeff asked Leigh how he had located him; Leigh refused to say. Jeff expressly asked Leigh not to disclose his personal information, which were then not on the public record. Leigh disregarded the request and then proceeded to “out” him as collateral damage in their smear of Paul Dennis [employee at UEA].

A couple of weeks earlier, Jeff had been asked to answer a questionnaire by the UK counter-terrorism officer investigating the release of the emails and tree ring data. The policeman had contacted Jeff at his gmail address as “Jeff Id”. In addition to inquiring about his views on climate change, the questionnaire asked his name and address. Jeff answered the questionnaire (as did I and many Climate Audit readers). To Jeff’s knowledge and recollection, that was the only disclosure of his identity that could have led to Leigh identifying him.

Leigh’s article also quotes from an email from Paul Dennis to me, which Leigh ascribed to “police files”.

So what we have here is the team of Guardian journalists who work under David Leigh, apparently being provided with information by the police (and possibly the CPS) about the investigation into phone hacking – something Leigh himself admits he has also done – and Leigh in his own journalistic capacity being able to access information about private individuals collected by police as part of a criminal investigation into alleged computer hacking of the servers at UEA.  Only a fool would accept this as coincidence, and besides, the comments thread to this post from Bishop Hill reminds readers of various other aspects of David Leigh’s behaviour and questionable methods.

Unsurprisingly, despite requests from ‘Jeff Id’ (Patrick Condon), the Guardian (via its Environment Editor Damian Carrington – remember him?) refuses to explain how it obtained his personal information.  All Carrington will say in the replies, which can be read in the Climate Audit article, is that the Guardian did nothing illegal.  No doubt if the paper is challenged about how they came by the information concerning the ‘phone hacking’ inquiry it will say the same. What is good for the News of the World goose should also be good for the hypocritical Guardian gander.

But it is clear there is a case to answer and as the Guardian will not come clean the Independent Police Complaints Commission needs to use its powers to uncover the truth the Guardian is trying to hide.  It’s time for people to put pressure on the IPCC to do its job.

Police swift to seize the new opportunity

Barely a week has passed since the mass murders in Norway.  But that hasn’t stopped Britain’s ‘finest’ using the attacks by Anders Breivik to justify their own paramilitary behaviour in defence of the establishment.

A reader has written to AM today with anonymised details of something that happened a few days ago.

A man was arrested in an English town following his written demand for a senior council executive to resign from their job, over their refusal to listen to local residents’ demands for a proper consultation over a contentious issue.  The man sent in a strongly worded communication, including his details, and with typically British humour included some tongue in cheek comments to demonstrate his annoyance.

The authority in question chose to interpret the letter as a threat and called in the police in an attempt to criminalise the individual.  Contempt of local government is clearly a priority for the police and so, at 6.00am, several officers arrived at the individuals address, arrested him and also removed his computers.

It was during this daring operation that one of the officers explained to the gobsmacked individual:

‘After Breivik we can’t be too careful’.


He was later released and his computers returned to him, but to satisfy the lust for retribution from the local authority the police gave the man a caution for good measure.  On the advice of his solicitor he has asked that no information that can identify him or the easily offended authority be published, in case it results in further attempts to acquaint him with various organs of the state whose intrusion and interference would make life somewhat less enjoyable.

Suffice to say this is another example of police over reaction. Never slow to miss an opportunity to impose themselves on people in dubious circumstances they are already citing the Breivik factor as justification for their disproportionate and heavy handed behaviour.  Didn’t take long, did it?

Had a member of the public reported an actual threat they could only dream of this kind of police response on their behalf.  Clearly we have a two tier nation where the establishment can make vexatious complaints and count upon rapid and fullsome police action, but ordinary people are often left to fend for themselves when faced with genuine threats.

Denial has helped Northern Irish terrorism flourish

The full extent of Republican terrorist violence in Northern Ireland has been spelt out in the Independent of Sunday (IoS) today.  But before we go into the details, it is important to apply some necessary context and explain where blame resides.

Anyone who has read Heather Brooke’s excellent book ‘The Silent State’ will remember her examples of how authority tries to hide the reality of crime and makes it all but impossible to get meaningful information about what crime is being perpetrated and where.

The approach makes it easier for the authorities to proclaim their approach to reducing crime is working – even though crime figures are nothing more than the extrapolated findings of the regular British Crime Survey of around 40,000 people .  Crime hotspots are missed, certain offences are excluded (such as murder) and until recently crimes against minors were not counted.  The reality on the ground for people living in our neighbourhoods does not tally with the impression of sunlit uplands presented by the government.

This has long been the case in Northern Ireland.

The difference with Northern Ireland is that there has been a collusion between the authorities and the media to play down the simmering violence that has continued in the years since the Good Friday Agreement. The authorities wanted to portray Northern Ireland as having thrown off terrorism and having moved into a era of peace and prosperity.

The reality on the ground was very different, but outside of Northern Ireland people looking on the BBC NI web pages would have long thought the official line was the truth.  Incidents that were taking place around the province were being reported in the local media – after all the reality could not be hidden from locals – but there was a blackout elsewhere in the UK.

Now that has all changed.  The extent of the violence and significance of the terrorist incidents could not be hidden any longer once the Police Service of Northern Ireland starting asking for more money and resources to combat the ‘dissident’ threat after pressure from the Northern Ireland public. With the cat out of the bag the BBC finally started filing news stories that reflected the reality of the low intensity conflict.  But the damage had already been done. Many people in the UK are left with the impression that the Republican terrorists have spontaneously re-emerged to shatter the peace, when all along peace was an illusion.

The only thing that has changed is the Republican terrorists have enhanced their capability and, rather than just injuring PSNI and military personnel, have been successful in killing soldiers and police officers.  There has been an increase in incidents, but there was always a substantial number of incidents taking place.

What has prompted this post today?  It is nearly six months since this blog explained the reality of the situation and added that:

The breakneck effort to drawdown security forces in Northern Ireland and decommission assets necessary to combat terrorist activity has given the republican groups the space to recruit, train and carry out attacks.  The pandering to IRA/Sinn Fein by the Labour government, which is carrying on under the faux Conservatives, has increased the threat in Northern Ireland and restored a threat to mainland Britain.

Does anyone think this security force drawdown would have been allowed to happen if the UK public were more aware of what was really going on in Northern Ireland?  Does anyone think the increased tempo of Real IRA and Continuity IRA attacks would have happened if the drawdown had not taken place?

The BBC should shoulder a substantial proportion of the blame because anyone in the UK reading its Northern Ireland news page would be shocked to learn what the IoS has reported today.  For we learn that between 2008-2010 there were no less than 272 paramilitary attacks – around two per week – and of those only 12 cases have been solved by the PSNI.  In 2010-11 alone there were 100 incidents involving bombs.

The BBC only started reporting stories in detail when they could no longer be hidden away with one paragraph snippets buried with obscure one line headlines.  Despite its best efforts to hold the line for the establishment, the BBC has finally been forced to lay bare the truth. A comment by Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland, validates everything this author has been asserting here and elsewhere for some years:

“We are extremely concerned at the growing level of violence, over 200 bomb and gun attacks on police, Army and civilian targets over the past 18 months… We are back to looking under our cars again.” He accused the Government of having an “over-eager desire to portray Northern Ireland as a normal trouble-free society, when there is evidence of a growing terrorist threat which points to the contrary.”

Sadly, although he has spoken about this before in 2009 and 2010, Mr Spence was at least two years late in going public with comments on this subject.  Denial by the government, PSNI and media has allowed terrorism in Northern Ireland to flourish, and we have the latest lethal example of how the establishment has failed the people it is supposed to serve.  Instead too much focus was devoted to self serving agendas.  How can people have any trust in the politicians, police and media when their spin has been so comprehensively shattered?

Cleveland Police tells Officers to stop night vehicle patrols

Just over one week ago in the north east of England, it was announced that Cleveland Police, like other forces around the country, would reduce the number of its officers in an effort to meet a cut in government funding.

Cleveland Police Authority said that to meet its 20% funding cut the force’s officer establishment would reduce from 1,727 to 1,572 over the next 12 months with another reduction of 75 to follow the year after. The number of PCSOs would also reduce from 197 to 182.

The reported measures to meet the cut in funding, chosen by Cleveland’s policing authority, include savings on overtime, Bank Holiday staffing, reduction in staff posts in the police executive and authority and reduced expenditure on uniforms.  But news arriving at Mind Towers concerns a cost saving measure that has not been shared with the public and is likely to cause anger in the county.

For word reaches us that the Chief Constable has instructed rank and file police officers in Cleveland to cease night time patrolling in police cars.  We are told the instruction to officers on night shift is to stay in the station or find somewhere outdoors to park up and spend their time doing paperwork, and that Officers have been told to only respond to major emergency calls.  The reason?  To reduce police vehicle fuel costs.

Our source tells us the mood among Officers is one of incredulity given that night is the prime opportunity for the commission of crimes and removing the deterrent of night time police patrols will result in more crimes being committed and more money, time and effort being spent on detection.  Response times are expected to suffer, particularly in rural areas.

It seems that Durham Constabulary have also issued similar instructions.  FOI requests have been placed with both forces accordingly.  The question is whether this is a nationwide instruction by Chief Police Officers who are putting costs before policing.  Perhaps it would be appropriate for Cleveland to change their motto to ‘Putting Costs First’.

The cost of tackling a handful of Irish Republican terrorists

On this blog and elsewhere I have spent several years arguing that the threat from republican terrorists in Northern Ireland was being systematically downplayed to give a false impression that all in the province was well.

Despite repeated assurances from the Stormont administration that the ‘dissidents’ are only few in number; and a shocking refusal on the part of some media outlets to report some terror incidents over the last couple of years, both now seem to have come to an reluctant acceptance of the true state of affairs.

And that reality is borne out by the request from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for an extra £245m over the next four years to combat ‘dissident’ republican violence.  An extra £61m per year is a huge some of money for a minor problem.  Clearly the number of terrorists involved with these groups, their increasing capability and enhanced reach can no longer be swept under the carpet and dismissed as a little local difficulty.

The breakneck effort to drawdown security forces in Northern Ireland and decommission assets necessary to combat terrorist activity has given the republican groups the space to recruit, train and carry out attacks.  The pandering to IRA/Sinn Fein by the Labour government, which is carrying on under the faux Conservatives, has increased the threat in Northern Ireland and restored a threat to mainland Britain.

Giving us yet another reason not to trust anything the political class say, it is clear weapons we were assured by terrorists and politicians had been put beyond use, under independent scrutiny, are being used having been transferred to these groups by the IRA.  Maybe now the political class will be hauled back into the real world to deliver on the obligations they have failed to fulfil as they engaged in spin and self congratulation. Hopefully not too many more lives will be lost while the security forces try to get hold of what they were instructed to let go of.

Oh piss off (yes, another)

It really is the silly season. This one will result in much gnashing of teeth.

With a large hat tip to Witterings From Witney, who asks some pertinent questions about this story that are well worth reading, the Police blog of Inspector Gadget has revealed the latest advisory issued to our crimefighters.

Something that will help make our streets safer perhaps? Something that will improve the pisspoor detection rate? Think again:

‘In another nonsensical, empire-building, silly, frothy, pathetic and downright insulting example of political correctness gone mad, we at Ruralshire Constabulary have been told not to use the term “as sure as eggs are eggs”. Apparently this may upset any women listening, especially those who may suffer from fertility problems. This is true.

‘Can the department which thought this up be considered for abolition in the forthcoming cuts? Apparently not. Here in the Shire, Diversity Training Departments are considered as “front-line” teams.’

Inspector Gadget no doubt speaks for many frontline officers who suffer this lunacy. Can there be any clearer example of a well resourced department spewing forth any old crap in an attempt to justify its dubious existence?

If anyone needed evidence that police ‘managers’ are not fit for purpose and have warped priorities that do not match our priorities then consider this… With the amount of taxpayers’ money spent on policing being cut, why are senior police ranks talking about cutting the number of police officers when the psychologically damaged idiots who dreamed up this directive will continue to be employed?

End Climategate sham police investigation

How long should it take a police team to determine through investigation if information placed into the public domain was:

a) stolen from an organisation by way of a ‘hack’ by unauthorised person or persons external to that organisation? or

b) released from the organisation by a person inside that organisation?

So far it has taken over one year and we learn from Bishop Hill, who has been asking Norfolk Constabulary (aka The Swedey) for an update, there is no indication of any outcome to the police enquiries. Complex murder and fraud investigations are completed more quickly than this.

What this tells us is that the complaint to police by the University of East Anglia (UEA) alleging the servers containing emails and data relating to the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was nothing more than a duck and cover exercise designed to dissuade the media from publishing the contents.

To an extent the strategy worked with organs such as the New York Times refusing to publish extracts of the information. But ultimately the attempt at censorship was futile.  It also suggests the police are not taking the matter particularly seriously and feel no pressure to arrive at a determination one way or the other.

All in all this has simply been a massive posturing exercise initiated by UEA to distract from its embarrassment (and the decline) that someone within the college was willing to expose the behaviour of CRU scientists. It should now stop claiming the information was stolen when there is no evidence of any such thing and the police should not waste another pound of taxpayers’ money on this farcical sham ‘investigation’.

The FitWatch Conundrum

During the course of today certain sections of the blogosphere including one of my regular favourite reads, Longrider, have been up in arms about what appears to be a disturbing example of police exceeding and misrepresenting their authority.

Without applying for, or being in possession of, a court order, an Acting Detective Inspector from the Met Police’s CO11 department requested an ISP shut down the FitWatch website because:

In connection with our criminal investigation into registration or use of the domain name set out in this letter, we hereby confirm that:

• The domain is being used to undertake criminal activities

Attempting to Pervert the Course of Justice, contrary to Common Law We hereby request [redacted] to de-host this website for a minimum period of 12 months.

The site in question, FitWatch, styles itself as standing against the activities and behaviour of police Forward Intelligence Teams. Continuing in the same manner the site’s editor(s) published advice to those people involved in violence during the student protests in London. In addition to advising students who were engaged in unlawful activity not to give themselves in and to change their appearance, the advice also recommends such individuals dispose of the clothing they were wearing to hinder identification and remove the possibility of the clothing being used as identification evidence. It is this that the police have taken exception to and used as justification for their actions as detailed below:


This website are committing offences of attempting to pervert the Course of Justice under Common Law.

The website is providing explicit advice to offenders following a major demonstration in Central London. The demonstration was marred by violence and several subjects have already been arrested with a major police operation underway to identify and arrest further offenders.

The person controlling these websites has posted material held to be contrary to Common Law within the UK.

I hope everyone who was engaged in violence or criminal behaviour during the student protest is caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But what is written above will be deeply disturbing to anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of the law, for here the police are presenting as a fact something that is only alleged until a court determines otherwise.  Note that last sentence – ‘held to be contrary to Common Law‘. Held by whom? That is the commonly accepted legal language for a matter that has been put before a court and judged upon. Despite there being none, the Acting Detective Inspector has deliberately given the impression that his request has legal force. As such the ISP immediately shut down the site.

A pertinent question would be, since when did the police take over the role of the judiciary? No doubt this officer feels the end justifies the means, but where does that slippery slope end? Will blogs like this be shut down if it makes a criticism a police officer takes exception to? Will politicians or civil servants task the police with getting sites closed down if they share inconvenient or embarrassing information? Could such action be used to silence opponents of, say, EU membership? What about climate change?

Make no mistake, what FitWatch did was ill advised and leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. They clearly want people who committed criminal acts to get away with what they did. At the very least no one could dispute they are trying to offer support and advice to people who are trying to evade justice. But it does not follow FitWatch have broken the law. The advice is no different to what a legal representative would say in a private consultation with a client and it is only the view of a police officer that such advice is illegal.

It is worrying in the extreme that police officers feel able to exceed their authority and misrepresent themselves in this way to censor speech or silence dissent. There must be consequences for this unacceptable over reach.

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