The State of Policing: September 2018

 

Introduction:

This is a bit different and something of a guest blog!  You have heard lots from me about the state policing is in right now – my two most used hashtags at the moment sum it up – #CrisisInPolicing and #PolicingInCollapse – but today I came across (third hand) an account from a serving officer who pointed out that even officers who had retired just a few years ago would not believe how bad things have become.

It is very powerful stuff and I immediately felt that it deserved a far wider audience. Having got the author’s agreement, I am just going to cut and paste it into this blog verbatim, with just a very few small amendments to aid clarity.

Although it is addressed to retired officers, I think EVERYONE should read it:

A Serving UK Police Officer writes:

“After reading some of the negative comments on here I think some (not all) retired cops don’t realise how bad things are. When I first joined it was even busier than it is now. We routinely rushed from job to job, nights and lates especially. We were not bothered at all, in fact my recollection is that it was mostly fun. We chased cars, we fought with criminals and locked them up, we dealt proportionally with incidents that didn’t require heavy handed intervention and we were resilient enough to say when things were not our responsibility. Yes we spent time dealing with s136 [Mental Health Act detentions], we created too many [Missing Person Reports], we did constant supervisions [of people at risk in custody or in hospital] and stood at scenes…but there were enough of us generally that we didn’t spend all our time doing stuff we hated.

“The numbers game was a disgrace but other than that, politics didn’t interfere with our daily routine. Being [a police officer] was worthwhile and it was fun. Importantly we were paid far more fairly for our work. Overtime rates were fair, we were not routinely given an annual pay decrease, we didn’t have rest days cancelled, we didn’t have to pay to park! Our pensions reflected the long term harm of working nights and balanced the overall “package” making the reward seem proportionate and giving us a sense of worth.

The police were never put on a pedestal like doctors, solicitors, etc. but we were perceived, and we believed ourselves, to be a profession. We knew what our job was supposed to be. Over a decade of deliberate, systematic, politically driven propaganda, coupled with a huge drop in pay, pension and working conditions have adversely affected officers sense of self worth. And then there’s the actual job…….

“The infrastructure of society has been massively eroded while the scrutiny everyone is put under has increased tenfold. More than ever the police have become the safety net or, more accurately, the gutter of society. Cops don’t chase villains, it’s too risky. They don’t fight with villains, there are too many people videoing them and public opinion is too easily swayed against them. They don’t arrest criminals, they speak to their solicitors and arrange a time that is convenient for both of them to come in. Custody has become a hospital ward. We spend most of our time dealing with mental health issues and everyone who is temporarily upset, drunk or drugged off their heads has mental health issues and so must be treated accordingly.

“We ring people up and ask if they are 100% happy with our service and we believe everything they say. Despite the fact that they were drunk when we dealt with them, despite the fact that they are 100% anti police, despite the fact that we can show that we didn’t do what they say we did…..they are right and we are wrong. The bosses will think the worst and re-write policy based on disinformation. 

“There is no such thing as a quick or simple job, everything has to be recorded on some form or other, or written up in full. Every action has to be documented [so it can] be weighed up and evaluated [and] to allow slow time judgement of quick time decision making. [This is usually done by] senior managers who have spent most of their careers evading front line duties [and] whose decision making process is tainted by self interest and [who] increasingly regard front line officers as being slow witted, dull, unambitious, lazy and disinterested. Or else why would they stay front line police officers?

“The CPS are broken and our own support departments eroded to nothing. They have not got the time or resources to prep files, so we do everything for them. We write and re-write every file, we gather every bit of evidence, even when it’s not relevant or required. We only take people to court if the CPS feel that there is a 99% chance of conviction so we write a million files for no reason. The CPS conviction rate looks great, but the sad fact is, for all that work we put in, fewer criminals go to prison than ever before, and they get released earlier. They are not bailed they are [released under investigation]. They breach every order and we are powerless.

“We “crime” everything, even stuff that we know has not happened. We “crime” it, record it and then we do victim needs assessments, even when the victim does not have any needs (or is even a victim). We are always [officer in the case] of at least a dozen crimes, even at 24/7 response level and we need to make sure people are 100% happy with every crime we deal with and that they feel that we have provided a bespoke service. They have to be the centre of our world while we do it. Obviously we won’t get allocated any time to do this, as there are a million jobs on delay but we will be blamed if we make a mistake. When I say BLAMED, the blame culture is gone…..apparently. So obviously we won’t be shouted at. No we will be asked to write reports. We will be given negative [Professional Development Report] entries, we will be put on action plans and our workload will increase as a result. It will all be done really supportively….the bosses will supportively ensure we have even more paperwork to do, even though the problem is almost always that we are already drowning under a weight of unnecessary administration. The systemic problems are ignored because the easy option is to blame the cops.

“Vulnerability… there are a million ways to be classified as vulnerable and if you are classified as vulnerable you need an even quicker response. You need more time and resources spent on you, you need a better level of service all round. The problem is EVERYONE who has a reason to feel under pressure is vulnerable. Old, young, drink, drugs, mental health, poverty, race, gender, social isolation…I could go on but it gets worse. Other people [and] organisations can decide who is or isn’t vulnerable and, once they do, WE need to deal with it. 

  • Third party report with no evidence to underpin the vulnerability and no immediacy? No bother, we will get straight on it.
  • Complex socio-economic problems which don’t really fall within the remit of the police but [which] have caused the person to feel depressed and now you have “Concerns for their safety” No problem, we will get straight on it.
  • A person you have no regular contact with, and who you know very little about has not come in for an appointment about their alcohol or drug addiction? Of course we will [report] them missing and will allocate resources due to their “vulnerability” (we don’t have any resources but we will get straight on it).

“You might ask how on earth we deal with the real job of policing when we are dealing with all of these social problems. Easy. WE DON’T. We don’t stop search, we don’t proactively patrol, we seldom execute warrants or conduct any pre-planned jobs. We don’t patrol the same areas [regularly] so we don’t build up an intelligence picture and we don’t establish any [community] links, so we are isolated. Criminals are not scared of us, they know how strapped we are and they know how little support we have. Single crewed, hampered by having to account for everything we do (including a form for every time we have to put hands on a person), we are an easy target. As respect wanes, assaults on officers increase and public safety declines.

“The job has changed completely. We are not police: we are the overspill for the social services and the mental health profession. Our bosses are completely removed from us:  they live in distant HQs – we don’t see them and they don’t see us. They are all embedded on Twitter, they love a blog and if there is a political agenda which looks promising in terms of their career aspirations they will be all over it on social media. [But] if we have a problem that needs to be addressed we are [dismissed as being] resistant to change, we are negative, we need to “buy in”. Training is done via NCALT [the police service eLearning platform] and it reflects what people who don’t understand our job think we need to know.  Or what the organisation feels it needs to put out, to insulate itself from harm and leave the blame with us.

“The fastest way to progress is to get out of front line policing at the earliest opportunity and don’t ever come back. But with no experience of front line policing becoming the norm amongst senior management the gap between “them” and “us” grows wider every day. This obviously makes the problem worse. We now have a majority of Chief Inspectors and Superintendents who have never been 24/7 Sergeants or Inspectors. [Force Operations Managers in Control Rooms] who have never had a response supervision role (EVER!) [and] who rely on secondhand knowledge and who cut and paste from help screens [on the Command and Control IT systems]. [Their] initial thought is always “How can I keep my nose clean, climb the ladder or use this to my advantage?” [and] they will openly gamble with public and officer safety if they see it as the best option to avoid [them] having to make a contentious decision.

“Most of us see ourselves as being a different breed from the bosses. We don’t have a career, we have a job. There are very few lateral opportunities and a 30 year career is now a 35-40 year slog. We still do our best to provide a decent service for Mr and Mrs Anybody. We strive to keep the shite from harming the decent folk, but with one hand tied behind our backs. We support each other as best we can and try and keep the bosses off our backs. We make the best of the confusing, disjointed, crap policy 9?) they shovel at us.

“This might all appear to be negative and there are clearly issues, but to any retired cops who feel that the job isn’t what it was: you are spot on. But the lads and lasses wearing the uniform are every bit as committed as you were, they are just doing the job under much harsher conditions and with far less “top cover,” So maybe you can give them the benefit of the doubt. The worst thing is, we are not blind to it. You don’t need to tell us the level of service we provide is poor: we know how bad we are. It is something that, more than any pressure, causes stress anxiety and depression to be so commonplace as to be the norm. Nobody joins to do a bad job but sometimes the choice is taken out of your hands. Criticise away, it’s justified in most cases. But remember the pension you earned (and you did earn it) is being paid into by people who themselves will not benefit [to anything like] the same level, but [who] don’t begrudge you your fair share.

“Yes, “The job is f***ed, young-un!” but we didn’t f*** it. We just have to live with it.”

Concluding remarks:

So there it is – a “warts and all”, “no holds barred” account of life on the frontline of UK response policing today.  I’d like to say that I am horrified and astounded. But I am not. I hear similar tales from officers in forces around the country every single day.

The sad reality, as the officer’s account plainly demonstrates, is that after eight years of relentless cuts from Tory-led Governments, there IS a #CrisisInPolicing and, in many parts of many forces, we ARE seeing #PolicingInCollapse.

We were #NotCryingWolf.

This officer is #NotCryingWolf.

He or she is making a desperate plea for help.

I just hope someone in Government is listening. Or that someone in the Home Office or Downing Street sees this, prints it off and slips it into Theresa May. Sajid Javid and Nick Hurd’s red boxes…

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The #TrueBlueLineUK

THE STORY SO FAR:

If you’re reading this having read the previous two blogs in this mini-series of three, thank you for your persistence!  Sorry it’s taken three blogs to get this done, but I thought it was important to have the background laid out clearly, especially for those who are reading about this whole #CrisisInPolicing thing for the first time.

If you haven’t already read them the first two blogs are here:

1:  ” The #CrisisInPolicing ” (published 1.8.17)

2:  ” Going Viral ” (published 2.8.17)

By the end of the second blog, “Going Viral”, you hopefully had a bit of a grip on the problem and why I decided that I really should try to “do something”.  This blog sets out what I have decided to do – the #TrueBlueLineUK project – and, most importantly, how YOU can help and support it!

DOING MORE OF WHAT I’M DOING:

As you know from the previous blog, lots of people responding to the Sky News interview which went viral suggested that it would be great if I could do more of the same.  Some were almost begging for me to do so.  Unfortunately that is simply not possible, for a variety of reasons.  Firstly it is important to know how media comment works.  Over some years I have established myself as someone who will comment on policing and related issues.  As a result, lots and lots of reporters, producers and researchers have my contact details and, if they decide that they would like me to take part in an interview they get in touch with me.  This is done on an ad hoc basis and it is somewhat random.  If I am called there is usually little notice and there is no way for me, as an individual commentator, to drive the media agenda or to ask them to give me an interview opportunity.  So the opportunity to do more of the same is simply not there.

Secondly you need to know a little about the finances involved.  I am sure that everyone who sees me on TV imagines that I am being paid fortunes.  Sadly that could not be further from the truth!  Many (most, in fact) media outlets don’t pay anything at all for routine news-related interviews.  Even where they do we are only talking of £100 at most.  That isn’t too bad if you work it out per minute in front of the camera – interview slots are rarely more than three minutes, often less – but when you factor in preparation time, travel time, the fact you need to get there at least 15-30 minutes before the interview and everything else it doesn’t look so good!  Unfortunately, because I left the police service early, I do not receive my (reduced) pension for several more years and so I have to work for a living – to keep a roof over my head today and to build up some additional pension to top up my entitlement.

Even doing what I am doing at the moment makes no financial sense – as I have got more and more involved in trying to proactively pursue issues relating to the #CrisisInPolicing I have found that it is eating into my other work.  It has got to the point where my accountant says that I am now effectively working part-time on my other work and, frankly, that can’t go on.  I therefore really can’t afford to do more of what I’m doing without finding some way of financing it.

I looked at finding some organisation that I could seek to join and from where I could continue to comment – maybe an academic institution, maybe some sort of think-tank or research organisation, maybe even a police-related organisation.  Having considered them all, and having spoken to people with experience of them however, it became very clear that if I were associated with them I would be required to “toe the party line” … and most of them have no particular interest in upsetting the Government or anyone else.  As that is pretty much what confronting the #CrisisInPolicing will involve, and as absolute independence from any organisation is plainly of great value in order to do what I do, that option came to nothing too.

All that was left was to try to find some way of arranging independent funding – maybe a benevolent millionaire or something.

THE EUREKA MOMENT:

I was discussing this dilemma with an officer on-line when he had the “Eureka!” moment.  It originated in several comments made in response to the Sky News interview which went viral, three of which I included at the end of the last blog:

“Every police officer in the country wants to buy you a pint.”.

“Peter, you won’t ever pay for your own beer again if you decided to meet up with members of the Blue Family.  Your efforts are appreciated.”.

“Come down and meet my team, Peter.  Your interview is all they are talking about at the moment.  They all want to buy you a drink!”. 

“Why don’t you try and crowdfund it?”, said the officer I was speaking to, “If all the 120,000 cops in the country donated the price of a pint instead of buying you one that’d be an awful lot of truth that could be told!”.

And so this idea was born: a crowdfunded entity to facilitate me taking on the momentum gathered from the interview which went viral and keeping the pressure on, getting on the front foot and trying to change the relentlessly negative political and media narrative about policing.

WHY THE #TrueBlueLineUK:

Having batted loads of possible names around, I have settled on “True Blue Line UK”.  This has been inspired by the longstanding “Thin Blue Line” campaign which has got phenomenal support within the police service (and outside), with huge numbers of police officers wearing patches (when allowed by their senior officers to do so!) to demonstrate their support for the concept.  I’m not exactly sure why these patches originated but I believe it was UK Cop Humour who started to supply them and before very long they were being worn to demonstrate solidarity with officers killed and injured on duty (such as PC David Phillips of Merseyside Police).  They then somehow morphed into being a more general symbol of how the relentless cuts to policing were stretching the “blue line” of police officers ever thinner.  As such calling a project intended to get the truth about those cuts out to the public the True Blue Line seemed to make absolute sense.  Having researched it, I found that there was already an @TrueBlueLine on Twitter (an Australia-based entity who carry police-related news from around the world, including the UK).  Although they graciously offered use of that Twitter profile name I decided that rather than interfere with what they were doing it was simple enough to add a “UK” to the end.

And so #TrueBlueLineUK was born.

WHAT WILL IT DO?

Well this is all up in the air at the moment – it very much depends on how well the crowdfunding goes!  As a general concept maybe think of it as being the start of something like:

  • A Campaign for Real Policing
  • A think-tank for frontline police officers
  • A pro-police pressure group

Being more specific though, I can set out the sort of things that I would like to do:

  • Provide a reliable source of information about the true state of policing in the UK (and, so far as possible, give voice to the concerns of frontline officers)
  • Highlight the issues which are preventing police officers doing their jobs properly and proactively push those issues on to the media agenda at every opportunity (and example would be the current issue relating to Road Traffic law and the risks of prosecution police drivers take every time they respond to a call or engage in a pursuit)
  • Challenge the exaggerations, misrepresentations and outright lies told about policing in the media by politicians, anti-police critics and campaign groups and some of the media themselves
  • Get ahead of the game when policing-related Reports, Reviews and the like are published by the Home Office, the IPCC, the HMIC, police forces and others, being ready to immediately analyse them and proactively get an accurate, fair and sensible analysis out to the media
  • Rapidly rebut incorrect and inaccurate police-related stories and allegations, adding context, explaining the limitations on what police can and cannot achieve and correcting misunderstandings of law, policy and procedure
  • Research issues of concern to frontline police officers and developing whole new stories for the media, backed up with research findings, press releases and offers of media interviews to any outlet willing to carry the story
  • Hold press conferences and using the whole range of methods available to raise awareness of issues and gain publicity for them
  • Emphasise #GoodPoliceWork and seek to get the national media to carry examples of the excellent work done by officers around the country every day to counter the relentless stream of negative policing stories

This is most definitely not a definitive list: I am sure that there will be lots more things which are suggested and which fit with the overall aim of the project.  Likewise I am sure there will be things on that list which, for one reason or another, prove impossible or inappropriate.

HOW WILL IT DO IT?

All of the above activities take time. A LOT of time if they are to be done properly and they could easily become a full time job!  In the first instance the funds raised will pay for my time (see below for more detail on “Finances”) to do more of all of the above things.  Depending on how much is raised by the crowdfunding campaign, I would like to do the following and more:

  • Create a formal “True Blue Line UK” corporate entity
  • Develop and run a website
  • Develop and run a YouTube channel
  • Develop and run regular blogs on policing issues
  • Develop and run Twitter, Facebook & other social media communication channels
  • Livestream commentary (e.g. on Periscope or Facebook Live) where appropriate
  • Develop a unit to organise and manage Freedom of Information requests from police forces and others on relevant topics
  • Liaise with academic institutions and others to commission research
  • Develop a True Blue Line UK research unit

Obviously some of these things are less expensive and more achievable than others.  Quite what we will end up doing will depend greatly on the funds raised and how things develop as we get going.

I’m sorry to have to be so vague as to how this project will develop. I would love to have spent months planning and costing things in great detail but (a) that would take time and money itself; (b) until we have some idea how much funding is raised it may well turn out to be wasted effort and (c) most importantly, we have some momentum after my Sky News interview went viral and I believe we should move now to build on that.

One thing I can promise though:  every step of the way my thoughts on potential developments will be publicised and opened for discussion with interested parties.  I’m sure there will be disagreements, but I will seek to go with majority views and to build in good ideas that come from others, especially serving police officers.

FINANCES:

I feel uncomfortable about seeking crowdfunding donations, many of which I am sure will come from serving police officers and their families, in order to pay for me to do this.  As I have explained above though, in the absence of a benevolent millionaire willing to fund the project, there is simply no other way of making it happen (please do let me know if you know any!).  Several people I have spoken to about my concerns have told me not to be so stupid (though they used somewhat more colourful language!!!).

In order to show that I will not be seeking to excessively enrich myself as a result of this project, I will give the following undertakings:

  • I will not take in remuneration more than the approximate salary of a Metropolitan Police Service Inspector (I live in Twickenham and I retired as a Detective Chief Inspector).  This means that I will take no more from this project than £50,000 per annum.  For the most part work will be remunerated daily or hourly at the pro rata rates of £200 per day or £25 per hour.
  • All funds raised will be kept entirely separate from my personal and business funds: a separate bank account has been set up to handle the True Blue Line UK project funds at this stage (though it is simply in my name as it was not possible to set up an account in the name of #TrueBlueLineUK without it being a formal, corporate entity).  If a corporate entity is created in due course business accounts will be set up in its own name.
  • Full accounts will be published and audited in due course
  • Details of any contractual arrangements entered into will be published

This is not a project intended to enrich me or anyone else.  It is intended to facilitate me being able to do more of what you saw in the viral Sky News interview and which, it seems, police officers (and others) around the country want to see and hear more of.

Should the project fail, or should excess funds be available for any other reason, they will be donated to police-related charities such as COPS.  Any such arrangements will be publicised at the time.

WHAT WILL IT NOT BE?

Finally I should explain a few things that I do NOT expect the #TrueBlueLineUK to do or become:

  • A pseudo Police Federation: As a non-police entity, it cannot be a representative organisation for police officers.  That is the job of the Police Federation of England and Wales.  In an ideal world the #TrueBlueLineUK would not be needed because everything it does would be being done by the Police Federation.  Sadly, as discussed in the first blog – ” The #CrisisInPolicing ” – the Police Federation of England and Wales are not doing as much of this as they could (and as many officers obviously want)
  • A “whistleblowing” site for police officers:  Whilst the aim is to raise issues which are of concern to frontline police officers, I will never be proactively seeking leaks of any information, let alone confidential information, that is not already in the public domain.  If serving officers wish to get information to me by some means that is a matter for them, but I will never be encouraging them to do so.  The very last thing I want to happen is for a police officer be disciplined or prosecuted for supplying confidential information or having inappropriate contact with the #TrueBlueLineUK.
  • Associated with any particular political Party or to become a political Party in it’s own right:  The #TrueBlueLineUK is all about ensuring that the Government, politicians and media have honest discussions about policing and ensuring that the public (who, after all, are the police in the UK’s “Policing by Consent” model – see Peel’s Principle No.7!) know what is happening to their police service.
  • A campaigning group for better pay and conditions for police officers:  That is the concern of the Police Federation of England and Wales and it is for them and them alone.  I may from time to time support or reference their campaigns, but the lead will always be theirs.
  •  A group campaigning for police officers to strike or withdraw their Labour:  I am fully aware of the fact that police officers are not permitted by law to engage in industrial action.  I am also fully aware of the criminal offence of Inciting or Causing Disaffection amongst police officers (s.91 Police Act 1996).  I will be doing neither.  The whole aim of the #TrueBlueLineUK project is to get police officers the support they need to do their job better, not to encourage them to stop doing their job altogether!

Again this list is not definitive and I am sure there are a number of other things that it will become apparent that it is entirely inappropriate for the #TrueBlueLineUK to become!

SO HOW CAN YOU HELP?

First, and most obviously, you can contribute to the crowdfunding.  There are currently three ways you can do this:

  • Take a cash donation in to any of the 550 branches of the TSB bank in England and pay your donation into the following account:
    • Bank:  TSB
    • Sort Code:  77 – 72 – 34  
    • Account number:  0 2 7 4 3 1 6 0
    • Account name:  Peter KIRKHAM
  • Make a donation direct via Bank Transfer / internet banking.  Make the payment to the same account.  You do not need to put any particular reference for the donation but if you want to be able to check with us that it has been received please feel free to put any reference that you will recognise:
    • Bank:  TSB
    • Sort Code:  77 – 72 – 34  
    • Account number:  0 2 7 4 3 1 6 0
    • Account name:  Peter KIRKHAM 
  • Make a donation (see note below) via the True Blue Line UK GoFundMe page (which has a £15,000 target set – a figure which would allow me to do quite a lot more for the next 12 months at least):
  • I hope that a text donation service, so you can text a short code from your mobile phone and donate a fixed amount, will become available soon too.

NOTE:  Donations made via the GoFundMe service will have about 8-10% retained by the GoFundMe service provider.  If you are able to make a donation in person to a TSB branch or via a Bank Transfer/internet banking then obviously 100% of the donation will be received by #TrueBlueLineUK.

Secondly, you can spread the word.  Talk to your family, friends and colleagues about #TrueBlueLineUK.  Share links to this blog on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.  Engage people in conversation about #TrueBlueLineUK in the pub, at the gym, at the school gates, anywhere!  Spread the word, spread the message!

Finally, if you have any ideas, questions, concerns or wish to contact me about anything to do with #TrueBlueLineUK you can email me at truebluelineuk@yahoo.com.

SO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

What is happening today is a sort of “soft launch” of the #TrueBlueLineUK project.  Basically I am putting this blog up on my Twitter account and on Facebook and it will go wherever it goes via my current Twitter and Facebook followers.

I hope that the reaction to the request for crowdfunding over the next few days will give me some idea of how this project is likely to take off and that will guide how things progress.

But, one way or another, if we manage to raise a couple of thousand pounds at least, I have a public / media launch of the project planned for later in the autumn.  It will be an example of how we can try to get the #CrisisInPolicing issues into the mainstream media and into the political debate (and, hopefully, it will raise a few smiles amongst out hard-pressed police officers, their families, friends and supporters!

Now it’s over to you…  Do you want to give #TrueBlueLineUK a go?  If so, find a way of making a donation!  (It is entirely down to you how little, or how much, you donate but as I explained, the idea is based on people donating the money they would have used to buy me a pint…so anything from about £3.50 (Stupid Southern prices!!!) would be fine!)

 

Going Viral

INTRODUCTION:

Welcome to the second in the series of three blogs to be published this week.  Yesterday the first blog – ” The #CrisisInPolicing ” was published.  It set out the background and the recent history which has led to the #CrisisInPolicing.  In this blog, I shall explain how the response to an interview I gave to Sky News in the aftermath of the terrorist attack at London Bridge convinced me that, to coin a phrase, something must be done and that fate had given me an opportunity to try and do it.  The third blog – ” The #TrueBlueLineUK ” will be published tomorrow, Thursday 3rd August 2017 at 7pm.  It will set out the details of the project and how people can support it.

GOVERNMENT CLAIMS ABOUT ARMED POLICING AND THE TERRORIST THREAT:

On the 3rd June 2017 there was a terrorist attack at London Bridge and Borough Market.  Three terrorists killed and injured numerous people before armed police officers arrived, confronted them and shot them all dead at the scene.  This took place just two months after the terrorist attack on Westminster in which a lone terrorist killed and injured numerous people, including a police officer, PC Keith Palmer, who was guarding the Houses of Parliament before he was confronted by an armed police officer and shot dead at the scene.  And it was only a matter of days after a suicide bomber exploded a bomb killing and horrifically injuring many in a terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena.

It was therefore of major interest to the media who had, for pretty much the first time, been asking #QuestionsOnPolicing of the Government during the ongoing General Election campaign.  In particular they were concerned as to how prepared the country was to deal with terrorist attacks.  In the week preceding the London Bridge attack, Tory Party Ministers had been all over the media, telling the public that they were doing all that was necessary to keep the public safe and that the police had all the resources they needed.  One Minister, Michael Fallon, had been particularly vocal.  In one interview he had stated: “We are increasing the budgets of the security services and we’re putting more armed police officers available, right across the country“.  This claim was simply wrong.  In 2010 when the Tories formed the Coalition Government with the Lib-Dems and began Theresa May’s relentless series of cuts to police budgets and strengths, there were about 7,000 armed police officers available.  By March 2015 the numbers had fallen to about 5,600 (a reduction of about 1,400).  Following terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere in Europe the new Tory Government, elected in 2015, had belatedly recognised the insanity of the cuts and they set about increasing numbers again.  Unfortunately you can’t just open a box and get some more armed officers – there is a rigorous selection and training process which simply takes time to complete and which has a limited capacity.  It also proved difficult to find officers to volunteer to become armed officers because of the way the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) had treated officers who had been faced with situations in which they had had to pull the trigger.  This meant that the Government plan (which wasn’t even fully funded in any event) was scheduled to roll out over several years, to achieve a total of about 7,000 armed officers again in 2019-20 (later brought forward to 2018-19).  As of mid 2017 therefore the number of armed officers stood at around 6,300 officers – some 700 FEWER than when the Tories came into office in 2010.

THAT SKY NEWS INTERVIEW:

I knew the facts about the armed officer numbers when, in the aftermath of the London Bridge attack, I was asked by Sky News to come to the crime scene cordon for a live interview in the early afternoon of Sunday 4th June 2017.  I was interviewed by Kay Burley and we discussed the Government’s claims about the numbers of armed officers.  Unbeknown to me, Sky News decided to take the interview and put it on their YouTube channel.  And from there it went viral!  Over the next 48 hours:

  • The clip was seen over 13 million times on just four of the Facebook sites carrying it (and there were many, many more sites carrying it too!)
  • I gave interviews to numerous UK and international media – those I couldn’t get to interviewed other policing commentators on the subject
  • Pretty much every newspaper carried reports on the story, many in their main headlines
  • Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (seizing the opportunity to raise the issue of policing again, after Diane Abbott’s disaster a month earlier when launching their policy to reverse some of the cuts) held a press conference criticising the cuts to police numbers and even calling on Theresa May to resign over the issue
  • The media, for the first time in the 2017 General Election campaign, started to ask the Government #QuestionsOnPolicing – they really didn’t have an answer (they never do to the truth!) and there were several embarrassingly poor attempts to avoid admitting there were not more armed police officers than before
  • The subject of police numbers was brought up repeatedly by the political commentators in the media, in vox pops conducted with the public and with the focus groups various broadcasters and newspapers in their last meetings before the election just two days later
  • Various Chief Police Officers, Police and Crime Commissioners and other local politicians spoke out about the cuts (albeit in somewhat guarded and diplomatic language) – in London both the new Commissioner, Cressida Dick and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, did so

I watched all this happening with increasing incredulity.  With others, I had spent several years trying to get the media to cover the issue of the cuts to policing with very little success.  There had been pretty much no #QuestionsOnPolicing asked during the 2015 General Election campaign and, until this point, pretty much none in the 2017 General Election campaign either.  Now, suddenly and on the back of one interview, it was everywhere.

That week I REALLY found out what “going viral” means!

THE RESPONSE:

It undoubtedly had an impact on the General Election – several people in the vox pops commented that they hadn’t realised the extent of the cuts to policing (20,000 fewer officers (around 15% of the total) than in 2010) previously.  Several people in the focus groups commented that it had raised questions for them in terms of their voting intention as they now had questions if the Tories had really done everything they could to keep the public safe.  In view of how close the Election result turned out to be, it may well have affected the outcome (though the claim I put in my Twitter profile that I “Once inadvertently brought down a Government” is something of an exaggeration!

The media and political attention wasn’t the most important aspect of the response for me though.  What had FAR more impact on me was the absolutely incredible response from police officers – and the partners and families of police officers – from all over the UK.  They got hold of me on Twitter, by email, by text, via LinkedIn and by pretty much any other means imaginable.  If there was one, there were over two hundred (I didn’t count them and life is too short to go back and do so now!).  With only one exception they were supportive – thanking me for saying what I had said and getting the issue of the cuts to policing (and the resulting #CrisisInPolicing ) into the public domain.  Many went further than simply saying thanks, explaining the impact that it had had on them.  They were incredibly moving.  Here are some illustrative examples:

“Thank You.  We breath a collective sigh of relief upon hearing what we know to be [the] truth actually spoken on air” 

“Top man for saying it how it is. Staffing never comes close to meeting demand, stress through the roof.”

 “Brilliant interview! My daughter and her husband are both police officers and I used to be one.  They were at our house for Sunday lunch and we were watching the coverage together.  You got a standing ovation here!”.

 “Thank you for the massive support you have shown over recent events on Sky News.  I work [as an armed officer] and you have caused quite a stir (in a good way) amongst my colleagues”.

“Thank you.  You summed up the police cuts and figures perfectly.  It was a sense of relief to hear it”.

“Okay.  I hold my hand up.  I couldn’t stop watching it.”

“Everyone on my team is talking about you today.  You are a legend.  Thank you.”

“You’re not quite at Champions League Final viewing figures yet … However, police officers up and down the country are truly grateful to you.”

“Thank you SO much for saying what you said on Sky.  My husband is an armed officer and he is being worked into the ground.  I burst into tears when you told it as it is, it was such a relief to know that it was finally out there in public”.

The sense of relief, expressed vividly in the last of the above quotes was palpable.  Over the next few weeks I went to several events such as retirement parties and reunion lunches.  I was treated almost like a celebrity.  Serving officers I didn’t know queued up to say hi and shake my hand.  Some even insisted on taking “selfies” with me!  I was told time and time again about how their whole unit had been talking about the interview and about how much it had raised the spirits of serving officers.  I was even recognised in the street three times – in London, Surrey and even Lincolnshire! – by patrolling officers who came up to me, thanked me and shook my hand.

THE IMPACT OF THE RESPONSE:

Frankly I found all of this totally overwhelming.  I knew that there was a #CrisisInPolicing.  I knew that morale was at rock bottom.  I knew that things were bad.  But even I hadn’t realised quite the depths of the despair that many officers felt across the country for the plight of the police service after seven long years of relentless cuts and, just as importantly, disdain and contempt from the Government and the media.

Having sat down and thought about it, and having spoken to a number of people I know and respect, I concluded that I simply had to try and do something more.  The overwhelming response I got from police officers and their families from around the country vividly demonstrated that something needed to be done and the response from the media and the politicians showed that in the right circumstances even a single interview could have a huge impact.  Having looked around, it became obvious to me that fate had decreed that the opportunity to do something had fallen to me.

I had no intention of launching a project intended to proactively get the truth about the #CrisisInPolicing into the public domain.  I was quite happy going along, doing the occasional media interview on an ad hoc basis, whenever the media got round to inviting me.  I had plans to develop my own Security Management business in the next few years before my police pension kick in.  But having thought this through at length, I do not see any alternative but to give it a go.

DOING THE RIGHT THING:

A long time ago, when I was still serving, a very senior officer found himself annoyed by my refusal to go along with his directions to do something which I knew was contrary to the best interests of the public and the officers on my team.  He eventually said to me (in a tone of some exasperation: “You’re very good at doing the right thing but not very good at doing what you’re told!!!”.

The “right thing” right now is to give the #TrueBlueLineUK project a go!

So what is the project?  How will it work?  Well that is for the third and final blog in this series – “The #TrueBlueLineUK ” – which will be published at 7pm tomorrow evening, Thursday 3rd August 2017.  But, before I leave this blog, I’ll just leave you with three more of the comments I received after my Sky News interview went viral:

“Every police officer in the country wants to buy you a pint.”.

“Peter, you won’t ever pay for your own beer again if you decided to meet up with members of the Blue Family.  Your efforts are appreciated.”.

“Come down and meet my team, Peter.  Your interview is all they are talking about at the moment.  They all want to buy you a drink!”. 

Those comments are the ones which led to the final idea: how the #TrueBlueLineUK project could actually get off the ground!

(Thank you again for reading.  The third and final part of this three-part blog, “The #TrueBlueLineUK ”, will be published at 7pm on 3.8.17)

(NOTE:  If you are on Twitter, have a search for the various #Hashtags mentioned in the text of this blog for lots more illustrative examples of the points being made)

 

The #CrisisInPolicing

INTRODUCTION:

This is the first in a series of three blogs which, together, launch a new project, the #TrueBlueLineUK.

In this blog, “The #CrisisInPolicing” (published on the evening of 1.8.17), I set out the background to the project.

In the second, “Going Viral” (published on the evening of 2.8.17), I explain the inspiration for the project.

And in the third, “The #TrueBlueLineUK” (published on the evening of 3.8.17), I set out the details of the project itself, and how you can help.

CRYING WOLF:

Those of you who have followed me for some time will know that I am a fairly regular commentator on policing issues in the mainstream media.  Initially my aim was simply to provide an explanation of what the police can and can’t do, and of how they go about doing it, to the public.  Over the last seven years, however, I have become increasingly concerned about the cuts being made to the police service in England and Wales.  With others, I have warned that they are going too far for several years now…but our warnings have been dismissed by the Government, especially by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary who dismissed our concerns as “crying wolf” and “scaremongering”.

THE CRISIS IN POLICING:

The situation has now degenerated to the point where there is a full-blown #CrisisInPolicing which is deepening by the day.  There actually WAS a “wolf” and it is now right at the door.  Policing in England and Wales faces a perfect storm:

  • Police numbers are down by 20,000 (around 15% of the total) since 2010
  • Current police officer numbers were last seen around 1985
  • Police staff and PCSO numbers have seen even greater cuts
  • Crime is now rising – around a 10% rise year on year from 2015-16 to 2016-17
  • There is now very little proactive police activity on the street
  • Stop and search (due to May’s directives) has fallen off a cliff
  • Police officers are actively discouraged from carrying out stop and search or pursuing vehicles (especially mopeds) which fail to stop
  • As a result the streets have been “lost” to the criminals and thugs
  • There is now a steady stream of experienced police officers leaving in mid-service
  • Stress-related ill-health is through the roof
  • Officers (and their families) are being burned out by ridiculous workloads and hours

In short, we were #NotCryingWolf.

THE DOGS WHICH DIDN’T BARK:

The situation is dire, and is crying out for someone – anyone – to challenge the Government and to bring the #CrisisInPolicing to the attention of the public.  But no-one is doing that.  The National Police Chief’s Council say little, other than to reassure the public that they are “doing everything we can to keep you safe”.  The Superintendent’s Association of England and Wales have pretty much disappeared without trace.  And, most disgracefully, the Police Federation of England and Wales have, at a national level, decided to pursue a policy of appeasing the Government rather than challenging their cuts and other attacks on policing.

Local Police Federation branches have done some sterling work, most notably the brilliant #CutsHaveConsequences campaign which I believe was started by Essex Police Federation and which was then taken up by several other branches.  The outstanding features of that campaign were the exceptionally high quality, and hard hitting, short films which vividly illustrated that police officers were disappearing from communities.  Good examples come from the West Midlands Police Federation, the West Yorkshire Police Federation and the Metropolitan Police Federation.  The campaign really needed to be taken up nationally by the Police Federation of England and Wales so that a national awareness raising campaign could be undertaken.  For some reason that never happened.

Some of the Federation National Lead officers with responsibility for particular areas of business have also done sterling work bringing particular issues to the attention of the public: I am thinking here of the likes of John Apter and Che Donald.  John has massively raised awareness of the plight of police drivers who are currently (and disgracefully) not afforded the protection of the law when engaged in pursuits or even in ordinary response driving.  Che Donald continues to highlight the vulnerability of armed police officers if they are faced with a situation in which they need to pull the trigger.  The work done by them, and others, is great but each of them is dealing with one aspect of the #CrisisInPolicing and not the whole issue.

Other policing bodies have been actively supportive of the May’s changes.  Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), under the direction of Sir Tom Winsor, the first non-police officer (albeit one with a penchant for opening the “dressing up box“) in the post of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary in living memory, have been changed into a “Regulator” of police and produce report after report after report criticising the police for not doing this, that and the other with absolutely no consideration of the impact of the cuts at all.  This is hardly a surprise as Winsor was the author of two Reports which form the basis of most of May’s changes to the police service.  The College of Policing have enthusiastically pursued May’s desires to make policing a degree-level entry profession, something which it is feared will prevent make potentially excellent, but non-academic, recruits joining.

With very, very few exceptions, the national media have failed to raise the issue of the cuts to policing, let alone the fact that #CutsHaveConsequences for local communities.  They have increasingly carried stories about levels of policing service deteriorating in various ways – response times rising, investigations being cut back, insufficient officers available to deal with local “rave” parties and similar incidents – but they have failed to make the connection with the cuts.

The cuts have been led by the Tory Party, first whilst in coalition Government with the Lib-Dems between 2010 and 2015 and then in Government alone from 2015.  Because of the fact that they were in coalition with the Tories for the first five years, the Lib-Dems have been largely silent on the impact of the cuts.  The Labour Party under Ed Miliband chose not to ask and #QuestionsOnPolicing during the 2015 General Election campaign.  Under Jeremy Corbyn in 2017 they did eventually address the issue.  They intended to put the Tories on the back foot with an announcement that they would reinstate some 10,000 of the cut police officers.  Sadly the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, failed to properly prepare for her media interviews and the launch of that policy was a total embarrassment.  As a result they didn’t raise the issue again.

Despite this failure of any of the main Parties to ask #QuestionsOnPolicing, it is right that I should mention the sterling work done by Holly Lynch, MP.  Single-handedly she has dragged the issue of the safety of police officers on patrol to the attention of Parliament.  She has organised debates and persisted in asking questions of the Government.  With the assistance and support of Chris Bryant, MP who secured an opportunity to bring forward a Private Member’s Bill in this Parliament she now has a very real chance of significantly strengthening the substantive law relating to the assault of police officers and other emergency workers in the course of their duties.  Although her work is commendable, however, it doesn’t address the core issue: the #CrisisInPolicing.

THE GOVERNMENT ATTACK ON POLICING AND POLICE OFFICERS:

In Government, the Tory Party (primarily in the person of Theresa May, Home Secretary from 2010 to 2016) has maintained a relentless anti-police narrative for seven long years  They have repeatedly stereotyped all officer as racist thugs, personally responsible for every policing issue going back decades, such as the failed investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence (which happened in 1993) and the Hillsborough tragedy (which happened in 1989).  The average frontline officer today wasn’t even a teenager when those things happened – many weren’t even born!  But that has not stopped the Government rolling out the list at every opportunity.

It is not clear why Theresa May has set out to destroy the police in this way, but set out to destroy them she most definitely has.  It is not just that she has made the cuts that she has, it is how she has gone about it.  There was, at least for the first couple of years, a legitimate argument for why the police needed to take their share of the cuts which were having to be applied across the board to deal with the financial situation in which the country found itself.  The police service (at all levels) accepted the need to make some cuts but they have continued far, far beyond what can properly be sustained.  She hasn’t engaged with the police in any meaningful way at any level to try to manage the cuts in such a way as to minimise the impact on their ability to deliver policing to the public.  And she has launched tirade after tirade at the police service as a whole, most notably at Police Federation conferences in 2014 and 2016.

What IS clear, however, is that she has not uttered a single word in public in support of the police, in acknowledgement of their efforts or in gratitude for their exceptional dedication to duty which has been the only thing keeping policing going in many areas.

THE MEDIA:

Unsurprisingly, Theresa May’s anti-police narrative has been gleefully taken up by the media who, at the best of times, are not exactly supportive of the police.  They have taken to the task of repeating and amplifying the Government narrative with relish – frequently exaggerating, misrepresenting or even totally lying about stories in order to damage and undermine the police.  Wherever a negative spin can be put on a story, they have gone for it.  BBC News and Channel 4 News have been particularly persistent in this regard, aided and abetted by The Daily Mail, The Sun and most of the other national newspapers.

With the advent of Freedom of Information requests, the media routinely gather statistics from police forces across the country and then, when they’ve gone back enough years to come up with a sufficiently scary number, they splash a headline such as “Police hold closed hearing to sack 477 officers for misconduct” which is quite deliberately intended to make readers think “OMG! That’s awful!”.  Only when you read the detail in the article do you realise it is for all 43 forces.  Across three years…. so “Police forces hold closed hearings to sack on average 3 officers for misconduct per force per year”… Not quite so scary, eh?  Another variation is to present an FoI based story as if it has revealed something the police are hiding: “Police forces confess 944 officers have a criminal record” being an example of this type.  Again the casual reader, scanning the headline in print or online (and most readers DO only scan the headlines) would at first glance be quite horrified by that scary number.  Again, it is only when you read into the detail that you find that it is across 33 forces and includes Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) as well as police officers.  This time the headline should have read something like “0.9% of police officers and PCSOs have minor and / or ancient criminal convictions”.  FoI based stories have become a hugely popular stick with which the anti-police media can beat the police service.

Perhaps even more damagingly, mobile phone footage taken by onlookers or even suspects has become ubiquitous.  ANY use of force by police is portrayed as “police brutality” by those filming it and it is uploaded to YouTube and rapidly goes viral on social media.  The mainstream media then pick up on it and show it to a FAR wider audience, again amplifying its impact and frequently sensationalising the nature of the incident.  They ALWAYS focus on the account of the “victims” and NEVER provide the officer’s account.  The officers, and their force, CAN’T comment in these circumstances (because they respect the rule of law and (rightly) believe that all parties are entitled to have a fair hearing once ALL the facts are known, not just a clip of video with little or no context).  Usually the media not only fail to explain this to their readers and viewers but, by saying “We contacted the police but they have refused to comment”, they imply the police are covering something up.  This utterly dishonest coverage of policing issues is not routinely challenged by anyone in authority.  It has become absolutely the norm.  The result is that officers are being tried in the court of public opinion and held to be guilty no matter what later happens in the official investigation and hearing (as the media NEVER give similar prominence to the eventual findings if they show the officers did little or nothing wrong).

AND YET THE OFFICERS STILL KEEP GOING:

Against this background, the vast majority of officers are STILL working their socks off, doing their absolute best to continue to deliver policing to the public they serve.  They are doing so at great personal cost – they are working unpaid overtime with no prospect of ever being paid, they are taking work home with them, they are cutting corners and boxing and coxing, knowing that if something goes wrong with that case the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will come gunning for them, looking for any excuse at all to get them sacked and taking absolutely no notice whatsoever of the insane workloads the officers were trying to manage.  And, as I have said, they are missing out on time with their families (often leading to their relationships collapsing), they are suffering stress, they are making themselves ill and, tragically, ever more are committing suicide.  They REGULARLY do things which are absolutely outstandingly #GoodPoliceWork but these successes are never reported in the national media and the hundreds of thousands of successful interactions every day are never mentioned when they report the latest example of the police allegedly doing wrong.

Every day police officers are keeping vast swathes of the police service going with their goodwill.  It is absolutely amazing that, despite everything, they are still doing this, something that is to their enormous credit.  The public owe them a massive debt of gratitude.

It can’t go on though.  The current levels of workload are not sustainable in even the medium term.  Officers, especially specialist officers, are working 12, 14 or even 16 hour shifts back to back for days on end.  They are getting just one or two rest days a month (if they are not cancelled).  After the terrorist attacks in Westminster, London Bridge, Manchester and Finsbury Park, and the horrendous fire at Grenfell Tower it looked for a moment like the police service would collapse, but through the dedication of tens of thousands of police officers across the country they (just about) kept things going.

CONCLUSION:

I could go on, but I think you get the picture: there is a #CrisisInPolicing and the police, both as an organisation and as individual officers are being routinely defamed, demeaned and disparaged by the Government and in the mainstream media.  No-one is coming to their defence in the public discourse.  The situation is spiralling out of control and if you were to watch the TV News on any day of the week now you would conclude that the police are entirely out of control, failing entirely in their duty to investigate serious crime and bring offenders to justice and routinely beating and shooting suspects – especially black and Asian suspects – to death.

(When you look at the actual statistics, nothing could be further from the truth – out of some 15,000 armed operations each year only a handful result in shots being fired and Tasers are actually fired in only around 10% of the occasions in which they are drawn.  The media and the politicians don’t let the facts get in the way of a good anti-police story though!)

I believe this needs to stop.  It has gone on FAR too long and it is simply wrong on multiple levels.

Those of us outside the police service and Government can’t do much about the cuts themselves, but we can raise the issues and challenge the lies.  In the UK we have a policing model which has been the envy of the world: policing by consent.  Since 1829 the police have been of the public and the public have made up the police.  They police are not an arm of the State – constitutionally they are entirely independent of the Government and the Government cannot direct them in their operational duties.  Year in, year out, the vast majority of the public show their support for, and confidence in, their police service.  If they knew what the Government had done to their police service I believe they would be horrified and there would be an outcry, forcing the Government to change course.

I believe that the #TrueBlueLineUK project may go at least some way towards making it stop.

(Thank you for reading.  The second part of this three-part blog, “Going Viral”, will be published on 2.8.17)

(NOTE:  If you are on Twitter, have a search for the various #Hashtags mentioned in the text of this blog for lots more illustrative examples of the points being made)

Joint Enterprise hasn’t been abolished!

The media is full of reports today about the Supreme Court’s decision relating to the principle of Joint Enterprise (R v Jogee [2016]).  Some of the reports, and many of those who have campaigned for a change in the law, imply that it has been abolished.  It hasn’t!

What HAS happened is that one particular aspect of one of the three broad categories of the principle has been changed.  This post is intended to give a brief summary of what has changed from the perspective of an investigator rather than a lawyer.  Hopefully police officers, who will no doubt wait months or years for any formal training update, will find it helpful and accessible.

The full judgment of the Supreme Court, which is written in clear English, is available on the Supreme Court website here.

Categories of Joint Enterprise

Joint Enterprise is a principle which deals with secondary parties to a crime.  It is a very long established principle within the English Common Law and has been expressed in statute since s.8 Accessories and Abettors Act 1861.  As the title of the statute suggests, the principle deals with those who are not the principal offender in a crime but those who help or encourage the principal offender in some way.

The three basic categories of joint enterprise are helpfully set out in A & Others (Joint Enterprise) v The Queen [2010]:

(a) Where two or more defendants agree to commit a single crime with each of them playing a different part (such as where three armed robbers decide to rob a security guard of cash with D1 using a sawn-off shotgun to threaten the guard, D2 grabbing the cash box and D3 waiting in the driving seat of the getaway car, engine running, around the corner) (In this form the defendants could also sometimes be seen as joint principal offenders)

(b) Where D2 provides specific assistance or encouragement to D1 to commit a single crime (such as where D2 provides a gun to D1, knowing that D1 is going to commit an armed robbery, but has no active role in the commission of the robbery itself)

(c) Where D1 and D2 jointly commit a crime (offence 1) and, in the course of it, D1 commits a DIFFERENT crime (offence 2) which D2 had foreseen that D1 may commit (but which there was no actual agreement to commit)

The Chan Wing-Sui Principle

All three categories were largely uncontroversial until the case of Chan Wing-Sui v The Queen [1985].  That case involved a category (c) joint enterprise.  Three men attacked another and, during that attack, one of the suspects produced a knife and fatally stabbed the victim. The case reached the Privy Council (the equivalent of the Supreme Court (then the House of Lords) in terms of seniority) as it arose from Hong Kong for whom the Privy Council was the final Court of Appeal.  The Privy Council decided the case in a way which was an extension of the existing law.  It became known as the Chan Wing-Sui Principle and it is this principle which has created controversy, especially in cases where the different crime committed by D1 was murder where there is a mandatory sentence of murder leaving no scope for lesser sentences for those with less culpability.

In short, and in somewhat simplistic terms, the Chan Wing-Sui Principle decided that if D2 had simply foreseen the possibility that D1 may commit offence 2 (murder) during the commission of the agreed upon offence 1 (assault) then D2 would be guilty of murder  as well as D1.

This created a significant anomaly.  To be guilt of murder an assailant (such as D1) would need to be shown to have either intended to kill the victim or, at very least, to have intended to cause them serious bodily harm.  When the Chan Wing-Sui Principle was applied, however, D2 would be found guilty of murder on the basis of (Category (c)) Joint Enterprise when they had no such intention at all – they  had no intention to kill the victim, no intention to cause serious bodily harm, no agreement to carry out a fatal attack on victim, just a foresight that D1 may commit murder.

Today’s decision that the Principle was “a wrong turn”

Although the Principle was challenged several times over the years, the Courts upheld it.  Today, however, having taken a far more in-depth look at how it arose, the Supreme Court have decided that the Principle is wrong and that the law took “a wrong turn” in 1985.  They have effectively turned the clock back so the law is again how it was before the case of Chan Wing-Sui v The Queen.

The first two categories of Joint Enterprise ((a) and (b) above) were entirely unaffected by the Chan Wing-Sui Principle and are similarly unaffected by today’s decision.  Category (c) Joint Enterprise, where there is an agreement between D1 and D2 to commit one crime (offence 1) and during the course of that D1 commits a DIFFERENT offence (offence 2), still exists, but it has been restricted.  D2 will only now be guilty of offence 2 on the basis of joint enterprise if it can be shown that they have the requisite intent for offence 2 (so, in the case of murder, that they have the intent to kill or cause serious bodily harm to the victim).  Simple foresight by D2 that D1 may commit offence 2 will no longer be sufficient.

(Note that although I have used examples in which there is some prior agreement between D1 and D2 the principles apply just the same in relation to spontaneous incidents such as where friends of a person who gets involved in a fight decide to join in to assist them.)

Impact on previously decided cases where the Principle was applied

In many cases where there have been murder convictions for the secondary offender (D2) the (now) correct finding will be one of manslaughter.  And in all cases they will still be guilty of the original offence (offence 1, often an assault of a lesser degree) that they agreed to commit with D1 and in many, if not most, murder cases that will mean they are guilty of unlawful act manslaughter.

In relation to Appeals by those convicted, there is a principle of law that where cases were properly decided on the basis of the law as it was, there is no automatic right of appeal if the law changes – they must seek exceptional leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal.  The Supreme Court have emphasised this in their judgement today and suggested that in many cases the correct course of action may be to quash the murder conviction and substitute a manslaughter conviction with an appropriate sentence (which, of course, may still be  Life imprisonment in serious cases).

What does this mean for the police and investigators?

The decision in R v Jogee [2016] has little if any impact on policing and investigation: all those involved around the periphery of a serious crime such as murder are liable to be arrested on suspicion of committing the offence (as either principal or secondary offenders) and there will be a thorough investigation to secure evidence to establish the facts.  The interviewing of all concerned will be of more importance, however.

What each person involved in the incident knew, believed or intended will be of absolutely crucial importance in deciding on their culpability and guilt and so even more care than usual should be taken to secure significant statements and silences in accordance with PACE Code C requirements and in the planning and conduct of investigative interviews using the PEACE model.  Detectives involved in serious crime cases should DEFINITELY go and read the full judgment, especially paragraphs 85 – 99 in which the Supreme Court restate the pre-1985 principles which now apply again.

But, other than that, joint enterprise is still there to be used to prosecute those who assist and encourage principal offenders, pretty much as it always has been and as it was until 1985!

And whilst significant numbers of secondary offenders convicted using the principle may have their convictions overturned, there will be no flood of violent individuals released back on to the street without a stain on their character – many will have manslaughter convictions substituted and many more will be sent for a re-trial for a jury to decide.  I suspect relatively few will find themselves entirely acquitted!

 

Police actions in the Sian Blake investigation

There has been a lot of criticism of the police in the media today in relation to the investigation into the disappearance of the former EastEnders actress, Sian Blake and her two children, Zachary (8yrs) and Amon (4yrs).  The Mirror has been particularly critical with a headline (“How did police searching for ex-EastEnders actress miss three bodies in her back garden?”) which implies gross negligence on the part of police, as if they’d somehow managed to ignore three bodies lying openly in the garden.  Although only some of the facts are in the public domain, and although some of the facts are not substantiated from official sources, I believe there are some points which should be made.

Timeline:  Many media sources have published a timeline of events (such as ITV News).  There is general agreement that so far as is known, the last time Sian and her children were seen alive was on 13 December, leaving relatives in the Waltham Forest area.  There is also general agreement that the first involvement of police was on 16 December when they visited the home she apparently shared with her partner (Arthur Simpson-Kent) in Erith.  This suggests to me that the information about their last sighting alive being on 13 December has been obtained subsequently.

There is also general agreement that the ONLY time the police spoke to or saw Arthur Simpson-Kent was on that first occasion on 16 December.

There is then a suggestion from some sources (such as this article from the Daily Mail) that police returned to the Erith house on 18 December (two days after their first visit) and got no answer.  They broke a window and searched the house before leaving.

Sky News reports that Arthur Simpson-Kent (and NOT Sian and her children) was reported as a “high-risk” missing person at this stage.  It is unclear exactly when Sian and her children were formally reported as missing, but it seems to have been around this time too and the Independent reports that THEY were NOT classed as high-risk at that time.

There are reports from some neighbours in Erith to the effect that police then returned to the house on two or three more occasions but got no answer.

There are various reports of neighbours seeing Sian loading bag into her car, of text messages being received from her phone, of suggestions that she may have gone to Colchester or Cambridge and that she may have taken the two boys away for a last Christmas alone with them as her motor neurone disease was getting worse.  None of these reports appear to be from official sources but I suspect at least some of them will probably turn out to be correct.  What IS sure is that the police WILL have been conducting various enquiries across the Christmas period to try to establish their whereabouts and this WILL have involved speaking to family, friends and neighbours and so some or all of this information found by reporters WILL have been found, and followed up as far as possible, by the police too).

On 1 January the Metropolitan Police made their first formal appeal for information relating to the disappearance of Sian and the two children.  It was widely reported in the media (such as on ITV News)

The next significant development seems to have been the finding of Ms Blake’s car in Bethnal Green on 3 January.  That was plainly suspicious as it did not fit with any of the hypotheses that Sian had gone away with the boys for Christmas and, as the time itself was becoming of concern, this led to the police making the enquiry a homicide investigation.

On 4 January the homicide investigation team took over the case and began a FAR more detailed search of the house in Erith and on 5 January the bodies were found.  The bodies were partially decomposed according to several reports (such as Metro) suggesting that they had been there some time.  Formal identification has not yet been made and post mortem examinations to establish cause of death were due to take place today.

The Metropolitan Police Service Professional Standards Department is looking at the sequence of events to establish whether any mistakes were made or opportunities missed (this is fairly standard practice in serious cases such as this where it is plain that there is potential for different decisions to have been made at different times in the investigation).  The matter has also been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for them to decide whether or not they want to take over the investigation into police actions.

Ironically, the Mirror has published another article on the case in which it highlights what it describes as “six unanswered questions” relating to the case.  The unknown facts that they identify undermine the certainty with which they claim in their other article that the police made mistakes.  They are also not “unanswered” as far as the police are concerned: the police will know the answers to many, if not all of the questions they raise.

The initial report:  Several reports (such as The Sun) say that police were initially contacted by the Samaritans.  Some others (such as the BBC) say that a family member reported Sian and the two children missing on 16 December.  What is clear is that when police spoke to Arthur Simpson-Kent on 16 December, ALL they had was the initial report of either concerns for HIS welfare or of family members reporting Sian and the two boys missing.

Police Missing Person procedure:  The police receive hundreds of missing person reports every day across the UK.  If you go to any of the 43 police forces you will find that they have maybe four or five actually open for active investigation at any one time.  In city areas that number is very much larger and in the Metropolitan Police you will often find that number open on each of the 32 Borough divisions.  The VAST majority of missing persons turn up unharmed within a day or two.

The initial response to a Missing Person report will be by uniformed officers from the Response Team which is on duty dealing with emergency and other calls for assistance.  The first officer obtains as much information as possible from the informant (in this context meaning the person making the report) and carries out whatever enquiries are possible and necessary at the scene from which the report is made.  This will usually involve a search of the home of the missing person looking for them as an alive missing person.  The officers will also check police databases to see if there is anything known about the missing person, or the informant or location which appears to be relevant.

They then carry out a risk assessment process and assign the case to one of three levels: Low Risk, Medium Risk or High Risk.  In low risk cases initial police action may be limited to circulating the persons details on the Police National Computer in case they come to the notice of other officers.  In medium and high risk cases additional enquiries will be immediately commenced.  These are likely to be limited in the case of medium risk cases (perhaps starting to make enquiries with other friends and family or at other places the missing person is likely to be found and perhaps circulating details of the missing person to other officers in areas where they may be so that they can actively be sought by patrolling officers.  In high-risk cases, everything possible, including searches of open spaces where the missing person may be, media appeals, use of technical means to track mobile phones, use of social media and bank accounts, etc., will be commenced immediately.

The decision of the reporting officer on how to categorise the missing person case is checked by a supervisor (sergeant and / or Inspector) who can upgrade the case if necessary.  As a matter of policy, no Missing Person case involving a child should be classified as Low Risk and so Sian and the boys should have been at least medium-risk.  High-risk categorisation is where there are immediate concerns for the health and welfare of the missing person or where they present a threat to the health and welfare of others.

A Missing Person enquiry, even a high-risk one, usually continues to be dealt with by uniformed officers, often from a specialist Missing Persons Unit which many Boroughs and Forces have now introduced to deal with the high volumes of cases they receive although they may seek advice from a senior investigating officer (a detective, usually a Detective Inspector or Detective Chief Inspector) in cases where crime is considered a potential explanation.  Cases are only transferred to the Major Investigation Teams (MIT teams, responsible for homicide and other very serious criminal investigations) when there are reasonable grounds to suspect serious crime.

Police powers to search premises:  Despite what is suggested by the (often utterly irresponsible) media, the police do NOT have unlimited powers.  When they use the powers that they DO have, we often hear choruses of criticism from the media about them using them excessively (e.g. the never ending criticism of police using their stop and search powers or even the arrest of journalist suspects in connection with the phone hacking and bribery enquiries).

The principal police search power available in Missing Person cases is from s.17 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE).  Section 17(1)(e) allows police to enter and search premises if they have reasonable grounds to believe that it is necessary to save life or limb.  This power is often used in cases where people haven’t been seen for some time and it is believed that they may be lying ill or injured in locked premises.  Note that the officers must have reasonable grounds to “believe” rather than the lower level of “suspect”.

Other than that, the police would not have ANY powers to search premises in the absence of grounds to suspect criminal offences.  Once they DO have grounds to suspect a criminal offence there are more powers: they can get a search warrant for the premises from a Court (under s.8 PACE or other Acts) to search for evidence.  In order to grant a search warrant, the Court would need to be satisfied that there were reasonable grounds to believe that there is evidence  If they are seeking to arrest a suspect they have reasonable grounds to believe is in the premises then s.17 PACE allows entry to search for the person in order to arrest them.  Once they have arrested them (but not until they have, and only if it is an indictable (more serious) offence), then s.32 PACE allows them to search the place where they were when arrested for evidence of that offence and, with an Inspector’s authority unless there are exceptional circumstances, s.18 PACE allows them to search any premises “occupied or controlled by” the person under arrest for evidence of that offence or similar or connected offences.

The police CAN search premises with the written permission of the occupier and this is often done in Missing Person cases where the occupiers of the premises are usually seeking to assist the police in any way they can in finding their missing loved one.

In ALL cases, however, PACE Code of Practice B applies to how searches must be conducted and it very tightly restricts the EXTENT of the search to that which is NECESSARY.  PACE Code B, paragraph 6.9 reads:

Premises may be searched only to the extent necessary to achieve the
purpose of the search, having regard to the size and nature of
whatever is sought.

Police powers to seize passport from a person:  The police have NO general powers which would allow them to seize a passport from a person unless there are reasonable grounds to suspect that that person has committed a criminal offence AND they have been arrested AND the passport is evidence of the offence AND it is necessary to retain the passport as evidence or for examination during the investigation.  In such cases there are two powers under PACE allowing the suspect to be searched after arrest (s.32 and s.54), s.19 PACE allows the evidence to be seized and s.22 allows it to be retained.

There is NO power available to the police to seize the passport of a person to prevent them leaving the country unless there are reasonable grounds to suspect them of an offence AND they have been arrested AND they have been released on police bail, either to return to the police station if further enquiries are necessary or to go to Court if they have been charged with an offence.  In these circumstances, various provisions allow the surrender of a passport to be made a condition of bail being granted.

In the case of Ghani v Jones (1970) the police had (coincidentally) seized the passports of suspects in a murder case to prevent them leaving the country whilst investigations continued.  The Court held that this was unlawful: the passports could only be seized by the police in this way if they were evidence.  (The decision of the Court was reflected in the provisions in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 fourteen years later when, for the first time, many police powers were put into a statutory form in an Act of Parliament).

As with searching premises, if a person voluntarily surrenders a passport then the police may retain it but if the person changes their mind and asks for it back then it must be provided to them, so this is a pretty meaningless factor.

ANALYSIS:  As I said at the start, there are limited facts in the public domain and there are a variety of different unsubstantiated facts in various media reports).  I don’t engage in speculation but there are some comments that can legitimately be made.  I do NOT make these suggesting that they actually happened, just that they are possibilities based on the facts and reports which are in the public domain:

  1. It is very unclear how this investigation first came to the notice of the police.  There appear to be two possibilities:(a) The family of Sian Blake reported her and the two children missing  and, as a result, they went to the address in Erith and spoke to Arthur Simpson-Kent; or

    (b) A third party, possibly the Samaritans, reported concerns for the welfare of Arthur Simpson-Kent and / or Sian and the two boys and, as a result, they went to the address in Erith and spoke to him.

    In neither of these scenarios would the police at that time appear to have had ANY grounds to suspect any harm had come to Sian or the boys and hence they would appear to have had NO grounds to suspect Arthur Simpson-Kent of any crime and so there would be no power (or reason) to arrest him, search his premises (other than with his consent) or to seize his passport.

  2.  If, as Sky News reports, Arthur Simpson-Kent was treated as a high-risk missing person from the start himself then this strongly suggests the second option, with the fact that Sian and the two boys were missing too being something which was subsequently established and actioned.
  3. The lack of a media appeal in relation to Sian and the two boys prior to 1 January suggests that the Independent may well be right in reporting that they were initially treated as medium-risk themselves.  The various information about texts being received, potential travel to Colchester or Cambridge, the possibility of them going away to have a last Christmas together, etc. would, if it had become known to the police, tend to support that classification, especially if the whole incident had begun with concerns for the welfare of Arthur Simpson-Kent.
  4. The reason for the police trying to contact Arthur Simpson-Kent again after 16 December are unclear.  But it does appear sure that on 18 December they forced entry to the house in Erith and carried out a search.  As this was still a Missing Person enquiry (in relation to Sian and the two boys) and / or a “concern for welfare” issue in relation to him, that search would by law be restricted to looking for live human beings or those who had collapsed and were ill, injured or dead.  The law would NOT permit officers to carry out a more thorough search, lifting floorboards, digging up gardens, etc. at that stage.It seems from the photographs of the police activity in the garden that the bodies were found towards the end of the garden and that it contained a variety of lawn, flower beds and trees.  Even the final search which DID locate the bodies is reported to have followed indications made by a dog specially trained to indicate human remains and so it doesn’t seem that the graves were immediately obvious such that they would arouse suspicions.
  5. If Sian and the two boys were classified as medium-risk Missing Persons over the Christmas period, then concerns would start to rise again after Christmas passed and New Year approached.  It seems that the police were alert to this escalation in concerns as they issued a major media appeal for information on 1 January.  This suggests that the case may have been re-classified as high-risk at this stage.The finding of the car, in a inexplicable location, on 3 January would be evidence of possible crime and I am not surprised that the case was transferred to the Major Investigation Team the following day.
  6. Having now got grounds to suspect a crime, the police were in a far stronger position in relation to their powers to search the Erith premises and, I suspect on a warrant issued under s.8 PACE, they carried out a far more intensive search of the premises, using specially trained officers and dogs, resulting in them rapidly finding three bodies suspected to be Sian and the two boys.
  7. The main issue concerning the Professional Standards Department and / or the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will be the actions taken in relation to Sian and the two boys and / or Arthur Simpson-Kent.  They will know EXACTLY what information the police had at each stage and they will therefore be able to make a proper judgment as to whether the right decisions were made.

    It is a matter of professional judgment, based on the best possible information available at the time, as to how to classify a missing person investigation and what lines of enquiry to pursue at which stage.  Old detectives (like me) will tell you that “you can only go on what you know” – a pithy saying which draws a distinction between decisions made with the benefit of hindsight and those made on the basis of the available information at the time.

Conclusion:  Overall, on the face of the facts available in the public domain at this time, I have a favoured option as to what will transpire to have happened but it would not be right to share that.  A number of different explanations are available and the enquiry must keep an open mind and only exclude them when the evidence is there to do so.  I suspect that the police will already have significant amounts of evidence – from technical enquiries on mobile phones, from the post mortem examinations and elsewhere – which will enable them to do that.

I do not immediately see anything which shows that the police have made any mistakes – there are facts and reports of facts which could well justify the actions taken as I have explained.  But it is necessary to know ALL the facts before making a judgment on that and that is not a mater for the media or the public at this stage.

What IS sure is that the police officers, from the constable(s) who dealt with the original report(s) to their supervisors and managers who made decisions in relation to the Missing Person enquiries, will have their decisions reviewed in great detail by the PSD and / or IPCC.  If they are found to have erred then they will be considered for criminal or disciplinary action.

That is in great contrast with the media – especially the Mirror – who, based ENTIRELY on hindsight, have already found them guilty of gross negligence and stated that they failed to use powers they simply did not have available to them.  Such inaccurate reporting, especially of the powers available to the police which are well-known to the media and readily available to any competent journalist or editor, causes serious damage to public confidence in the police and cannot be justified by the facts as known.  Such ill-informed and inaccurate reporting is appalling.  If only there were some meaningful way of holding them to account for their plainly-evidenced incompetence…

 

The Government’s hatred of the police is putting public safety at risk

It is becoming increasingly clear that tomorrow the Chancellor will announce a further massive cut to police budgets.  I personally expect it will be around 30-35%.  This will make policing as we have known it for the past few decades unsustainable – the cuts of around 20% imposed during the last Government have left it teetering on the brink of collapse.

It’s not just the police who are complaining

These cuts will be imposed in the face of appeals from pretty much everyone who knows anything about policing: from Chief Constables, the Superintendent’s Association and the Federation to former senior officers, victim’s groups, minority communities, the Labour Party and even the TORY Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and TORY Police and Crime Commissioners.

The array of voices ALL calling on the Government to stop their dogma-driven is unprecedented.  There have NEVER been so many groups and individuals, from one end of the political spectrum to the other, agreeing that the Government is wrong.  If such a thing existed, the Union of Blaggers and Dips would probably be adding their voice too, concerned that all the fun will go out of crime if there are no cops to chase the robbers!

And yet the pig-headedly stubborn (see what I did there?) Prime Minister, Chancellor and Home Secretary carry on regardless.

Why DO the Tories hate the police so much?

I am at a total loss to understand why they hate the police so much.  It has been suggested that Cameron is still smarting from his time with the Sheehy Report team, which recommended changes to the police service in 1993, only to have the majority left unimplemented.  But surely he wouldn’t carry a grudge like that to this extent?  Maybe it is the constitutional independence of the police service, the fact that they CANNOT, as a matter of law, be told how to use their powers by Government Ministers.  This is a bit more believable, as we know this Government really doesn’t like being told what it can and cannot do by similarly independent “unelected judges“.  Or maybe it is more fundamental than that: perhaps the  Government really is made up largely of people who are rumoured to feel entitled to smash up small businesses during a drunken night out, or to take cocaine during sex parties and they would rather the police were not around to investigate and arrest them?

It can’t be “Plebgate“, because that happened in September 2012 and the Government had already spent two years at loggerheads with the police by then – in fact, their attitude to the police (30, 000 of whom had marched in opposition to the cuts made by THAT Government in May 2012) was part of the reason so much was made of a Government Minister personally abusing a police officer.  (Let’s not forget, by the way, that Mitchell ADMITTED swearing at the police officer and a Court eventually concluded that he DID (on the balance of probabilities as is always used in the civil courts) call the officer a “pleb”, something that the Government and their tame media lackeys are only too ready to deny).

Whatever the reason, the Government HAVE treated the police, at all levels, with disdain and contempt from day one of the Coalition in May 2010.  Theresa May has launched tirade after tirade against the police, especially relishing attacking the Police Federation who represent the thousands of rank and file officers desperately trying to maintain policing services.  She has regularly listed historical incidents in which the police have failed, such as the Hillsborough disaster, the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation, the death of Ian Tomlinson and undercover policing.  In doing so, she implies that the incidents illustrate how ALL police officers, past or PRESENT, behave – in short, she stereotypes them all as racist, violent, corrupt and dishonest, something which is again lapped up by her tame media stooges who embellish and repeat it ad nauseum until it becomes established as “fact”.

The Home Secretary does not listen to professional police officers

It’s not just this, though. It’s FAR more serious than offensive rhetoric: she fails to listen to the senior police officers who are her professional advisors.  Sir Hugh Orde, past President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, was the nearest thing we have to a “top cop” for the whole of England and Wales.  As such, it would, I suggest, be reasonable to expect that regular meetings with his are scheduled by any competent and reasonable Home Secretary.  It transpires that Theresa May, unlike previous Home Secretaries, would sometimes not see him for months.

And one of her first moves on taking office was to replace the outgoing HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Denis O’Connor with Tom Winsor.  The HMCIC is another professional policing advisor to the Home Secretary, traditionally present alongside them in the “COBRA” meetings at times of national crisis.  For the first time ever, the HMCIC is now a non-police officer.  How effective a corporate lawyer turned Rail Regulator will turn out to be in that role remains to be seen: lets just hope the recent events in Paris are not repeated here whilst he remains in post.

So we have a Home Secretary who demonstrably hates the police service, no matter what mealy-mouthed platitudes she comes out with just before launching into another attack.  And one who refuses to listen to a word they say about policing, something which no sane and competent Home Secretary would ever do.  It is therefore no wonder that she is presiding over what will undoubtedly be yet more swingeing cuts.

Public safety is at risk

She, Osborne and Cameron ARE gambling with public safety.  Even now, with some of the effects of the previous cuts still to work thorough, the police service is on it’s knees: response times are rising, the public can no longer expect an immediate response to burglaries and other crimes, neighbourhood policing is unsustainable, sickness, stress and even suicide rates are rocketing as officers work extended shifts and have rest days cancelled to try and maintain a reasonable level of service, almost half of officers say that they are not able to provide a proper service,  less than 10% would recommend the Job to a friend or relative and experienced officers are leaving in their droves.

Police numbers have now been taken back to the level of 2003, which is before cybercrime properly took off and when ISIS was but a twinkle in Al Qaeda’s eye.  The world has changed.  Crime has changed.  Sure, many types of “traditional” crime continue to fall, as illustrated by the Crime Survey of England and Wales, but police recorded crime figures, which had also been falling consistently since 2003-4 (spooky coincidence of dates there!), has now started to rise.  Some types of crime are rising particularly sharply, especially violent crime and murder and when fraud and cybercrime are included in the figures for the first time we find there is no overall fall at all!

Despite the evidence that ALL crime is not falling, May and the rest repeatedly claim that it is and use that to “prove” that police numbers can be cut without any effect on the service provided to the police.  But even if their claim WERE correct only a small proportion of demand on policing is directly linked to crime according to the first research on the subject carried out by the College of Policing.  (Others, such as the HMIC presided over by Tom Winsor, have argued that much more demand is to incidents where there is a RISK of crime…but, of course, prevented crimes don’t make it in to the crime statistics!).

There are serious concerns that those other demands are being increasingly driven by cuts to OTHER agencies.  To take just one example, cuts in mental health care provision means that more people with serious mental health problems are being “cared for” in the community, receive less and less support and have fewer facilities which they can visit when they feel the need.  This means that more of them find themselves in crisis whilst in the community, causing friends, neighbours and passers-by concerned for their welfare to call for help.  As there is no emergency mental health crisis provision that results in the police being called and being forced to use their powers under s.136 Mental Health Act 1983 and to take the person to (utterly inappropriate and unsuitable) police stations as a “place of safety”, not through choice but because no mental health or hospital facilities are available.

And so, even without taking the threat of terrorism into account, public safety is at risk.  There WILL be more and more victims of crime as the police are increasingly unable to prevent, investigate and prosecute crimes as they simply do not have the staff available to do so.

And it’s even more terrifying when the terrorism threat is considered

All of the above analysis is based on what we DO know: there IS a #KnifeCrimeEpidemic at present; murders ARE on the rise; criminals WILL continue to commit burglaries, robberies and all the rest on a regular basis and so forth.  But the police service is also required to provide a prompt and effective response to unexpected major incidents such as major fires, serious road traffic collisions, rail and air crashes and all the other things which DO happen from time to time.  Planning for these sorts of contingencies includes ensuring that there are sufficient police officers, with the necessary skills and equipment, immediately available to respond.  This is called “resilience”.

Police patrol strengths for every area have a “minimum strength” set.  This is the minimum number of officers considered necessary to deal with the usual range of routine tasks safely and to be able to provide an adequate initial response to major incidents.  I am told that these minimum strengths have steadily been adjusted downwards as the cuts have bitten: certainly there are now FAR fewer officers on patrol than there were when I started in the Metropolitan Police Service in 1981.  During ordinary working days this is not such an issue as there are officers in other specialist departments available to assist but at night and at weekends the police response in many areas would be very stretched and, I suspect, found to be inadequate.

But now there is a new possibility: a Paris-style “active shooter” type attack, involving eight or more attackers, armed with heavy, fully automatic weapons and explosives, simultaneously attacking multiple locations and moving around the city in vehicles committing “hit and run” type attacks such as those on many of the Paris cafes and bars.  The police will PLAINLY be the first response to this type of attack (as they were in Paris) and so the Government need to ensure that there are sufficient numbers available and that they have sufficient arms to deal with the potential threat.  There are Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs)around the UK.  Typically these are crewed by two or three officers armed with pistols, carbines and other specialist weapons.  They do not, however, have access to weapons of similar firepower to the AK47 assault rifles used in Paris.  The Metropolitan Police Commissioner in London, which has the best level of ARV cover in the country, has acknowledged he needs twice as many armed officers as soon a possible: the position elsewhere will be far worse. Rapid access to Specialist Firearms Officers (SFOs) equipped with more powerful weapons also needs to be improved.  Currently there are a tiny number of such officers and so their numbers need to be significantly increased too.  None of this can be done now, let alone if more swingeing cuts are imposed tomorrow.

It has been suggested by the Prime Minister that the Army will provide the necessary response to a terrorist attack in the UK.  He says there are 10,000 troops on standby for that very purpose.  But are they properly prepared?  Do they know what their role will be?  Have they been given clear “Rules of Engagement” for use of their weapons? Have they been trained?  Or taken part in joint exercises with the police they will apparently be supporting?  The answer to at least some of those questions, and I strongly suspect, ALL of them, is no.

So the Government, to avoid properly funding the police service that they hate so much, are willing to put ill-prepared troops on to the streets instead.  Those troops will NOT be able to provide an initial response.  They are NOT prepared, trained and equipped to promptly and effectively protect the public.  The public WILL be put at additional risk.

And, of course, it is not just the response to a terrorist attack which matters.  Police have a role in preventing such attacks – working with communities to prevent radicalisation as part of the “Contest” programme, working with businesses to “harden” potential targets and improve their emergency response.  Neighbourhood officers in communities are the eyes and ears of the Counter Terrorism specialist units, picking up seemingly unimportant pieces of community intelligence that may be the missing piece in a complex jigsaw.  As neighbourhood policing disappears that WILL leave a gaping hole in intelligence gathering and WILL mean that it is more difficult to prevent attacks, thus again putting the public at increased risk.

The “Polo-Funding” model

The Government has massively increased funding for the Security Services, who do a huge amount of (but not all) the intelligence gathering and analysis related to terrorism.  They say there will be 1,900 more spies which is great news…but the spies do not carry out searches, arrests, and interviews with the identified suspects and seek to find sufficient evidence to prosecute and imprison them.  This requires the police.

The “Counter Terrorism Budget” for the police has apparently been protected but it not clear exactly what that covers.  It may cover most of the specialist Counter Terrorism units but it most definitely does not cover the ordinary police officers required in their hundreds to support them by protecting scenes, carrying out searches and in dozens of other ways.

With a massive £12bn increase in defence spending announced yesterday in the Strategic Defence Review, the Government are delivering a “Polo funding” model – increasing funding for everyone around the police service (the Security Services, the Special Forces, the ordinary military and counter terrorism specialist units) whilst continuing to cut ordinary police budgets leaving a huge hole in the middle.

But ALL the agencies need to work together to effectively protect the public.  Whilst the police are unable to properly play their part, the efforts of the others will be undermined.

The Government are allowing their anti-police prejudice to blind them

I have explained how the Government hate the police service (though I have been unable to explain why).  I have explained how the cuts they have made to police budgets have left the service on its knees already, let alone should the anticipated further cuts be made.  And I have explained how the police need significant ADDITIONAL funding to be able to effectively play their part in preventing and responding to terrorist attacks.

In short, I have demonstrated just how this Government are putting public safety at serious risk as a result of the cuts driven by their irrational hatred of the police service.

The public should be warned.  When the worst happens (and sadly it is pretty inevitable that it will) they will not be able to say that they were not told.  If they are concerned they should write to their MP immediately in the strongest possible terms – it takes a few minutes and all their contact details are readily available on the Parliament website here: http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/

There must be no further cuts to police budgets.  Some of the cuts already made need to be reversed. And action needs to be taken NOW – there is absolutely nothing to stop that Paris-style attack happening in London, Manchester, Nottingham, Guildford or any other UK town or city tomorrow!