Category Archives: Police Force

Not That It Matters

For various reasons, we have created a division of Devonwriters (the name of the partnership within which I work) called Dartside Press. This is because the office is pretty close to the river Dart here in Devon and this division is going into publishing. We can afford to do this because of ebooks. To do so with printed books would be far too costly.

Even then there is a lot to learn and I decided that I wanted something simple on which to cut my teeth. The result is a compilation of some of the political stuff I wrote in 2011 and 2012 – suitable edited and embellished as required. It is called “Not That It Matters” for two reasons. The first is that it seems a pretty accurate title. The second is that it was the title of a delightful collection of essays written by A A Milne who, apart from his children’s books, was a brilliant writer in an era when writing styles were at their most elegant (a personal opinion, of course). Anyway, this was to doff my cap at him (and at his son near whom we once lived and who I knew slightly).

The book is priced at a very reasonable £1.83 but I am afraid is available from Amazon alone at the moment. I have another steep learning curve to climb before we publish in other formats but hope get there reasonably soon. Should you care to know more click here.

The Riots – two years on

There is an excellent column in today’s Times written by Daniel Finklestein. The subject is basically “the cause of the riots 2 years ago”. The conclusion – and this is why I found the column to be excellent – is that we still just don’t know and we really do need to know. 

It is good to read about uncertainty. It is a state of mind that leaves one open to new ideas, that encourages people to make experiments (knowing that some will fail) and stops people becoming jobsworths or unable/unwilling to admit to any sort of failure.

Highlighted, and rightly so, is the inability of the police to accept any blame for their part in the appalling relations between them and the black populations in places such as Tottenham. What is so very dangerous is that we see trust between the public and the police at an all time low and that is bad for everyone.

This whole business of refusing to face up to making a mistake is somewhat on my mind at the moment (especially as an event which is of no great importance recently reminded me of one of the worst mistakes that I made during a lifetime of getting things wrong). It is at the back of the problem I have been having trying to get some sense out of either the elected representatives to or the officers of the South Hams District Council over the matter of a mistake that someone has made which has resulted in the problems I outlines in earlier recent blogs. I had assumed that having had this mistake brought to the notice of “the powers that be” the reaction would have been, “Oh, right, well what can we do to put matters right”. Not a bit of it. Rather like the police in the various matters we all think about at the moment (Hillsborough, Mark Duggan, Plebgate and so on) one hits a blank wall and the conversations go round and round pointlessly (in the hope, no doubt, that I will just give up).

If I give up about the matter of the signs on the car park ticket machines giving false information nobody will be injured or will die. If we, collectively, give up on the things that caused the riots two years ago then it is probable that some will be injured and possible that more will die. Certainly we shall be creating a society in which I, for one, would not wish to live.

This is not just about the police. There are many factors to take into consideration and the one that I think is most important is to find things for the young, of both sexes and all backgrounds, to do which enables them to hold their heads high and take some pride in themselves and their communities. Better to pay more for the care of our infrastructure and of our elderly and vulnerable than to pay to keep people out of work.

A pot mess called the UK

It really is time that we completely rethought the way in which the UK is governed. Yes, I know this is a recurring theme in my blogs and other writing but that is because it is something we need and need quickly – and it is very difficult to see how to set about it. All efforts so far have failed. Why? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Nobody believes it is needed
  • Nobody believes it is possible
  • Nobody is really prepared to think about what should be done
  • Nobody is really willing to work our how “what should be done” can be put into doable practice
  • Nobody cares

Have I left anything out? What other reasons are there for a country to be:

  • running on empty
  • shuffling what we have to those that don’t need it at the expense of those that do
  • failing to earn a living in the modern global economy (although there are some really good examples of private enterprise bucking the trend who tend to be forgotten)
  • driving the real wealth producers (entrepreneurs, that is) abroad
  • ending up with a rotten health service
  • ending up with poor education for our children
  • reducing the freedoms we enjoy
  • reducing tolerance to those who are “different”
  • creating a society in which people no longer want to take responsibility for themselves
  • creating a society in which the people no longer trust the police, the politicians or anyone else on whose services we rely

What a mess.

One of our Deputy Speakers has been arrested.

When the news broke that one of the Deputy Speakers had been arrested in connection with alleged rapes, my initial thought was: “For his sake I do hope he is guilty since there must be nothing worse than being innocent and unable to clear your name.” Instinctively I felt that no names should be divulged until the courts have decided that someone is innocent or guilty. Was this instinct right?

I exchanged a few Tweets with one of our new UKIP Councillors, Lee Barney, and he suggested that there should be no disclosure of names until someone is charged – as opposed to when they are arrested. 

However, the always thought-provoking Camilla Cavendish writing in the Sunday Times made me ponder afresh. Here is a part of what she wrote. 

“In trying to work out where I think the balance between freedom and privacy should lie, I spoke last week to Mark Lewis, the lawyer who represented the Dowler family in the phone-hacking scandal. To my surprise he is emphatically in favour of suspects being named in the media.

He pointed out that Levi Bellfield, who killed Milly Dowler, had a history of similar attacks that greater publicity might have helped to prevent. He also pointed out the dangers of giving out incomplete information about suspects, in the age of social media. One of his clients was recently accused on Twitter of being a sexual predator because he was the same age, and lived in the same area, as a man who had been arrested but not named. In this example, secrecy undermined the innocent.

For all these reasons, I creep slowly back to the principle that, while open justice is not flawless, it is generally preferable to the alternative. Secrecy lets all manner of things be covered up. And this is particularly true in relation to public bodies.” (Cammilla Cavendish, Sunday Times, 5 May 2013)

Probably the most persuasive of these is the middle paragraph. How would you feel if you were accused of an offence simply because you lived in the same town as an arrested person and were of the same age?

Now I am in a muddle: which of these options is right? Is there another way?

Is there room for a control by someone outside the police in such cases? We have such a system in place when it comes to searching private premises: could this not be extended quite simply to meet this situation?

The default position would be that the police do not divulge the name of an arrested person. If they have a reason for so doing, they would be required to obtain a warrant from a JP in exactly the same way as they need to apply for a search warrant.

This would not be perfect (people will still makes guesses and an investigative journalist might discover and reveal the name) but it would be a simple step in the right direction. 

I have invited Councillor Lee Barney to send me his views as a guest blogger and I understand his comments will be with me some time this week.