Don’t Shoot the Messenger

The investigation into child abuse alleged against some of the great and the good was called “Operation Midland”. To investigate further allegations made by one man that Lady Brittan’s late husband, the former head of the armed forces Lord Bramall, and the former MP Harvey Proctor and been abusing children the police sought and obtained search warrants to search their homes.

What the Police expected the search of the homes to reveal about child abuse alleged decades earlier I have never understood. Nevertheless the police applied for search warrants to a judge, in this case to a District Judge and laid what evidence they had before the judge. The judge issued the warrants and as a result the homes of three wholly innocent elderly people were searched by the police with all the attendant publicity. Of course, the searches revealed nothing because the people that the police were investigating, all elderly, were wholly innocent and the allegations were motivated by malice. Clearly all three people were badly shaken and distressed by the police turning up with search warrants and searching their homes.

Now, after the damage was done and after the police informant was convicted for perverting the course of justice by inventing these allegations of child abuse, the issue of the warrants has been investigated by a former judge of the High Court, Sir Richard Henriques, who has claimed that the Police, when applying for the search warrants may well have perverted the course of justice because they failed to tell the District Judge that the informant had been inconsistent.

It strikes me that this is a question of shooting the messenger. Of course, the police were foolish in the way they dealt with operation Midland and made mistakes by relying on a single informant who subsequently was proved to be a liar and rather a nasty piece of work. However, the target for my criticism is the District Judge who granted the search warrants.

Search warrants must be granted by a judge. This means application for a search warrant is a judicial process in which a judge makes a judicial decision. It should not be be a rubber stamping of the request but a thorough investigation into the justice of granting a search warrant.

The issues that this raises are

  1. What did evidence of child abuse the police think they would find at the homes of Lady Brittain, Lord Bramhall and Mr Proctor? The abuse alleged was years earlier – too far away for there to be electronic evidence and DNA evidence.
  2. Absent uncorrobrated evidence of a single informant, how likely was it that the search of the homes was merely a step to “shake up” the suspects and their families: this is not a proper reason to grant a search warrant.
  3. How, if at all did the District Judge having before him or her applications for search warrants test those applications.?
  4. The allegations made warranted investigation because they were serious. However these allegations depended on a single witness whose story was uncorroborated. How was it that the District Judge failed to take account of this when considering the search warrants?

Judges should remember that they are there to protect the rights of individuals and that although the existing law on search warrants is confusing, it is clear that many applications, like these applications, are not properly scrutinised by judges.

Police make mistakes all the time, so do judges. However, judges should understand that the police do make mistakes and in the case of applications for search warrants judges are there to wherever possible prevent those mistakes and not simply to believe whatever the police tell them. .

We are all now policemen

The citizen has always had a common law duty to co-operate with the police and that duty was often in the past more honoured in the breach than in the observance. However, with governments being so careful of spending public money they collect from taxpayers, the police do not have enough money to carry out their duties properly. Neither does the border agency whose job includes preventing illegal immigrants from entering the country. So the government, so careful with the taxes it collects, has shown much less care with the time and resources of the citizen. Continue reading

Police Bullies

There have been what seems to be an increasing number of incidents where police behave in their dealings with ordinary citizens in ways that are bullying, violent and inappropriate. There seems to be many such incidents in the Southern parts of the USA where police have, as far as I can tell from police webcam videos installed in their cars, behave with undue aggression. The latest incident led to the death of Sandra Bland in a police jail after Miss Bland was stopped for failing to signal – Continue reading

Police, Brutality and Firearms

There is a great deal being reported in the United States of America about police brutality. Some would argue that there is a great deal of police brutality in the United States, but they fail to understand that the police in any nation reflect the mores and culture of the people in that nation. Continue reading

Odd Things – Police Statements

It is very odd how the key criticism of Andrew Mitchell who recently resigned as Chief Whip of the UK Government, centres around two things; first that it is claimed that he called police officers “plebs” which he denies and swore at them, which I understand he admits, and secondly he disagrees with the account of the incident that the police themselves noted in their notebooks. Continue reading

Odd Things -Two Different Deaths by Police with Two Different Outcomes

Some years ago a man of Brazilian origin was thought to be a terrorist and was deliberately shot dead many times in the head at close range by the police at Stockwell underground station. The Police Service was prosecuted found guilty and was fined for a breach of Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. At the trial the jury found that no policeman bore any personal culpability.

A couple of years later a man on his way home was caught in a place where there was rioting. A policeman, presumably thinking that the man was a rioter, knocked him with a truncheon once on the leg and pushed him over, without any intention to kill the man. The man got up, walked away but a few minutes later died from internal bleeding from his liver, which was badly damaged by cirrhosis. The policeman was prosecuted, acquitted, but subsequently dismissed from the police force for gross misconduct in striking the man with his truncheon and pushing him to the ground.

I suppose the lesson is there is a distinction between shooting an unarmed man in the head many times at close range and giving a man a smack on the legs and pushing him on the ground. Both men die, one death is much more foreseeable than the other, but for those policemen who caused the deaths the two outcomes are very different.

The Power of Wealth

A man was strolling through the woods in Yorkshire. He had in his possession a knife. He decided to try throwing the knife at a tree, with a singular lack of success, when two policemen appeared. They arrested him and questioned him closely as to who he was, where he had got the knife, what was he doing and where he was staying. When the policemen discovered he was a guest of a very wealthy local banker they let the man go, with good wishes.

The man later reflected on the perennial temptation to a shameful admiration of wealth which has distorted and poisoned our police. He wrote Continue reading