Category Archives: Law & Order

Police & Crime Commissioners: the count begins

I suppose my question is: if the turnout is so low, why does it take so long to count a handful of votes? In some areas, turnout was as low as 1.08%. If a candidate is elected on such a low turnout, shouldn’t there be a re-run of the election?

I’ve mentioned it before but the Tories complain when union strike ballots are around 35%. They claim that strike action is “invalid”. Yet they say nothing when some political nobody is elected with 35,000 votes out of a total electorate of 520,000.

Meanwhile in the 3 by-elections that took place, Labour won Manchester Central and Penarth. The Corby result has yet to be declared but I expect Labour to win. UKIP may well push the Tories into third place.

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Police and Crime Commissioners: a truly bad idea

I have previously mentioned the proposed Police and Crime Commissioners, who are to be elected next month, a few times on this blog. At the risk of repeating what The Cat said on previous occasions, this is a bad idea. A disaster waiting to happen. This idea of police commissioners is an American one that has been grafted onto an already existing and functioning system. The current arrangement of police authorities made up of local people is perfectly fine. In other words, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

The PCC idea was originally touted by Hannan and Carswell in their book, The Plan. The rationale behind the idea is to subject policing to the democratic process, but what will really happen? I can foresee conflicts arising between the PCC and the local constabulary and as I warned a year ago, the PCC will be a political office, meaning that the whole business of policing will be subject to ideological colonization. In other words, if a Tory or UKIPer should win, they could focus their attention on harassing minority groups whom they erroneously believe to be ‘illegal immigrants’. Tellingly, the Lyin’ King revealed his admiration for Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. The sheriff has recently been the subject of complaints and a federal law suit. He is also a prominent ‘birther’.

I have looked at the candidates and they are principally from the three main parties and UKIP. There are some exceptions: the British Fascist Freedom Party is standing a candidate in Bedfordshire, the birthplace of the English Defence League. In Northamptonshire, the far-right English Democrats are standing a candidate. Devon and Cornwall has the largest slate of candidates, many of whom are “independents”. In Kent, a minor fascist party, The National Liberal Party, is standing a candidate.

Turnout for these elections is predicted to be low. Hardly anyone in the country knows about the elections or what the role of a PCC is.

Today, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair  urged people to boycott the elections. Today, the Lyin’ King takes a swipe at Blair.

Plenty of people will vaguely nod at the idea that we shouldn’t have ‘politicised police chiefs’. But ask yourself what we have at the moment. Consider the career of Ian Blair himself: his spending of resources on 28 diversity advisers while street crime was rising; his attacks on the press for giving disproportionate coverage to white crime victims (erroneously, as a study of column inches later showed)

“White crime victims” (my bold) is the most revealing phrase here. But why racialize crime reporting anyway? I think Blair was right to point it out. When a black kid goes missing, the press don’t bother to report it. But when it’s Madeleine McCann or some nice white, blonde-haired kid, the press are all over it like flies on a dog turd. Remember classical liberals and self-described Whigs hate the idea of diversity and would love to return to a time when people ‘knew their place’.

The PCCs are expected to be paid a salary of between £65,000 and £100,000. Chief Constables already get paid around £100,000 a year. If the country is so “broke” as the Con Dems keep telling us, then how can they afford to spend money on PCC’s salaries?

PCCs are a bad idea made worse by the fact that the jobs will be filled by someone from a political party on a possible turnout of less than 17%. But will such turnouts be questioned by the Tories? Of course not. They’re hypocrites.

UPDATE 22/10/12 @ 1047

I’ve just been alerted to this article by Kennite, who tells us that there are “Secret US lobbyists” behind the PCC election. I shall quote a little,

Mervyn Barrett has flooded Lincolnshire with expensive leaflets, free DVDs and full-page newspaper adverts in his bid to be elected as its policing supremo next month.

Unusually for a rural local election, he has employed professional campaign staff, commissioned weekly opinion polls, opened “field offices” and is driven in a chauffeured Mercedes.

He has poured tens of thousands of pounds into the elections, far more than any other candidate anywhere else in Britain.

Mr Barrett describes himself as an “independent”, opposed to “party politics” in policing. He has refused to disclose who is funding him, despite widespread local suspicions generated by the intensity and professionalism of his campaign.

However, it can now be revealed that it has been run by a team from a US-based neo-conservative think tank, the Fund for the New American Century, funded in part by a variety of corporate donors with an interest in public-sector privatisation.

Given Hannan’s enthusiasm for this idea, you have to wonder what he’s getting out of it.

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Justice at last

Finally, 18 years after the death of their son, Stephen, the Lawrences have justice.

RIP Stephen Lawrence.

Shame on the Metropolitan Police.

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Who runs Britain? Not you, Cameron

In 1974, Edward Heath called a general election on the back of a miner’s strike. His slogan for the election was “Who runs Britain”? The voters told him, in no uncertain terms “Not you, mate”! Heath was forced to resign.

After the riots of the last few days,  Cameron, Gove and Johnson all had to cut their holidays short and hotfoot it back to London. Lord Snooty gave a press conference yesterday morning after his meeting with COBRA. Johnson popped up in Croydon, armed with a broom and Gove did the rounds on television. In each of these situations, none of them looked as though they were in charge, even though they were desperate to give the impression that they had a grip on things.

Cameron’s press conference was brief and he produced the usual spiel: criminals, law and order, punishment. He looked like he was pissed off for having to rush back from Tuscany. Hang on, didn’t a certain Tony Blair and assorted Nu Labour types have a thing about Tuscany?  And just what is it about Tuscany and right -politicians? For what it’s worth, Emperor Boris may just as well have read the Croydon locals some Cicero in Latin. His appearance was marred by heckling and he had to beat a hasty retreat. Gove thought he had  a better chance in the television studios, but came across as irritable as he hyperventilated over “gangs” and “criminals”. His head-to-head on Newsnight with Harriet Harman saw him practically screaming at her, accusing her of “relativizing” and “making excuses”. Gove was trying to suggest that Harman was somehow responsible for the riots. Gove refused to accept that his government’s deficit reduction strategy was partly to blame.

Here’s Gove on Channel 4 News

Here he is on Newsnight

Does Gove look as though he’s in charge? I don’t think he does. He comes over like a  petulant child. Harman (I’m not a fan, by the way) comes over as cool-headed and rational by comparison.

Are these people running the country or are they helping their rich pals in the private sector to trouser loads of money? Nowhere Towers thinks it’s the latter. The public sector is being smashed to pieces in order to hand out contracts to their chums under the apparent aegis of ‘localism’. in the last couple of days, many Tories have been calling for American, Bill Bratton to take over as Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

The Conservatives have made no secret of their admiration for their favourite American police chief, Bill Bratton, who played a key role in turning around crime in New York in the 1990s but has now retired. Labour had their own favourite in Paul Evans, the Boston police commissioner who fought gun crime, and who was brought over to head the Home Office’s police standards unit in 2003.

While they demand that immigration be capped or stopped altogether, here they are suggesting that an American run the largest police force in Britain. They may just as well demand that George W Bush take over as Prime Minister. In not so many words, our politicians are telling us that they don’t have any faith in Britain’s top policemen and women. So much so, that they want to hire a gunslinger from out of town.

And you had to ask why this country is in such a mess?

Finally, the most vocal supporter of cuts in police numbers came from Emperor Boris.  Go figure.

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Politically motivated arrests and illusions of liberty

I found this article in The Guardian from one of the UKUncut protesters who was arrested on Saturday. This article confirms my suspicions that this country is sliding towards a police state.  This paragraph stands out,

A very senior officer in my station admitted to my parents that he regretted having to charge the protesters on the orders of Scotland Yard: he said they all seemed like “nice people”, and that he suspected the charges were politically motivated. These sentiments were echoed by other officers who kept distinguishing us from “proper criminals”. Another senior officer told me he suspected that it wasn’t so much a case of legality, but that UK Uncut had upset people who were that little bit too rich; that little bit too powerful. Some police officers, I’ve been told, even advised protesters about constructing a defence.

Yes, these are the same powerful people that not only own most of this country’s wealth, but are in a position to print lies about UKUncut and smear both the group and those people who support them.

Fortnum & Mason’s is not merely a posh supermarket, it is a symbol of the power and authority (not to mention their spending power) of the rich and the privileged.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Filippo Tomaso Marinetti, the libertarian who supported fascism

Interestingly enough, right wing libertarians claim to be in favour of freedom and liberty but aren’t prepared to extend this idea to anyone outside their select group of people – the wealthy.

We need to remind ourselves of the futurists, who also referred to themselves as “anarchists” and “libertarians”. They all supported Mussolini’s fascists. Therefore the gap between right libertarianism and fascism is quite a narrow one and remains so to this day.

The case of the Anti-Socialist Union in this country is strangely similar. Born out of the remnants of the Land and Property Defence League, the ASU represented the interests of the wealthy. The ASU were proponents of laissez-faire economics and, at one time, boasted a young Stanley Baldwin as a member. The ASU would become closely allied with various fascist movements in the 1920′s because of their shared opposition to communism.

Cut a right libertarian and you will find the blood of an authoritarian.

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Police State Britain. Are we there yet?

Last Saturday’s march and rally, the occupation of Fortnum & Mason’s and the smashing of  a few bank windows has got the entire Tory world in a spin. So much so, that some of them (Telegraph commenters mainly) are calling for the banning of this party and the proscription of that organization.  But this government is so desperate to cling on to power that it will use any means necessary to silence its critics and rubbish the names of those who call for justice. Meanwhile the opposition seems to be sleepwalking into a trap that has been laid for them by the Tory press and the government. It’s as though the 1980′s never went away.

But it seems the state is up to its old tricks again.

Lenin’s Tomb blog believes that police agents provocateurs were allowed to smash windows while their uniformed colleagues stood by and watched. This clip from the BBC on Liberal Conspiracy shows a man in a hoodie crossing a police line. He looks like a police agent. I have also heard unconfirmed reports of how journalists from a certain tabloid newspaper paid people to commit acts of vandalism elsewhere. In paying people to carry out acts of vandalism for the sake of, what seems to be, a gruesome headline, it helps to manufacture consent in the public mind, which is good as a  nod and a wink to the  government who, in turn, grant the police more draconian powers to control, contain and destroy the ‘menace’ or ‘enemy within’. This is newsgathering and guess what? It’s always been that way. You get me the pictures and I’ll bring you the war. If you see what I mean…

There’s no truth like the untruth.

Dan Hannan writing in the Daily Telegraph is pushing his and Carswell’s idea for elected police chiefs as a solution.  Their case for elected police officials is, in my view, poorly made and, in the case of his blog, opportunistic and smugly self-congratulatory. Here Hannan puts the boot into anarchists and the Socialist Workers Party

So, which is it? Did the police provoke gentle marchers with their fascistic heavy-handedness? Were they heroic in the face of intolerable provocation from thugs? Or were they a bunch of pantywaists, standing idly by as anarchists (an odd name for people dependent on the state for their livelihood) and Socialist Workers (few of whom seem to work) vandalised private property?

Thing is, Hannan seems to think that all anarchists and members of the SWP are idle. That actually isn’t true. Many anarchists and Swappies actually have jobs.

It’s much easier to be ignorant. That way you never have to think.

Furthermore there are many flavours of anarchism, some of which – like anarcho-capitalism - Hannan would doubtlessly approve. Perhaps he needs to meet people outside his own circle to get to grips with that concept. Fat chance. The elected sheriff idea merely underlines how out of touch these Tories are. Borrow some idea from the States, apply it here and claim that it’s in the name of  ‘democracy’ or otherwise claim that it’s done to devolve more power from the centre.

We get to the meat of the blog here

The Bill to place our constabularies under locally elected representatives will be presented to the Commons this week. I’m obviously delighted, having been pushing the idea of elected sheriffs for the better part a decade (although Carswell will have you believe that he thought of it first).

Yes, another crazy idea from The Plan has been transformed into a bill. While this doesn’t appear prima facie to indicate Hannan’s desire to see some kind of police state, the office of ‘sheriff’ would arguably be open to anyone that claims to have a ‘cure’ for the ‘cancer’. In times of manufactured fear, this could be the very thing the that right has been yearning for.  As any miner (NUM need only apply) from the 1980′s will tell you, the police are always on the side of the state. If this idea is pushed through (it’s a white paper at the moment), they will also be on the side of whatever party they happen to belong to. For instance the elected commissioner could be responsible for

Appointing – and, where necessary, removing – the Chief Constable.

Also

Elections
2.12 The Government wants candidates for Commissioners to come from a wide range of backgrounds, including both representatives of political parties and independents.

Do you see what I see?

This government will use any means at its disposal to blacken the names of those who take part in legitimate protests – even if that means relying on fabricated evidence and employing agents provacateurs to bolster its case for proscribing certain groups and outlawing certain forms of political activity. Even the TUC Leadership fell into line and condemned the action of a “minority of hooligans”.  The simple fact is that the Tories don’t like UKUncut and its innovative approach to protests. The group has done a great job of drawing attention to the fact that certain businesses, some of them loyal to the Conservative Party, have been using offshore addresses to avoid paying tax in this country. Add to this Sir Phillip Green, the millionaire owner of Topshop, who has been given the role of ‘efficiency czar’ and you have a situation where the oligarchs call the tune. These oligarchs will use whatever means at their disposal to press the government to take a tougher line against anyone who opposes them.

Does that sound like a liberal democracy to you?

It isn’t one that I recognize.

The use of agent provocateurs is nothing new. Recently at the G20 protests, Lib Dem MP, Tom Brake, alleged that police agents provocateurs  were employed to besmirch the name of the protesters.

Of course this sort of tactic has its origins in the 19th century when the state routinely resorted to such methods. The so-called Six Acts were enacted in the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre and were designed to crush dissent and stifle debate. The Six Acts included,

  • The Training Prevention Act (or Unlawful Drilling Act) (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 1)[1] made any person attending a meeting for the purpose of receiving training or drill in weapons liable to arrest and transportation. More simply stated, military training of any sort was to be conducted only by municipal bodies and above.
  • The Seizure of Arms Act (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 2) gave local magistrates the powers to search any private property for weapons and seize them and arrest the owners.
  • The Misdemeanors Act (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 4) attempted to increase the speed of the administration of justice by reducing the opportunities for bail and allowing for speedier court processing.
  • The Seditious Meetings Prevention Act (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 6) required the permission of a sheriff or magistrate in order to convene any public meeting of more than 50 people if the subject of that meeting was concerned with “church or state” matters. Additional people could not attend such meetings unless they were inhabitants of the parish.
  • The Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act (or Criminal Libel Act) (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 8)”, [2] toughened the existing laws to provide for more punitive sentences for the authors of such writings. The maximum sentence was increased to fourteen years transportation.
  • The Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 9) extended and increased taxes to cover those publications which had escaped duty by publishing opinion and not news. Publishers also were required to post a bond for their behaviour

The Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act had the effect of creating a newspaper industry that was loyal to the state. In that regard little has changed. The industry is dominated by Tory-supporting titles, all of them with connections to arms manufacturers and financial institutions. The Seditious Meetings Act, for example, prevented free association and meetings could be broken up – often with violence – on a whim. Agents provocateurs were employed to stir up trouble and spies were used to obtain intelligence on seditious persons. In the 19th century, Britain was a police state in all but name.

2011 marks the centenary of some rather important events. Winston Churchill sent troops into Tonypandy to crush a riot. He ordered gunboats to be moored at Liverpool and Hull. Troops were ordered ashore at Liverpool, where they acted with the police to crush the transport strike. Churchill was also present a the Siege of Sidney Street, where excessive force was used to kill a pair of Latvian anarchists. Then, as now, the word on the collective typesetter of the press was “anarchists”, which became synonymous with a bearded bomb-thrower. A lunatic. A swivel-eyed zealot.

The word is now liberally used by politicians and the press to conjure up images of fear or as threats to individual ‘liberty’. It’s lazy and it’s weak.

In 2011 a range of measures under Terrorism legislation can be invoked in situations where the government feels protests have gone too far and, more importantly, property is being damaged. Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism thus:

(1) In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where-
(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government [or an international governmental organisation][2] or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious [, racial][3] or ideological cause.
(2) Action falls within this subsection if it-
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.
(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.

My italics. This act can be used to fit any definition of terrorism imaginable. It is intended to be that way. Judges and the police can interpret it any way they like.

They call it the letter of the law.

Those who cling to the neoliberal economic model, who tell us that there is no alternative, do so from a position of philosophical and intellectual weakness. They refuse to consider an alternative by insisting that none of us has an alternative. Their spreadsheets tell them that they are right and anyone else is wrong.

It requires no thinking on their part.

The Tories want a smaller state. A smaller state that has no welfare state and no public services. Their idea of the smaller state is one in which only the repressive functions (the police and security apparatuses ) are left intact. A police state where the legislature exists to rubber stamp the will of the oligarchy.

Are we there yet?

Finally, the Sun, always on the side of law and order, demands that the “rent-a-mob” be “nail[ed]“.

Sweet dreams.

EDIT: 30/3/11 @ 0927

This article from The Independent says

Scotland Yard plans to increase the use of stop-and-search powers on the day of the royal wedding, the next major test of policing methods in the capital, as well as stationing more officers at rail and Tube stations to spot possible troublemakers

And

In the Commons, Ms May backed the use of football-style “banning orders” against people suspected of planning to use legitimate protests as a pretext for violent action. They would be barred from travelling to demonstrations and could be arrested if they refused to comply. Ms May also urged police to make wider use of existing powers to confiscate masks and balaclavas from marchers.

Anyone who tells me that this country isn’t fast becoming a police state is a liar. We need to fight this.

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Orde: “police must not be seen as an arm of the state”

We're on your side! Honest!

I’ve heard some pretty stupid stuff in my time but Sir Hugh Orde’s words, reported today in The Guardian are on a par with Boris Johnson’s ignorant realization that the tube strikes were “political”. Strikes? Political? Surely some mistake?

Police fear becoming the focus of public anger at government cuts and that repeated clashes with demonstrators risk damaging their reputation, a top officer has told the Guardian.

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said it was crucial that police do not appear to be “an arm of the state” who are being used to allow the government to “impose cuts”.

It’s too late for that, Sir Hugh. Because of their behaviour, the police have earned themselves a reputation for being violent and brutal and this is not the first time that the police have faced these allegations.  The Met were involved in scuffles with protesters at a Countryside Alliance march in September 2002. At the G20 protests in April of last year, newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson – who was not part of the protests - was violently shoved to the ground by a TSG officer. Tomlinson subsequently died from the effects of this injury. The officer responsible for Tomlinson’s death did not face criminal charges.

Like it or not, the police along with the military use violence to achieve their objectives. In this way, they can both be said to be repressive forces. They are both arms of the state and act according the wishes of the state and are directly accountable to the government of the day. The police’s role is specifically domestic; the military’s can be both foreign and domestic -particularly if we consider how the army has been used historically to suppress protests and put down strikes. The Tonypandy Riots of 1910 and 1911 were quelled by the army which had been deployed there by the then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill (now seen as a defender of freedom by some). Gunboats were anchored off Hull and Liverpool in 1911. In Liverpool, 3,000 armed troops together with police were deployed on the streets.  This article from Libcom says,

As the rail strike began to spread across the country, a mass demonstration in Liverpool was declared as a show of support. Taking place on August 13 at St Georges Plateau, 100,000 workers came to hear speeches by workers and leaders of the unions, including Tom Mann. The demonstration went without incident until about 4 o’clock, when, completely unprovoked, the crowds of workers suddenly came under attack from the police. Indiscriminantly attacking bystanders, the police succeeded in clearing the steps of St George’s Hall in half an hour, despite resistance from strikers who used whatever they could find as weapons. Fighting soon spilled out into nearby streets, causing the police and troops to come under attack as workers pelted them with missiles from rooftops. Becoming known as Bloody Sunday, the fighting resulted in scores of injuries on both sides.

Then of course, there’s the Miner’s Strike and the notorious Battle of Orgreave Colliery in 1984 when the police baton and horse charged pickets.

Sir Hugh should read some history before going off half-cocked.

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