Archive for November 12th, 2009


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Police, Camera, Action….

Today I read three different stories about the Police.  The first is serious – the other two mildly absurd.

I read on SimonCollister.com a post about the Metropolitan Police and  the Evening Standard

“The Met has now requested that all imagery of its officers hiding or obscuring their badges be removed from photo libraries and image databases (hiding numbers means officers can’t be (easily) identified and is an illegal tactic usually performed to allow police to act with impunity while committing – often violent – offences against the public).

While the Standard accuses the Met of trying to “re-write history”, a member of the public gets it right in a comment posted on the story:

“If people start uploading such images to Facebook and Twitter, will they get their collars felt? We seem to be heading in that direction.”

SimonCollister.com goes on, however, to reveal something rather more unpleasant…

He was talking about the Met’s unwillingness to engage with social media and noted…

“Following the G20 the Met has signed up 6Consulting and Radian6 to run social media monitoring for the force so it’s very likely that any ‘offending’ material will certainly be identified. That said, I return to the point I made originally which was that this approach reveals a traditional command and control communications culture at the Met which will not fit in the distributed, complex, networked world in which we now live.”

The blog post ends with a note  where the author of the post had a rather intimidating ‘encounter’ with the Met’s Director of External Affairs, Dick Fedoricio.. who left a phone message . “He advised me, in a rather intimidating fashion, that if I planned on blogging about the Met again I  should give him a call in advance.”

We live in a democracy of sorts where the police, theoretically, act on behalf of the people and not against the people. They police, theoretically, by consent. For the most part, this is true – but we have seen many instances over the years of police brutality, police corruption, police dishonesty and police criminality.  Hopefully – eventually, these transgressions are rooted out and dealt with.

I can see absolutely no reason why any journalist, blogger or other commentator (provided they do not compromise an authorised police operation or compromise judicial proceedings) should not question the police, write about the police or comment on police activity…..

Next they’ll be telling us we cannot photograph them…. Hang on… they already have… possibly so that we cannot identify police officers, with their shoulder boards taped over,  using truncheons on unarmed women or hitting an unsuspecting man from behind at the G20 protest – a man who subsequently died.

Well… if the Met’s Director of External Affairs, Dick Fedoricio wishes to consult with me about my future blog posts about the Met… he can have a quick look at my ‘About‘ section which will provide him with the means of getting hold of me.  Mind you, after reading my About section he may well take the view that his time would be better spent on other matters. I would understand.

Now to the two absurd stories about Plod…both from The Sun.

Cops have been assigned to peer out from behind a beach hut clutching hand-held speed cameras in a bid to halt brisk bikers breaking the 10MPH limit along a waterfront promenade. The operation — which sees a PC clock a speeding rider and radio down to a council “seafront ranger” who stops the cyclist and warns him to slow down — has been slammed as “ludicrous” and “absolutely ridiculous”.

Curiously… it looks as if this officer is not wearing identifying shoulder boards… so maybe he was ‘undercover’.

The second story involves Police cyclists. Apparently there is rather a complex ‘Roadcraft Style’ booklet to ensure that Police know how to stay upright, how to get off and… the fun bit… know how to cycle down stairs past a ceremonial guard of other police officers.

In fairness – as a motor bike rider –  the Police Roadcraft method for motorbikes is superb. I have had three excellent two day courses with experienced police riders who were great fun to learn from and I have no doubt at all that my bike riding improved – particularly in London. For the avoidance of doubt – should Met Blogger Spotters be reading this – I do respect the work that the majority of police officers  do.  Like others, I have no time at all for police who abuse their powers or break the law. We need a good police service.

Thankfully… most police officers do not behave badly, do not break the law, do not abuse powers and, frankly, deal with some pretty unpleasant stuff during their working lives.  Would you want to deal with a fatal road crash?  Would you want to deal with violent drunks on a Saturday night or face a dangerous thug or  criminal?  Not so sure I would…

I’d like to say “Evening all”… mind how you go... but it would appear that this is just not allowed now in the politically correct mania that is our country.  Apparently, it might offend some sodding minority who may have a different view on what the word ‘Evening’ means… sod it… I’m thinking of sailing for France where they seem to be far more sanguine about many things!

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It is, I suppose,  quite possible that somewhere out there, in The City or the regions, there is a lawyer who believes that god is a lizard and  who also happens to be a psychic.

Last week environmental campaigner Tim Nicholson successfully argued that green beliefs were the same as religious beliefs  for the purpose of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

The Independent reports today:

In an unpublished judgement in Mr Power’s favour seen by The Independent, the employment specialist Judge Peter Russell said that psychic beliefs are capable of being religious beliefs for the purpose of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

Judge Peter Russell, sitting at Manchester Employment Tribunal, said:

“I am satisfied that the claimant’s beliefs that there is life after death and that the dead can be contacted through mediums are worthy of respect in a democratic society and have sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance to fall into the category of a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Regulations.”

Judge Peter Russell did say, however, that a later hearing would have to establish whether the claimant was “dismissed for the possession of religious or philosophical beliefs or for his alleged inappropriate foisting of his beliefs on others.”

Returning to the case of the fictitious solicitor psychic who believes that god is a lizard…. it would seem that his beliefs in lizard gods and psychic powers are capable of protection under the  Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, but if he started to use his psychic powers to predict the outcome of litigation instead of looking up the law, he would find himself on the wrong side of a professional negligence judgment. But… there again, he would be able to predict that… would he not?

Setback for Government over ‘secret evidence’ for control orders

On a rather more serious note, for those of us who are not lizard god believing psychics, there is the continuing problem of ‘Control Orders’ and ‘secret evidence’ following the Lords ruling in July in AF.

I haven’t had time yet to read the judgment but Frances Gibb, legal editor of The Times, has a useful report on a case heard recently by Mr Justice Collins who stated “There was “an irreducible minimum” of information that had to be provided even in the case of light control orders. “The approach to disclosure is the same for any control order,”

Frances Gibb states:

The Government’s attempt to restrict the movements of terror suspects through “control-lite” orders suffered another setback at the High Court yesterday. The new orders are an attempt by the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to maintain the beleaguered control order system after they were condemned in July by the House of Lords. The system came under fire because it relies on the use of “secret evidence” to restrict the freedom of suspects who cannot be prosecuted for reasons of national security. Ministers recently sought a way around the problem by introducing the concept of orders imposing lighter, more limited obligations on controlees that they said did not require them to disclose further evidence.”

Jon Ronins, writing in The Times, asks:

Whatever happened to the radical lawyers?

I did laugh when I read this… “The suggestion that legal radicalism may be a thing of the past elicits a heartfelt groan from Roger Smith, director of Justice. “There are a number of baby-boomers who came into the profession in the 1970s, now retiring and feeling old and crabby.” They went through “the heyday of legal aid and frankly made a lot of money”. “Many were able to wear their hearts on their sleeves and keep a full wallet in their back pocket. The grumpy old men should shut up and take their pension.”

Always good to get a sense of perspective.  I’ve done a couple of podcasts (Most recently for The Law Society Gazette) with Roger Smith and he can always be relied on to analyse and provide perspective.

And finally… props to Paul Waugh on his blog for the Evening Standard for this…

Put Swiss cow bells on electric cars – Tory health spokesman

Now, here’s a lovely moment from the House of Lords, proving that eccentricity is not yet dead in Parliament.

During Transport Questions, peers were struggling with the dangers posed by electric cars (they are too quiet for pedestrians etc).

Shadow health minister Lord McColl* then came up with a startling proposal:

“My Lords, does the Minister accept that there might be a simpler solution? When I purchased one of these cars a few years ago, my wife, being very practical, said that the answer would be to put on the front of the car a small Swiss cowbell….”


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