Chief Superintendent Ian Johnston explains why the Police can not be trusted

Chief-Superintendent-Ian-JohnstonOn BBC Radio 4 this morning on the Today programme, Chief Superintendent Ian Johnston, was interviewed about the question of declining public confidence in the Police Force.

Whilst brief, the interview gave Johnston, who is the President of the Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, an opportunity to put defend against the accusation being made, about declining confidence and what, if anything the Police intended to do about it.

He concedes that the proposition is probably correct. He puts an emphasis on the politicisation of the police force. He added that politicians are far too involved in policing, but didn’t attempt to suggest a solution, merely accepting this as a fact of life.

While many people may already feel we live in a Police State, others would say this is untrue. However when we have a Senior Police Officer commenting that the politicisation of the Police Force is a fact of life, there can be little doubt that we are heading towards a Police State, in which the Police Force are directly run by the Government.

In a similar vein the Government are making inroads into control of the Judiciary. Fairly recently Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones, decided that the release of intelligence information in the case of Binyam Mohamed, would put the public of the United Kingdom at risk. The decision has been clearly acknowledged as being due to political influence.

The conversation then turned towards the public face of the police and in particular the aspect of police behaviour and apologies for mistakes.

Here Johnston showed that the Police really don’t care about their public service, or public perception.

Ian Tomlinson the push

Ian Tomlinson the push

The interview ranged on to the Police never acknowledging their mistakes and apologizing, until it is far too late and the damage has been done. Johnston just couldn’t see this issue.

He insisted: ‘..we have got away from that now and are perhaps better at making an apology when it is apparent something has gone wrong, but it is difficult, particularly when you have the Independent Police Complaint Commission given an enquiry to carry out….’

Firstly we do not hear the Police apologize in a timely manner. Secondly citing the IPCC as a reason not to apologize is fatuous.

There is absolutely no reason that after the video of the assault on Ian Tomlinson was released, that the police could not have apologized, for what appeared, from the evidence currently available that something appears to have gone wrong.

Whether the police officer is found guilty of murder or manslaughter is a seperate issue.

It is without doubt wrong that Mr. Tomlinson was pushed to the ground and the police should be apologizing for that.

Instead we have the police suggesting that Mr. Tomlinson had a pre-existing heart condition.That has nothing to do with what is clearly an assault on a man walking away from police lines.



If you take a closer look at the IPCC, press releases, it is very clear that the many Police Officers and Police Departments are not fit for purpose. The mistakes are not due to politicisation, they are due to incompetence and in some cases corruption.

While some of these investigations are still ongoing, it is evident that there are a plethora of official complaints made against the police, this list is just for the first 9 days of April and excludes the numerous statements about the investigation into Ian Tomlinson

9 April 2009
Independent investigation into death of Marcus Cottoy
IPCC investigators are checking CCTV, interviewing witnesses, including custody staff, and examining custody records.
IPCC Commissioner Mike Franklin said: “The death of a young man in these kind of circumstances can raise a range of concerns and it is important that Marcus’ family and the local community can feel confident that an independent investigation will take place.

9 April 2009
IPCC discloses findings from investigation into death of Martin McCann
The IPCC’s investigation concluded:
•There is evidence that Mr McCann requested that he be searched in the police vehicle. However, it was still inappropriate for the officer to carry out a strip search of Mr McCann in the rear of a police vehicle. This was a breach of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Codes of Practice;
•Although it is accepted the two officers were responding to a dynamic situation when they arrived at Pole Street it was a wrong to have left Mr McCann alone in the rear of the police van even for a short period of time;
•The two officers acted appropriately in dealing with Mr McCann once he became unwell.
As a result of these findings it has been agreed that both officers will receive formal advice in relation to their actions.
“Although the officers breached policies in terms of the search and leaving Mr McCann alone in the van for a brief period, these failings cannot be used to hold them accountable for Mr McCann’s death. Once Mr McCann’s became unwell the officers acted quickly. Unfortunately it was already too late to save him.”

9 April 2009
IPCC to investigate the complaints made by Victor Frederick
Mr Frederick was returning to his home at around 9.30pm on 17 February 2009 when he was confronted with armed police officers. He was arrested under suspicion of possessing materials likely to be used for making explosives and was held in custody for 24 hours.
IPCC Commissioner for Wales Tom Davies said: “I have decided that the issues raised by Mr Frederick through his MP and AM should be fully investigated.
“This investigation will be timely and thorough and will be carried out by the professional standards department at South Wales Police under the direction and control of the IPCC.”
8 April 2009
IPCC to manage investigation about complaints into Cleveland murder investigation
The Independent Police Complaints Commission is managing an investigation into complaints about how Cleveland Police investigated the death of two-year-old Kyle Fisher.
Kyle died on 23 July 2004 and his babysitter Suzanne Holdsworth was charged and then convicted of his murder. In April 2008 the conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal and a second trial took place in December 2008 which resulted in Ms Holdsworth being acquitted.

7 April 2009
IPCC statement in response to CPS decision re death of Pc Ian Terry

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has noted today’s decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to charge Greater Manchester Police or any individual officers with criminal offences in relation to the fatal shooting of Pc Ian Terry.
The Greater Manchester Police officer died during a firearms training exercise on 9 June 2008.
The IPCC submitted its file of evidence to the CPS and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for consideration in December 2008. A decision from the HSE is awaited.
It would be inappropriate for the IPCC to comment any further at this stage.

7 April 2009
IPCC discloses finding of investigation into death of Amarjit Singh Chaudhri
• The Call Handler, who took the call at 4.00pm on Friday 28 March 2008, did not deal appropriately with the incident. He did not obtain adequate information when categorising the emergency call and his failure to obtain an accurate description of Mr Chaudhri, his precise location, and his medical condition, subsequently affected the outcome of the incident. It influenced the decisions made by the Controller, and indirectly the CCTV operator.
• The Controller did not deal appropriately with the incident on Friday 28 March 2008. His decision to cancel the police response unit based on limited information, exacerbated the outcome of the incident and resulted in a failure to check the location.
Following the investigation, it has been determined that the Call Handler and the Controller who dealt with the first emergency have received a detailed debrief to outline the areas where their individual performance fell short of the standards expected. They were also given a detailed development plan to enhance their skills and will be subject to on-going assessment by their line managers.
03 April 2009
IPCC discloses findings from managed investigation into death of Malcolm Bulman
The possibility exists that either the accident in the cell caused the fatal injury, or that accident exacerbated an existing injury or that he had sustained an injury prior to his arrest, possibly from a fall on the staircase.
It is clear that the head injury was not discovered until Mr Bulman underwent a detailed examination at hospital.
The investigation did find that there were some failings in the general care given to Mr Bulman while he was in custody. In particular Mr Bulman was left in wet trousers and was given a dirty blanket. These were supplementary issues, but ones that have been reported back to South Yorkshire Police and addressed.
Nicholas Long, IPCC Commissioner for Yorkshire and Humberside, said: “Mr Bulman had a history of drink related problems and on this particular day he was taken into custody for his own welfare. The police officer dealing with him had no option other than to take him into custody – there was nowhere else for him to go.
“It continues to be a matter of concern for me that police cells are regarded as a ‘place of safety’ for people who are drunk and incapable, when perhaps some form of medical treatment may be more appropriate. It is unfair for the police service to be left to deal with these kinds of situations. It is however impossible to say whether, even if some form of medical treatment for Mr Bulman’s alcohol problem had been available, it would have spotted any other injury.
Mr Long added: “Once Mr Bulman’s condition deteriorated prompt medical attention was sought, but by that stage it is apparent it was already too late for his life to be saved. We will never know with certainty whether the fatal head injury was caused before he was taken into custody or during his stay in custody.
1 April 2009
IPCC investigation update: PC Clark charged with conspiracy to blackmail
The Independent Police Complaints Commission can confirm that Police Constable Raymond Clark from South Wales Police was arrested by Gwent Police and charged with Conspiracy to Blackmail on 18 February 2009 and released from custody on conditional bail on 19 March by Newport Crown Court.
PC Clark has been suspended from duty by South Wales Police.
The IPCC is managing the misconduct investigation being conducted by the professional standards department at South Wales Police. This will also look at the reasons why confirmation of the identification of PC Clark as a serving police officer in South Wales was not confirmed at an earlier stage in the inquiry.
Gwent Police are conducting an on-going criminal investigation and the IPCC will not at this stage issue further information because of the possibility of prejudicing that investigation and the live criminal proceedings against PC Clark.

The police on the beat - photo Max Nash

The police on the beat - photo Max Nash

The police have also taken a strange attitude to implementing laws, twisting them to their own satisfaction.
Section 5 of the Public Order Act is often used as a reason to arrest someone, with the statement that it is an offence under section 5 to swear in a public place, but many of these arrests are quite simply lazy policing.
The Public Order Act 1986, Section 5 states:

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he:

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

This offence has the following statutory defences:

(1) The defendant had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be alarmed or distressed by his action.
(2) The defendant was in a dwelling and had no reason to believe that his behaviour would be seen or heard by any person outside any dwelling.
(3) The conduct was reasonable.

The Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 (Commencement No. 2) Order 2009

The Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 (Commencement No. 2) Order 2009

We now have the police are being now heard to claim that under section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008, which came in to force on 19th February 2009, it is an offence to photograph a police officer.
This is absolutely un-true there is no blanket ban on taking photographs of police officers.

The Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 introduced some changes in the law relating to the eliciting, publishing or communicating information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Section 76 of the 2008 Act makes “Eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of armed forces etc” an offence. The section is effectively an amendment to s 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Under the newly introduced s 58A to the 2000 Act, a person commits an offence who—
(a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been—
(i) a member of Her Majesty’s forces,
(ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or
(iii) a constable

which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism,
(b) publishes or communicates any such information.

Under s58A (2) “it is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for their action.”

To establish this defence [under s58A], the defendant needs only to claim to have a reasonable excuse and it is then for the prosecution to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that there was no such excuse. Further, the DPP must authorise prosecutions under Section 58A. Its decision will take account of the possibility of the person having a reasonable excuse for his or her actions. Therefore, safeguards are in place. It is clear that this is not information that people would normally have, but that, by putting it around, they would put someone at risk.

Tony McNulty confirmed this approach in answer to a Parliamentary Question, when he indicated that:

Police officers have the discretion to ask people not to take photographs for public safety or security reasons but the taking of photographs in a public place is not subject to any rules or statute.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights Report:
In March 2009, the Joint Committee on Human Rights issued a report entitled Demonstrating respect for rights? A human rights approach to policing protest.

The report played down the legal concerns involved, but warned of a potential“chilling effect” on journalists and protestors and suggested that guidance should be issued to the police about the scope of the offence. The report commented on the issue of photographing the police in the following terms:

Concerns have recently been expressed in the media that a new provision in the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 makes it a criminal offence to take and publish a photograph of a police officer. Section 76 of the 2008 Act makes it an offence to elicit or attempt to elicit information about an individual who is or has been a constable “which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.”

As the Explanatory Notes to the Counter Terrorism Bill correctly stated, the new offence will only be committed where the information in question is “such as to raise a reasonable suspicion that it was intended to be used to assist in the preparation or commission of an act of terrorism, and must be of a kind that was likely to provide practical assistant to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.” That is the effect of a decision of the Court of Appeal in a case in 2008 interpreting the same statutory language in the separate terrorism offence of possessing a document or record containing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terror.

We therefore do not share the concerns expressed in the media that the new offence criminalises taking photographs of the police. However, we do regard as significant the fact that this is being widely reported as a matter of concern to journalists.

Legal uncertainty about the reach of criminal offences can have a chilling effect on the activities of journalists and protestors. We therefore recommend that, to eliminate any scope for doubt about the scope of the new offence in section76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008, guidance be issued to the police about the scope of the offence in light of the decision of the Court of Appeal, and specifically addressing concerns about its improper use to prevent photographing or filming police.

The NUJ wrote to the Home Secretary expressing concern at police surveillance of journalists and subsequently had a meeting with the Minister, Vernon Coaker MP.

Following the meeting, the ACPO/media guidelines were revised and the Minister wrote to the NUJ stating:

We have addressed this directly in the revised guidance making it clear that the Terrorism Act 2000 does not prohibit people from taking photographs or digital images. The guidance also makes it clear that film and memory cards may be seized as part of a search but officers do not have a legal power to delete images or destroy film.

If Johnston believes the Police are being politicised, then the police need to stand up and be counted. Similarly they need to stop using laws incorrectly and ensure the police officers employed are not only trained, but suited for the role.

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Related posts:

Death of Ian Tomlinson – Cover up or incompetence?
Police complaints
Social Unrest

3 Responses “Chief Superintendent Ian Johnston explains why the Police can not be trusted”

  1. ronnie says:

    Portrait Of The 1985 Handsworth Riots – Pogus Caesar – BBC1 TV . Inside Out.

    Broadcast 25 Oct 2010.

    Birmingham film maker and photographer Pogus Caesar knows Handsworth well. He found himself in the centre of the 1985 riots and spent two days capturing a series of startling images. Caesar kept them hidden for 20 years. Why? And how does he see Handsworth now?.

    The stark black and white photographs featured in the film provide a rare, valuable and historical record of the raw emotion, heartbreak and violence that unfolded during those dark and fateful days in September 1985.

  2. anarchyintheuk says:

    thanks for the link


  1. [...] 2008 Act is discussed at the tail end of this article Filed Under: Terrorism legislation. Tagged With: Counter Terrorism Act 2008, Home Office, police [...]

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