Monday, 28 January 2013

More on Failing Justice

A report has just been released by the Centre for Crime Prevention which provides some interesting statistics supporting the notion that our justice system is failing to tackle persistent offenders. A notion that many police bloggers have been singing from the rooftop for years.

For example, their report highlights that in 2011/12, 65% of offenders who had 10 or more previous convictions and who were convicted of a serious offence, received a non custodial sentence. That was 91,032 offenders who should probably have been jailed that were not.

Worse still, for the same period, if we look at offenders with 15 or more previous convictions, 63% of them received a non custodial sentence. That was 68,100 offenders.

Some may try and argue that crime is reducing and so non custodial sentences are working. Other figures show this to be complete nonsense and supports the view of myself and many other bloggers that the number of persistent offenders is an ever growing problem who treat the criminal justice system with contempt.

In 2006/07 there were 81,204 offenders with 15 or more previous convictions. By 2011/12 this had risen to 108,119. For the same period the number of offenders with at least 10 previous convictions rose from 112,956 to 140,196.

In other figures, the Home Office has admitted that the police are now fighting more than 7500 criminal gangs consisting of more than 30,000 offenders. This figure is a tenfold increase on the estimated figures of ten years ago.

Part of this problem has been brought about by immigration policy. A significant part of the problem is the ever growing 'underclass' whom I have previously discussed at length. The most significant part of the problem is the complete failure of our justice system to deal with persistent offenders effectively. They just keep on offending. The police are obviously catching thousands of them every year but they walk out the door of the court to carry on offending.

One of David Cameron's advisers, MP Claire Perry, made comments in an interview with the Spectator recently mentioning the problem of 'feckless heterosexuals' having lots of children and dads not being involved in their lives. (Her comment is near the bottom of the link in the third to last paragraph in italics) These days you have to be a brave politician to even say such a thing. Unfortunately, we just seem to have become too liberal to actually address the problem.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Home Secretary, Chief Officers and Recruits

New Recruits - Are We Being Shortchanged?

I have said my bit about recruits salaries being cut and the Government somehow trying to sell the notion that this will improve the standard of recruits. Let there be no doubt that this is the Tories punishment of the police for perceived misdemeanours and will pave the way for privatisation of policing in the future.

Our wonderful Home Secretary, whose trademark seems to be a pair of Jimmy Choos, has enabled the new Police and Crime Commissioners to pay additional money to Chief Officers; up to 18% pay increases. Believe me, our Chief Officers do not need this carrot. They are already trampling over each other and sticking knives in each others back in order to clamber up the ladder. 'Kittens' now seems to have backtracked on her original view that the police did not need foreign police chiefs brought in to sort us out. She has decided to try and introduce legislation to allow foreigners to become Chief Officers.

The idea of the likes of Bill Bratton riding in on their charger and sorting out our criminal justice mess is a joke. When Bill took over as Police Chief in New York he recruited 5000 extra officers. He made sure the recruits were of a better calibre than those previously employed. He adopted a no nonsense approach to crime and stamped on organised crime and anti social behaviour. The difference is that here we are cutting police officer numbers, the American justice system supports that approach and the public supported the crackdown on anti social behaviour too.

When Bill Bratton has been here for a few months and realised that the British Justice system is just a revolving door for criminals: When he has been vilified in the press for bringing about the arrests of 'nice' middle class drunks and the offspring of hacks, you will see him heading back across the Atlantic with an almighty sideswipe at the Government. It could be a massive own goal for 'Kittens.'

There are some serious problems within the police service that have largely been brought about by the politicisation of police. Persistent Government tinkering and Police Chiefs falling all over themselves to bow to their whims has resulted in the situation we find ourselves.

We had 13 years of 'Nu Labour' who soaked up and embraced every piece of liberal advice and legislation emanating from Europe. The coalition Government have simply continued in the same vein.

Recruitment standards have been consistently lowered to meet politically correct quotas. We no longer have the authoritative figures required to deter, tackle and investigate crime in the manner that is required and expected by the public. Some officers are calling to be armed and bleat about the dangers of being single crewed. Hardly surprising when you need two or three officers to achieve what one used to be able to and when yobs treat the police with contempt knowing there is nothing the police can do and the justice system will completely fail to support them.

The office of constable is not overpaid but it is now filled with people who do not have the presence and, sometimes, other qualities required to fulfil the role. The introduction of PCSO's waters down the role of police officers and provides just another tier to be ridiculed by yobs and offenders. Tom Winsors notion of simply increasing academic qualifications will not change this. There are enough graduates in the job now. Almost all Chief Officers have degrees and they are apparently not good enough. Policing is all about common sense and academics are notoriously lacking in that department. These views will be seen as sexism, ageism, racism and many other ism's by the politically correct brigade and something that belongs in the past. Having retired, at least I can now express those views.

Chief Officers with Oxbridge degrees, like Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, instead of fighting the corner for our policing are happy tell politicians it can all be done for less and with second rate staff. Keen to make a name for himself and climb the greasy pole he happily draws up plans to sell all our police stations and move officers into shopping centres or coffee shops. Behind the scenes, huge investments were made in 'communications' to try and sell lies to the public via the media and inappropriate relationships were built with the press, seriously affecting the reputation of the police.

Morale in the police has never been lower. Joining the police used to be a vocation. With cuts in officer numbers, political interference at all levels, managers dancing to politicians tunes, a target culture, a completely ineffective justice system and now, huge reductions in pay and pensions, the vast majority of officers have given up. They attend the 'office' on time and leave on time. Senior officers fail to grasp the meaning or outcome of this change.

The crass and spiteful way in which this Government are treating the police appears to be revenge for a few high profile police failures and actions against the likes of  Andrew Mitchell. Their obsession with privatisation bringing about a cheaper more effective police is flawed. The police service needs improving, not destroying.


Friday, 18 January 2013

Paul McKeever Dies

Paul McKeever
It has just been announced that the Chairman of the Police Federation, Paul McKeever, has died unexpectedly. He was taken into hospital and it is believed he died of an embolism.

I knew Paul and he was a real gentleman and probably the best Chair the Federation has had. The Federation can be seen by some as ineffective but within the constraints of having no industrial rights Paul worked extremely hard to fight for the police service and was a great politician. Here he is in action at the 2011 Conference.

Paul was due to retire in two weeks time. His retirement was unexpected. His wife is ill and needed his attention at home. This is a tragedy. RIP Paul and thank you for everything you did for policing in this country.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Jobs For The Boys

Northampton PCC - Adam Simmonds

Our new Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) have been settling into their roles. Their first tasks are to produce a Policing  and Crime Plan and sort out the budget for the next financial year. Chief Constables are looking forward to the plans and reminding the PCC's that they will only be able to achieve as much as allowed by the budget the PCC's provide.

Most PCC's have woken up to the fact that their role is not part time and they have their hands full. They have inherited the staff previously employed by the Police Authorities but for many this is not enough. Obviously, they all need Deputies. The legislation allows PCC's to appoint a deputy (The Police Reform & Social Responsibility Act 2011 provides, under Section 18(1), that a Police & Crime Commissioner may appoint a person to be Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner. The Act also states that the Deputy will be a member of the Commissioner’s staff but, unlike other members of staff, he or she need not be appointed on merit and will not be politically restricted.)

So almost anyone can be appointed Deputy PCC. In most counties this means that the PCC's have appointed one of their mates as Deputy without any form of advertising or selection process. In what other role can you simply appoint someone to a £50K plus job without going through such a process?
Some PCC's have taken their role to new levels. Rather than just take responsibility for the governance  of policing services in their area they want to take on the whole justice system and micro manage every area of it.  For example, Northamptonshire PCC, Adam Simmonds standing for the Conservatives, is proposing to increase his staff by 17 posts. He started out by appointing four Assistant Commissioners, one of whom was his election agent and the other three Conservative activists. All above board and compliant with discrimination law, I am sure.  At the same time, (you couldn't make it up) he also wrote to every member of the police force advising them that there was no money and jobs may be lost. Others are at it too.

The actions of the PCC are monitored by a Police and Crime Panel. In Northamptonshire, Conservative Councillors were elected as Chair and Deputy Chair of the Panel. So much for keeping politics out of the police. The whole thing is a farce.

Meanwhile, in my old force they had a class of recruits lined up to start training in March. They decided to write to all these recruits and inform them that their start date was now put back to April and they would now start on the newly reduced, Winsor, salary of £19,000 per annum. Half of them declined the offer and so the course has been cancelled.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Police/Probation Privatisation

I wrote some time ago now about the Governments agenda to privatise many policing functions in this country. We have just seen the announcement of the plans to privatise the majority of the functions of the Probation Service. The management of all but serious offenders will be handed to private companies, charities and volunteers. If you have any doubts regarding the Government plans for the future of policing just look at the similarities.We should all be very concerned about the privatisation of Probation and Policing services. Here are some thoughts from a former Chief Probation Officer regarding the Probation proposals.

There is an obsession in some quarters that privatisation offers better or the same service for less. There is an assumption that the public sector is fat, lazy and inefficient. The reality is very different. Over the last 30 years the police have adopted private enterprise management practises, targets and measures. There has been a huge increase in police staff performing back office functions. All of this has led to a police service that has lost its raison d'etre. The focus on targets and performance has simply meant cutting the resources where the public want them and putting them into achieving those targets, which are largely irrelevant to the public.

We have already seen the results of the privatisation of a number of functions. Parking, for example, used to be enforced by the police. Now it is in the hands of Local Authorities and private companies. It has simply become a cash cow. Private companies monitor offenders who are tagged and serving their sentences in the community rather than in prison. The tags are supposed to ensure that the offenders are at home during their curfew period. The monitoring is so inefficient and ineffective that tagged offenders can breach their curfews almost with impunity. We are giving huge amounts of public money to private companies for nothing. We have seen the private sector committing fraud on the 'welfare to work' program. Dare I mention G4S and the Olympics?

The Government has been tinkering with the Probation Service for almost 20 years. As most offenders continue to re offend the Probation Service was seen as ineffective. It has been forgotten that the Probation Service started out as an alternative to prison. The idea was that (mainly) first time offenders who were going off the rails needed some mentoring and support to get them back on track. We then stopped sending people to prison and sentenced persistent offenders to Probation expecting them to turn around hardened criminals with nothing more than a carrot.

In 2003 the Probation Service was subject of the Carter Review. (For the Police substitute the Winsor Review.) The ground was laid to reduce staff numbers. The publicity machine went into action to discredit the service. Changes were made to the organisation. In particular it effectively merged with the prison service and its management became impotent. The staff associations were ridiculed and the Association of Chief Officers of Probation was disbanded. Coincidentally, the Government has made it clear that their funding of the Association of Chief Police Officers is about to cease and that will see the end of that organisation too.

There will be no public sympathy for the police. The Governments publicity machine has ensured that the retail riots and even the Olympics has been forgotten. Your average Daily Mail reader will swallow hook line and sinker that the police are overpaid, lazy, thugs who need their speed guns taken away and need to get back to the days of doffing their helmet to MP's and decent members of the public rather than arresting them. Police inefficiency is blamed for the failing justice system that no longer punishes offenders

Tom Winsor's review of policing has led to the reduction of salaries for new constables by around £4000 plus an increase in pension contributions and a further reduced pension. This is supposed to increase the quality of police officers! It sets everything up for a reduction of police officer numbers and the employment of low paid security officers to replace them. PCC's have been introduced to ensure this process is implemented.

When are the press and public going to wake up and see the writing on the wall? In a few years time G4S security officers on minimum wage will be patrolling your streets. Private investigation companies will be investigating your crime. G4S will be responding to all but the most high risk emergency calls. Like the Probation Service, there will just be a small number of real police officers to deal with the most violent offenders.

When private companies working for profit are employing patrolling officers how much more likely is it that you will get a ticket or summons? How likely do you think it is that your crime will get investigated or detected when the cost of such might reduce company profit? When the few police officers that are trained to deal with violent offenders are all busy then no one will come when you being beaten and robbed.

If the media and voters don't wake up soon you will have this largely privatised police service. The criminals and fanatics will be very happy. Decent people will lament the real police force they once had.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Justice Secretary Tells Truth - Shock!!

I fear that the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling won't last long in politics. His predecessor, Ken Clarke told us that prison was not the answer for criminals and he introduced half sentences for early guilty pleas and made it almost impossible to imprison anyone.

When Chris Grayling was appointed Justice Secretary it was assumed that there would be a swing to the right and a tougher stance on law and order. That hasn't really transpired and Chris Grayling's focus has been on rehabilitation. His grand plan is to have a mentor for every prisoner released from gaol. A bit of rehabilitation for our persistent offenders would be a good start. It is almost non existent in our ineffective justice system.

Now Mr Grayling has stated that he would like to see persistent offenders serve their full term in prison and not have automatic early release as they do now. Furthermore, he admits that the only barrier to this is cost.

I wrote a long article about the ineffectiveness of our justice system and how it is failing to protect the innocent and rewarding criminal behaviour. Mr Grayling is the first politician, that I am aware of, who admits that the Government is failing to protect us because it believes it cannot afford to do so. It is time people stood up and told the Government that they cannot afford not to protect us if they want to remain in Government.

Friday, 4 January 2013

PCC's - Innovation At Its Best

One of the suggestions the current Government put forward when they came up with the daft notion of Police and Crime Commissioners was that PCC's would bring innovation to improve and change policing in this country.

The great British public voted in their hundreds to show their support for these wonderful new beasts, who are irrelevant to most people but wield considerable power when it comes to hiring and firing Chief Officers. PCC's are now drawing up their Police and Crime Plans following consultation with the public. God help us!

David Lloyd, Conservative PCC for Hertfordshire has come up with the grand idea that offenders should pay when they do something wrong. One of his big ideas is that offenders should pay for the time they spend in police custody. I have some sympathy with the idea. After all, we used to rely on the Courts to punish offenders but that no longer happens.

The reality though is that, as we feared, this is just another unworkable, daft idea that will never work but might just catch a few more votes at the next election. It won't work because many people arrested are not charged. (Some of them are even innocent.) Many of those charged are on benefits and can't pay £300 a night for a room in the cells. There are more than a million court fine defaulters, how will we enforce payment of police cell accommodation? This will be an administrative nightmare which will cost more to administer than it raises.

I look forward to some more innovation from our PCC's when they are dreaming up their Police and Crime plans.