What tactics do detectives use to catch criminals? It's all about unpicking their lies. Here's a true story of how a nasty criminal was undone when confronted with the truth.
The comedian and author, Ben Elton, once said the key to writing a book is writing so much and so fast that you get to the point where even if you hate it, you’re loathe to tear it up and start all over again because you have so much material that it would make you weep...Read More
Police officers often have to make decisions which they live to regret; upon which they have to reflect all the time.
'What if?' is the question that can haunt them for the rest of their lives.
I know, because I have a ‘What If?’ question constantly in my head.Read More
We rely on the police and the security services and we expect them to apprehend suspects of mass murder and terrorism quickly. So why did it take the police four months to find Salah Abdeslam?Read More
I'd been working on the burglary squad on my borough for nearly three years. We were the best performing burglary unit in London and as a fresh-faced police officer in my twenties, I was proud to be part of the team. There was nothing anyone could teach me. I'd been there, seen it, done it, and bought the T-shirt.Read More
16th September 1992 - Black Wednesday - what a day that was.
The sun was glorious. I was on a beach in Italy soaking up the sun when news began to filter through that something called the ERM was causing interest rates to rise in the UK.
The European Exchange Rate Mechanism was being used by governments in the run up to a single currency. It meant little to me at the time, but, the sudden rising interest rates meant a lot. My mortgage doubled in cost that day and I wouldn't be able to afford to pay it when I got home.
I remember watching Norman Lamont, the Chancellor, on the news, standing outside The Treasury declaring that the UK was to leave the ERM. I didn’t pay much attention to the man standing behind him in the background. Why should I?
The Bank of England later calculated that Black Wednesday cost the UK £3.4 billion. It deepened the recession that the country was already in and some homes, including mine, halved in value.
That day changed many things. The shape and future of British policing was one of the things that changed forever too.
The man in the blue suit, the one stood behind Norman Lamont outside the Treasury, was David Cameron.
Cameron had been Lamont’s special advisor for some time and was looked upon favourably within political circles of Westminster, at least he was until Black Wednesday. When Lamont was sacked in May 1993 for the ERM debacle, Cameron found himself at the mercy of the new Chancellor, Ken Clarke, who swiftly gave him his marching orders, told him to clear his desk and to leave Westminster.
And that should have been that...
But, something changed. Later that day Ken changed his mind and he softened his approach to the young Cameron. Somehow, someone found Cameron a job as an advisor with the Home Secretary, Michael Howard.
In June 1993, a month after Cameron had arrived at the Home Office as Howard’s advisor, a report written by a certain Sir Patrick Sheehy was to land on Cameron's desk. The report, oddly enough, had been commissioned the year before by Ken Clarke. The Sheehy report, as it became to be known, was to be a way for Cameron to prove himself again. Prove himself to his peers and - more importantly - to prove himself to Ken Clarke, the man who had commissioned the report in the first place, and, the man who had allowed him to stay in Westminster.
The Sheehy report was about Policing, its remit: “to examine the rank structure, remuneration, and conditions of service of the police service of England and Wales, in Scotland and in Northern Ireland, and to present recommendations if found necessary.”
The report was aggressively seized upon by a power hungry Cameron who set himself, and the Home Office, on a collision course with the Police Federation and police services throughout the UK by trying to force through its recommendations. The recommendations were basically a series of cost cutting exercises to allowances and officers’ conditions of service. It was berated from the top down for being nothing but.
Sheehy went further than cutting allowances though. He wanted to tackle what he called the ‘jobs for life culture’ in the police. He advocated fixed term contracts for all officers, the abolition of three ranks to create a slimmer management structure, performance bonuses of up to 30 per cent for chief constables and tighter restrictions on medical retirements.
Perhaps the most controversial recommendation was the abolition of an indexed linked annual pay award. This was to be skills based and there would be no automatic right to an annual upgrading of pay in line with inflation.
That sounds familiar, I hear you say.
The vast majority of Sheehy’s recommendations were ignored and then rejected by Michael Howard, I’m sure, much to the annoyance of a power hungry David Cameron. Why do I say that?
The Conservatives lost the general election to Labour in 1997. Much of the public disquiet was about Black Wednesday and what followed. Cameron found himself out of a job. The police had won, they’d outlived Cameron and Sheehy...or had they?
Fast forward to 11th May 2010.
David Cameron stood before the country, now its Prime Minister, having agreed a deal with the Liberal Democrats after failing to secure enough votes to win outright.
Cameron wasted no time. He instructed the Home Secretary to review police pay and conditions and a former rail regulator, Tom Winsor, was given the job of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabularies, a role that had previously always been held by a former chief police officer.
Winsor promptly produced a report, which, as you can guess, looked rather like the one that Cameron tried to force through between 1993 and 1995. Winsor's report is now being enacted by a very aggressive government.
I am a former police officer, and perhaps, a little biased when looking at this. The police are not a perfect organisation and there were and are many things that could be improved to make the organisation better and more effective.
Attacking people's pay and working conditions does not make them work harder. It doesn't make them become more effective. Creating job uncertainty doesn't make people feel valued, nor make them want to work harder either - it demoralises people and destroys their confidence.
The Conservatives claim that the police need to shoulder their ‘fair share’ of the country's debt following the banking crises. However, I wonder how much of this is a personal crusade for things that were said and done in the 1990s. An ambitious David Cameron who failed? A vindictive man determined to get his own back?I don’t know the answer - you decide.
All I know is that, all this, started one Black Wednesday while I was sat in the sun on the beach.
The old lady sat in the armchair crying. She was holding a cup and saucer in her hand with the dregs of tea in it; the cup rattled against the saucer as she spoke. The uniformed police officer was sat on the settee adjacent to her with his note pad open.
“I didn’t actually see him, not really, but…” said the frail old lady as she put down the cup and saucer on the side table.
“Can you tell me what he looks like? Anything at all Mrs Jones?”
“Lots of people know what he looks like…I just didn’t see him myself. He is very big; massive; big muscles; completely bald and hairless everywhere; has small, mad staring eyes…utterly terrifying.”
The reporting officer made his way back to the police station after ensuring that Mrs Jones's family were aware of what had happened. They were going to come over and take her to their place for a few days. The officer had done various house-to-house enquiries – the same name had been given over and over though no one had actually seen what had happened.
Back at the station the officer spoke with a detective in the CID office:
“So you’ve got this name, but no one has actually seen him?”
“No – no one’s seen him. No one saw him do anything but everybody is convinced that it was him,” replied the officer.
“That’s no good is it? We need some evidence; something solid; something you can hang your coat on…” the detective tutted. “leave it with me – I will do some digging.”
The detective tapped the description into the intelligence computer – one name came up; the same name again. He looked at the photo. That’s him. It can’t be anything else.
I need to stop the story there…
Would we race round and arrest this ‘suspect’? How do we even know he exists? Sure everyone knows his name and is happy to point the finger; the intelligence also appears to suggest he’s the one – but what if the intelligence was wrong? What if everything on the computer and all the people naming him had all got the information and the details from the same place? What then?
I like to know facts. Evidence. Things that are true without any question.
What if Mrs Jones had been attacked by a Tyrannosaurus rex? The description fits. Everyone said the name T-Rex to the officer when he did his house to house. The computer shows that T-Rex existed. But what evidence is there? I mean really?
As a Detective you want things first hand. All the books tell me he did exist. The Natural History museum tells me he did. The internet tells me he did. There are films about him; songs about him.
There is a whole industry built around dinosaurs and their supposed existence – these people have a vested interest in us all thinking that dinosaurs existed. The first dinosaur bone wasn’t even discovered until 1676 and they didn’t even document that find until 1763.
Ahhhh – but the Greeks and Egyptians must have known about the big bones being found and this is what their mythology is based on?
Michelangelo, the great sculptor and painter was born in 1475 – and not once did he think of telling the world of these great beasts whose bones must have been turning up all over the place. Why?
We've known about dinosaurs for 250 years - what or where is the evidence of anyone ever mentioning them before? Are we that gullible? Has the 'Dinosaur industry' been having us over for years? Is it all a fraud?
Case dismissed: Lack of evidence..?