I was sent on a mission - a dad mission. The youngest one wanted the new Harry Potter book. I had no choice but to accept…Read More
Nowadays, there is simply no criminal investigation that does not have an element of CCTV involved. In my opinion, investigations into all sorts of incidents are damaged and curtailed if these cameras don't exist. The police can, retrospectively, track a suspect from one point to another in London using the CCTV that is available.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
Ken Livingstone's idea that the lead 7/7 bomber, Mohammed Siddique Khan, was so upset by government policy that he felt the need to murder people is absurd.
We are talking about a mass murderer akin to Fred West, Dennis Nilsen and Charles Manson - a psychopathic lunatic. Does anyone talk about what political decisions might have motivated those people to kill and murder scores of victims?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.
In late August 2015, a man armed with an assault rifle, a handgun and enough ammunition to slaughter more than two hundred people was overpowered when his gun jammed on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. News reports suggested that the man had links to a fundamentalist Islamic terror cell. On arrest however, he claimed his intent was simply to rob those on the train.
There has been much debate about why airport-style security does not exist at international train terminals. Why are rail passengers not having their luggage searched and passing through metal-arches before boarding their train?
Part of the problem for Europe’s cross-border rail companies is the Schengen Agreement. In place since 1985, Europe's Schengen Area currently consists of 26 European countries with no internal borders, covering a population of over 400 million people. It mostly functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. Allowing free movement and abolishing passport control at common borders however, makes it relatively simple for organised criminals and terrorists to transport people, money and weapons around.
The creation of airport-style security for cross-border train travel could potentially limit the use of the European railway network for organised crime. Criminals would have to supply passports, tickets and be subject to strict searches. This would create an obstacle which doesn't currently exist and would have to be navigated by them. But will this honestly stop them moving around?
When we target harden one area - it merely displaces criminal activity from one place across to the next weakest link in the chain. This is true of all crimes, including terrorism.
In April 1992, the IRA detonated a truck bomb at the Baltic Exchange in the City of London. The following spring, explosive devices planted in litter bins killed two children in Warrington. Just a month later, in April 1993, another huge lorry bomb detonated - this time at Bishopsgate in the City. Collectively, these three acts killed five people, injured one hundred and thirty-three and caused more than one billion pounds worth of damage.
The City of London responded to this with the creation of the ‘Ring of Steel’ - a series of vehicle checkpoints manned by police officers and backed up by hundreds of CCTV cameras. Vehicular access to the City was severely restricted and all two thousand litter bins were removed from the Square Mile.
Following this, there was a brief lull in IRA activity. But then, in 1996, the IRA detonated a large lorry bomb at Docklands in London - three miles from the ‘Ring of Steel’. The attack killed two people and caused a hundred million pounds worth of damage. Nine days later, an IRA terrorist accidentally blew himself up while transporting an explosive device on a London bus travelling along Wellington Street in Aldwych. Buses were not subject to searches as they passed through the ‘Ring of Steel’.
Rather than stop the attacks, the new security measures simply caused the terrorists to change tactics and target different locations.
Fundamentalist Islamic terrorism is no different…
In 2006, Police and Security Services intervened in what has commonly become known as the Transatlantic Airline Plot. Islamic fundamentalists wanted to smuggle hydrogen-peroxide-based liquid explosives onto planes and detonate them mid flight. This led to a change in policy; liquids were banned from aircraft and search procedures were radically changed. The result was that air travel became less vulnerable to the would-be passenger-based terrorists. However, just ten months later, in 2007, a terrorist attempted to drive a car laden with propane gas cylinders into a plane terminal at Glasgow airport.
Will more thorough check-in measures and airport-style searches at international train stations lessen the chances of terror attacks on those trains? Yes, of course they will. Will it prevent terror attacks on international train travelers? No - the terrorists and criminals will simply change tactics and attack the next weakest link, perhaps derailing high speed trains or targeting train travelers as they enter the train terminal.
It is doubtless that there will be some changes both here and abroad to international train travel, and, I think this is long overdue. However the issue is how we stop people wanting to attack others or getting their hands on the weapons and materials to do so - not hardening potential targets and simply displacing the problem somewhere else.
It was a warm night in 1995. The windows of our marked Mini Metro ‘panda’ car were down as we cruised the busy inner city streets looking for trouble. I was sat in the passenger seat. I was still a ‘probby’ – my two years as a probationary Police Constable were not yet up and I was not eligible to drive.
It was about 8pm and home time was in sight; my shift was due to finish at 10pm.
“Anyone to deal with a Domestic?” said the crackly voice over the aging police radio.
I’d been in the police a year, I was keen to get involved in anything that I could, though this was the first time I’d heard anyone use the word ‘Domestic’ before – naively, I had no idea what it meant.
“Shall we do that?” I asked the driver of the car, Brian, eagerly.
Brian was in his early fifties, slightly overweight and looked about as smart as a sack of spuds that had been dragged across the warehouse floor.
Brian always had a fag hanging from his mouth and one behind his ear for when that one was no good anymore. He was an ‘old sweat’. I was posted with Brian a lot. My Supervising Sergeant’s words were, ‘He’s there to pull you back from jumping head first into things you don’t have a clue about’.
Brian’s reply was: “We can do it, but, it’s not really a crime – it’s probably just a couple arguing in their house and neighbours have rung the police. You’re not gonna’ get a body out of it sunshine…”
All said with a roll-up fag stuck to his bottom lip.
‘A body’ was an arrest; a prisoner – we were judged on the number of people we arrested.
“I’m really surprised they put it out on the radio really. Bloody domestics, we’re not social workers!” Brian continued.
“We’re not doing anything else though Brian, are we?” I said.
I wanted to experience exactly what a ‘Domestic’ was.
After a bit of wrangling, Brian eventually agreed that I could accept the call. We slowly made our way there. No blue lights or fast driving. It was just a ‘bloody domestic’ after all.
I walked up the gravel driveway of the large detached house to find a very distressed female standing outside the front door.
“He’s threatening to hit me, I didn’t know what else to do,” she blurted out, tears rolling down her cheeks and snot running from her nose. She was a smartly dressed, thirty-something woman.
“Has he actually hit you love?” Brian asked as he stepped in front of me and took the lead.
“Not yet, but he will, he always does, he’s always doing it…” she said between sobs.
Brian sighed loudly and went to his radio. “Can we have a WPC to this domestic call please. No crime has taken place, but there is a female who is very upset,” he said dismissively down the radio.
An hour later the woman had been talked out of reporting any crime at all and we had all shared a cup of tea with a man who had been threatening to hit her and had most probably done so in the past.
It was all wrong.
Yet, that was the way the Met did business in 1995. It was okay to beat your wife; that wasn’t considered a crime; even though it was. Women were called ‘love’ by police officers with fags hanging out of their mouths; we called upon WPCs (Women Police Constables) to calm them down and basically talk them out of reporting crimes. WPCs dealt with distressed females and children. Men did the real work. Women knew their place. That was the way things worked.
Culturally disgusting, abhorrent and outrageous.
I’m pleased to say that if you are now the victim of domestic abuse or violence at home – you should get a prompt and proper service from the police and they will treat you with courtesy and respect. The likes of Brian no longer exist; there is no such term as a WPC anymore; the police service is almost 50% female and no distinction is made between male and female officers.
There are many people who complain about the way the police is changing. It’s always been changing; it evolves.
But…not all change is bad.
When a criminal commits a crime, they try to do so without getting caught.
When that crime is a simple one like shoplifting at Marks and Spencer, whereby they run in, grab a handful of dresses and run out of the store; that’s a fairly easy risk for the would-be criminal to calculate, in terms of getting caught.
All they have to worry about is a few CCTV cameras and an overweight security guard – all risks that they can see in advance.
Yes, the police will come and report the crime. They will take some stills off the CCTV and hopefully, all being well, some eagle-eyed police officer will recognise the thief and they will get arrested.
The police catch criminals by their ‘footprint’- the things they leave behind by which they can be traced and found. Every single crime ever committed is solvable, every one, without question. It’s just a matter of having the time, money, resources and crucially…knowing where to look for the clues.
Now obviously criminals don’t want to get caught – so they employ methods to avoid this happening. In the case of the dress shoplifter, he or she might wear a baseball cap so the CCTV camera doesn’t get a clear look at their face, and they might have a car waiting outside with the number plates removed.
The police don’t put many resources into catching shoplifters so the counter measures to avoid getting caught can be crude and simple. As the crime becomes more violent, the loss is bigger – such as that involved in a murder or in a terrorist act – then the resources used to catch the criminal increases.
For the criminal, the counter measures to avoid getting caught then have to be more considered and complex.
So, clever criminals – when they’re considering planting a bomb or cutting off the head of a soldier – know that to avoid being caught they need to put a great deal of thought into how they’re not going to leave a big footprint behind. If you’re communicating with others you need to talk in code; you need to use unregistered pre-pay mobile phones; you need anonymous e-mail accounts; you need to talk in open spaces because your car or house might have listening devices in them; you need to turn your phone off and remove the battery when you are talking ‘dirty’ because the Security Services can turn your phone into a bugging device remotely without you even knowing; you need to use chat rooms in internet cafés.
And all that is before you’ve even committed the crime.
How do you think these people are located? I mean before they’ve actually planted a bomb, or cut someone’s head off? It’s simple – the criminals have made a mistake in their planning in the run up to the actual crime – and that mistake probably involved the internet or mobile communication of some type.
So when I read: “Thank you Edward Snowden – you’ve helped us win back the internet,” or when I see people complaining about the Security Services’ and Counter Terrorist Police’s “outrageous use of RIPA” (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) to monitor us all for no reason – I wonder what these people think actually goes on in the background? Do they really think we care what porn sites they visit? How many phone calls they made to the premium rate sex chat line? What their mum had for dinner last night? That they are secretly gay?
None of that matters. We all have secrets. But when that secret is that you want to bomb an airliner, or a Tube train – lets hope that someone finds that before it happens, shall we?
You’ve not helped anyone that I care about Edward Snowden, you’ve just helped the criminals understand how things are done, and, now, you’ve put us all at greater risk.
Thanks for nothing, Edward Snowden.
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..?