Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Make The People Pay

Sir Paul Stephenson, Britain's most senior police officer, claims that money is being wasted fighting speculative law suits by civilians alleging brutality or wrongful arrest.

Along with other proposals he wants the public to be charged a fee for FOI requests which, he said, were burdening police forces with unmanageable levels of paperwork. The tick-box target system which the police authorities enjoy don't amass mounds of paperwork of course.

In a letter to Theresa May, the Home Secretary he wrote:

We believe there needs to be a radical shakeup of the system; currently for every pound paid out in compensation, up to £10 or sometimes more has to be paid out in legal costs to the claimants' lawyers.
"One of the key aspects is that the average settlements are well under £10,000 and most under £5,000, in other words these are not major areas of police misconduct with long-lasting consequences but often technical breaches."
The civil rights group Liberty condemned his comments: "The ability to challenge police misconduct in court is a vital constitutional safeguard against abuse of power. Under current rules, if you lose a case in the civil courts you can expect to be ordered to pay your successful opponent's legal costs.  A service bound to uphold the rule of law should not attempt to carve out an exception for itself."

The family of this man may be seeking some explanation if not compensation. The constable told the inquest: "I think because of the flat being in darkness and him lying on his back there was no outward sign of anything untoward."  It was later, when the undertakers sought to move Mr Denis, they found the knife in his back.


strapworld said...


I can remember when there were a number of highly publicised cot deaths. (following one where the baby was later found to have been stabbed). Police were instructed to examine the body of the baby prior to it being removed to the mortuary.

The doctor would come and pronounce death and we would have to remove the clothing for the body to be examined for any sign of ill treatment. The distress this caused the parents, and ourselves, I can tell you was extremely harrowing. What can you say when you are asked 'WHY?'

I was called to four or more and all were sad cases. Each baby was so obviously treasured by the parents and in each case our actions added to their trauma.

Obviously the need was to ensure, had there been a crime, the crime scene would be secured for forensic examination. But in each case I was called to, and we dealt with the parents as kindly as one should, I am sure to this day they have never forgiven the police.

On the case you highlight. If the body was, as you say, lying on his back and there was no sign, such as blood on the floor. I would not have moved the body until it was taken to the mortuary/funeral directors. If a knife was, as you say, in his back it would, surely have been obvious. Unless it was a small knife and the person was stabbed in an upward or downward movement.

Obviously mistakes are made. But my view is that we are far to quick to shout compensation these days.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately this lot are nothing to do with us in Scotland, but I think that the Met is the last organization in the world I would give a pass to, with the possible exception of the Taliban.

If they are not in the pockets of Labour, they are in the pockets of Rupert Murdoch.

Anonymous said...

In that particular case, I imagine that the man's colour would have had something to do with it.

But the excuse that the flat was dark is the kind of thing you might expect from a 5 year old, who couldn't reach the light switch!

subrosa said...

How harrowing Strapworld, but surely your examination was done with the parents not present. I would find that very distressing as most of us would.

It's not what I say strapworld, it's what is reported. I couldn't understand why the body wasn't examined at the scene when I read this article.

Of course we're quick to shout compensation. It's one of the worst American exports we've accepted in the past 20 years, but it's here to stay.

What crossed my mind about the police not examining the body is that surely, once they've said the undertakers can go in, then any evidence becomes null and void because of so much 'outside' movement. I don't really know, it's just a thought.

Perhaps I read too many crime novels.

subrosa said...

At present they are to do with us Tris only because London is the capital of the UK of course.

subrosa said...

Aye it was a strange article that one Tris. I should think it's reasonably accurate as, if you read Ken Roy's bit this morning, reporting is expected to be accurate.

JRB said...

As a child of the 40s and 50s my lone local beat bobbie was the rule of law and authority personified. He knew us, each and everyone, and we knew him. He was always someone you could turn to in times of need.

He was replaced by two anonymous young officers in a ‘panda’ car. A gap developed between police and community as we became strangers to each other. Over my lifetime that gap has widened further still.

Now we see just how far that gap between police and public has grown. With the comments of Sir Paul Stephenson we see a senior officer so distant from the public that he finds them a mere inconvenience, whose legitimate claims are an inconvenience and unnecessary expense. What breath-taking arrogance.

He would impose a charge for FOI requests when far too often public bodies like the police hide behind the Data Protection Act and similar legislation in order to withhold information.

… and the police wonder why public faith in the forces of law and order is at an all time low.

@strapworld; your post thankfully shows that there are still those who care.

If I were to summarise my case it would be that there are two many chiefs and not enough Indians; and that the chiefs have lost touch with the public they serve whilst too busy pursuing policies, procedures and protocols.

Anonymous said...

What I meant SR was that that if Tessy allows the police that kind of protection it will not affect us in Scotland as our police are regulated by the justice Department in Edinburgh

English Pensioner said...

The trouble with so many claims against the Police and many other Government Authorities is that it is a one way affair; the claimant is in a "Heads I win, tails you loose position". His lawyer can claim costs from the police if he wins, but the police can't claim the costs from him if he looses because he has no money. "No win - no fee" lawyers should be made to pay the police costs if they loose.
Perhaps the police should do what McDonalds did in the US. Fed up with their insurers simply paying up and then increasing the premiums, they announced that they would contest each and every claim, however trivial, to the limit that the law would allow. With cases heading for the Supreme Court, the lawyers started looking for softer targets.

Joe Public said...

"The family of this man may be seeking some explanation if not compensation."

Therein lies Sir Paul's dilemma, that actually IMHO makes his case stronger.

Yes, in hindsight the knife should have been spotted; but there is no reason anyone should be granted compensation.

subrosa said...

John, I don't know about the chiefs and indians but I certainly think they have lost the principle of policing with their procedures and protocols.

subrosa said...

Ah yes of course Tris. I see what you mean. Stay in Scotland. :)

subrosa said...

'The police can't claim the costs'. I understand that EP but any money the police have is public money. If never ceases to amaze me that so many public organisations treat their finances as if it's earned capital.

subrosa said...

But in today's society with our desire to be compensated for everything, someone in his family will possibly see a way to make some money Joe.

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