Kill the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill!
For those that have not noticed, there appears to have been a definite increase of police violence against the public and a wilful, arrogant even, breaking of rules and laws by our ‘guardians of law’ during the third lockdown and as we come out of it. Anyone who wants to follow this up can view a plethora of filmed examples on Youtube. These examples are for the most part not just films of people discussing what the police may or may not have done or said to them, no. By and large these are films of police officers, who are fully aware that they are being filmed, but carrying on acting illegally or trying to convince people that laws exist that patently do not. Of course, these types of films on Youtube etc. are not a new occurrence, but previously they were not reaching the news as the police historically have generally been protected by the press. That was until the police at recent demonstrations, and even at a women’s peaceful vigil, went into riot mode and not only attacked standing women who were holding hands in small groups and singing, and the demonstrators who initially were demonstrating peacefully (until attacked) against the Police Bill, they also waded into journalists and press cameramen. This being done, they are now learning the lesson that the French gendarmerie learned after they did the same thing, i.e, police crimes are no longer being ignored by much of the press. Now, the videos of police crimes and rule-breaking are being found on the sites of respectable bourgeois news vendors and in the pages of their papers (examples are included later).
The British establishment took the opportunity that a worldwide virus gave them to beef up their paramilitary forces before we were allowed back onto the streets in any significant numbers. The Covid 19 epidemic was quickly leapt upon by British imperialism, not only as something to blame for the economic crash that is happening, but a wonderful chance for them to ‘upgrade’ the policing level in Britain to ‘neo-draconian’! We are being told, quite untruthfully, we must blame a natural illness for the faults and miseries of capitalism.
That will not keep people quiet for long though as jobs and homes, etc., start to disappear in the wreckage of a first world economy that has seen its wealthiest members make unbelievably huge profits from the pandemic. That is why the police and other state bodies are being beefed up and given permission to break the law in order to protect the imperialist state from the demands of the many when the cause of the lockdown is no longer around.
The Covert Human Intelligence Sources CHIS Act, which received Royal Assent in March 2021, does “authorise conduct by officials and agents of the security and intelligence services, law enforcement, and certain other public authorities, which would otherwise constitute criminality.” This means that certain bodies may legally act illegally or allow their agents and officers to act illegally. The Home Office did assure us though that “only” the “intelligence agencies, the National Crime Agency, the police, HM Revenue and Customs, the armed forces, and ten other public authorities will be permitted to authorise criminal conduct under the bill.” We are led to believe that the Gambling Commission, Food Standards Agency, the Environmental Agency, and the Department of Health and Social Care are among those ten.
This then is the setting in which the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill is going through Parliament. The Bill has completed its 1st and 2nd reading and is at the time of writing entering the committee stage. This will be followed by its report stage and its 3rd reading before proceeding to the House of Lords where it will, probably, before summer’s end, do another 1st, 2nd, Committee, report and 3rd reading prior to final stages and Royal Assent.
In essence, the Bill is a mish mash of subjects, often with none or only the slightest links between them, but the real assault from the PCSC Bill is aimed squarely at our right to demonstrate our dissatisfaction with government, council or even employers’ policies and decisions. Moreover, it is an attack aimed at our right to demonstrate effectively!
At present, if the police want to place a ban on a protest or even place heavy restrictions on it, they generally have to convince the Home Secretary (a publicly accountable person) that it may result in “serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community“.
Police forces can, and do, play a role in allowing and changing the routes of marches, though certainly in relation to major events, and even many smaller ones, these changes are agreed in discussion with the march/demo organisers some time prior to the event.
If this Bill becomes law, Police chiefs will be able to put totally unilateral and non-negotiable conditions on protests whether they be mobile or static – conditions such as imposing a start and finish time, setting noise limits that they will measure. If the organisation or even groups and individuals at the protest refuse to follow police directions over how the protest should be conducted, then the organisers could face fines up to £2,500 and individual protesters would face arrests, fines and even imprisonment. This is, of course, a saboteurs’ charter, since the organisers of a demonstration will even be liable for the actions of participants over whom they may not have the slightest influence or control. Obviously this will cause people to hesitate to organise demonstrations at all. It will also be deemed the protester’s responsibility to know every restriction and order of the police whether these have been made generally known prior to the protest or decided upon by a senior officer during the protest. Not knowing that any directions had been given by the police will not be accepted as an excuse for not following them. At the moment, the police still need to prove that a protester not following police directions ‘actually knew’ of the specific police directions that they are being accused of ignoring.
Damage to any memorials could lead to up to 10 years in prison, the Bill tells us, but, it does not specify exactly which memorials are included! Do they have to be made of a certain substance? Be of a certain height? Placed in public or private places? And, whose are the memorials placed thereby to come under this proposed law? These, along with all such other questions, will be decided by the police.
These new rules will apply to all demonstrations, pickets, rallies and marches regardless of whether the numbers of persons involved are two million or one!
The Bill also includes a new statutory offence (this one is not just for demos, pickets and marches, etc.) of ‘Public Nuisance’ which provides for a maximum sentence of 10 years for anyone who does an act that, intentionally or recklessly, causes serious harm to the public or puts them at risk of such harm. The proposed definition of ‘serious harm’ covers causing persons ‘serious annoyance, serious inconvenience or serious loss of amenity’. The prospect of criminal offences being committed on the basis of causing (or merely putting someone at risk of) ‘serious annoyance’ is so open-ended as to make it possible to give anyone upsetting a police officer, by perhaps questioning a police order or the officer’s right to give it, a serious jail sentence!
These then are the reasons that people are (quite rightly) turning out to protest against this bill and the scenes witnessed in London, Bristol and Manchester of police riots (including the weaponisation of shields, batons, dogs and horses) against these and other demonstrations speak quite loudly and convincingly of why we must not let the police be given any further powers to terrorise protesters and pickets and why the alarming powers that they already have should be restricted quite severely!
Let us now name some of the media sites that are showing the police in their true colours and the nature of the films and stories that they are carrying.
The Metro free paper carried the story of the man who was arrested in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, on 20 March: its website had the video on it of the assault on him by police that was filmed by a passer-by. The man is seen standing with officers at the side of a car, they are telling him to lie on the floor when a brief skirmish follows and a policeman says;- “I told you you’d get down”. The man who was filming runs around the car shouting;- “I can see what you’re doing to him” and the view is of a man on the floor with a policeman kneeling on his head! And as the victim tried to move the policeman quite clearly, and sickeningly audibly, punches him in the top of his head. Essex Police admitted that an officer had been put on restricted duties and that an investigation is being carried out by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
Essex police force has been rated as ‘good’ at treating the public with fairness and respect by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the independent body that assesses forces.
UK SKY TV reported on Wednesday 24 March 2021 the existence of CCTV footage which shows a West Midlands police officer attacking a woman who was walking home. The CCTV footage can be viewed on the UK SKY TV website and captures the moment the off-duty police officer drunkenly assaulted a woman while she walked home at night in Warwickshire. The officer, Oliver Banfield, has since resigned from the force and was sentenced to a 14-week curfew.
On Monday 22 March, Metro UK reported a catalogue of sexual misconduct allegations against Metropolitan Police officers, including claims one had sex with a rape victim and another allegedly assaulted a domestic abuse survivor. The cases are exposed in documents obtained by The Observer newspaper and follow criticism of the force for its handling of a vigil on Clapham Common for murder victim Sarah Everard. The documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal there were 594 complaints against the force between 2012 and 2018. Among the 119 upheld was one of an officer fired for allegedly pretending to be a woman online ‘to advance his sexual proclivities and also film a woman apparently having non-consensual sex with a male in a public park’. Another lost his job over claims of a sexual relationship with a domestic abuse victim, and an investigating officer was sacked after a rape victim said he ‘took advantage of her and had sex with her on two occasions’. There were 63 dismissals, resignations or retirements. Other serious allegations included domestic abuse, groping, lewd comments, and a sacked special constable who ‘raped his wife numerous times.’ A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police has said;- “While the allegations involve a small percentage of staff, we acknowledge the impact any offence will have on those involved, and will continue to take all allegations of this nature extremely seriously. ‘It is clear this type of conduct has no place within the organisation.”’ While Siobhan Crawford, a solicitor with Bolt Burden Kemp who represents abuse survivors, said;- “For years abusers in the police have operated safe in the knowledge that they’d be protected by their job.”
The Metro free paper on 24 February 2021 reported that five Thames Valley police officers are under investigation for manslaughter after the death of a man following his arrest by them. The victim, Brian Ringrose, 24, was taken to Milton Keynes University Hospital by ambulance after he was held on January 27. An investigation by the police watchdog found evidence suggesting he was restrained by officers after being medically discharged, before being taken to a police van so he could be transported to police custody. Concerns were raised over his health when he was being taken to the van and he was returned to hospital where he was put in an induced coma, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said. Mr Ringrose died in hospital on February 2 and a post-mortem examination found the cause of death to be ‘inconclusive pending further investigation’. The IOPC said it was investigating the use of a flexible lift and carry system (Flacs) to transport Mr Ringrose to the van after he was detained with handcuffs and limb restraints! One of the officers is also being investigated for alleged common assault and all of them have been served with gross misconduct notices for potential breaches of professional behaviour related to use of force and duties and responsibilities.
The Metro again led the way on Friday 19 March 2021 reporting that Dorset police officer Timothy Brehmer has had his ten year sentence for manslaughter increased to 13 ½ years. Brehmer killed his lover, Claire Parry, in May 2020 because she informed his wife that they were having an affair.
The Sunday Times carried an article by Camilla Long on 4 April entitled ‘The police can’t spot a Nazi but they can stop an 82-year-old enjoying her cuppa’ telling the story of police recruit, Benjamin Hannam, who is now the first police officer to be convicted of membership of a far-right terror group, although we very much doubt he is alone in this. Ms Long asks the pertinent questions: “Why did none of his colleagues at Wood Green station in north London wonder why PC Hannam…kept a picture of himself as Hitler on his phone? Why did no one think, it’s funny how many terrible drawings of Nazis Hannam appears to have on his walls at home. Why did no one wonder what lay behind his interest in Mussolini or ‘the big man’, which is what he called Hitler?” adding “don’t pretend he didn’t mention them.” She goes on to point out that Hannam wasn’t overly secretive about his views: in 2014 he had stated that he was “not a racist — I just don’t like people whose skin is darker than mine”. He had even appeared in recruitment videos for the terrorist group National Action! Camilla rounds on the police in words that it would be difficult for almost anyone to deny when she says: “They can happily manhandle, handcuff and arrest innocent women at vigils but find it difficult to come anywhere near to arresting or handcuffing any of their own, including another officer, for example, who a compensation board found had ‘non-consensual’ sex, ie raped, two fellow officers but is still, we learnt on Friday, scandalously, at work. They criminalise innocent beachgoers or issue a warning to an 82-year-old woman for having a non-socially distanced cup of tea but they can barely be bothered to stop more harmful forms of petty crime, such as burglaries or muggings.”
Meanwhile, back to the Metro. On 28 March 2021 the Metro, citing information first uncovered by a Sunday Mirror Freedom of Information request and accurate up to January 2021, tells us that “150 serving Metropolitan Police officers are convicted criminals!” The Metro, not to mention the Sunday Mirror’s original article, further inform us that: “Among the offences registered against Metropolitan Police staff are assault, criminal damage, drink driving and theft or fraud. Other offences among the group included possession of drugs, public order offences and firearm/ammunition convictions.” Both papers also let us know that these 150 officers are full-time serving police officers working with the public and the number does not “include ‘specials’, police staff, or PCSOs.”
This, then is a brief and by no means exhaustive look at some of the goings on among a heavily armed and organised group that our government wishes to hand extreme powers to, FOR YOUR PROTECTION!
We have hardly touched on the vigil held for Sarah Everard, the woman for whose murder a serving policeman has been charged. When the time reached 7.00pm the police went from standing by to attack-dog mode. We have not gone into the case of the arrest of clearly marked legal observers in an anti-Police Bill demonstration in Bristol; or that of the demonstrators and a journalist who were attacked and arrested at Folkestone Napier barracks in January 2021 where 400 asylum seekers are being held; or that of the organiser of a protest against the government’s insulting 1% pay offer to NHS staff who has been fined £10,000! What of the young woman grabbed and stripped naked by male police officers in Manchester as they dragged her around? That video can also be seen on news websites with parts of the film blurred to protect the young woman, which is far more than the Manchester brutes in uniform thought of doing!
Peaceful demonstrators around the country in 2019-20 have been prosecuted and convicted under current laws for little more than refusing to leave an area where a demonstration is taking place or for sitting down in the road, There always have been and always will be reasons for people to take to the streets in protest. The police quite liked their powers under the COVID-19 regulations and this Bill must seem to them not only the keeping of those heavy powers but also the extending of them. The Police Federation of England and Wales, a staff association for police constables, have welcomed “important changes granting broader and deeper police powers.” If this particular genie is not forced back into its lamp, then, the long-held concerns many of us have re police accountability over deaths in their custody (1,781 deaths since 1990) are going to be massively overshadowed by the future reality of the thugs off the leash!
It will be no use looking to official bodies for protection either as many whistle-blowers within Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) have now told that prior to the release of this Bill, the HMICFRS, instead of scrutinising it, had, with little discussion produced a 160-page report totally backing the Bill which was released on the same date as the Bill.
Our salvation is, and can only be, in our own hands!