Dear Chief Constable.
A twelve-year-old boy turns up to our house just as I’m going out to fill up my partner’s car. I know him because he plays with my grandson and view him as a good lad going wrong. He’s already excluded from school (he says for fighting and throwing a pencil at a teacher) and is attending a Compass centre. When in a ‘paddy’ I have had to manhandle him off our property and he’s been very abusive in situations involving a nasty local gang connected with bullying and racial harassment (this is strange, mixed-up stuff). I’ve had to complain about the lad myself. Now he’s at our door, in stocking-feet, having had a bust up with his mother, claiming to want to turn himself into the police. In normal circumstances, which do not pertain here, I’d want to calm him down and take him back to his mother to sort things out. The other day, our local Bobby was involved over some concerns he was associating with a small-time drug-dealer and burglar round the corner. The lad had made claims that this character was going to supply him with weed to sell. There has been a raid at the house that produced a small amount of cannabis and evidence of a burglary. This would surprise none of our neighbours. The Bobby left assuring us the situation had been explained to the boy’s mother.
My partner has had a couple of chats on the phone with the mother, who has expressed both her determination and desperation in trying to help put her son right. It’s a broken home and the elder brother is now regarded as a hapless career criminal (living elsewhere) – not much of a sign she is likely to be successful, and she has expressed her depression about the chances of ‘any kids growing up round here’. Others who have had problems with her boy have not been gracious in their comments on her.
I couldn’t really turn the boy away and let him in to use our phone, rather ashamed I didn’t really want to know about the problems. He insisted he wanted to ‘turn himself in’ having committed damage at home. This seemed an unlikely ‘solution’. The lad is a strange mix of decent moral compass at one point, confused, angry, uncontrollable liar at the next. An upset boy with no shoes on feeling he has nowhere to turn other than to the police is obviously a matter of concern. He made the call and said he would wait outside. Consistently poor policing and even worse conduct by local authority agencies have made it impossible to get involved without harassment and being exposed to harm in this area, from a combination both of out-of-control youths and criminal elements and hostile bungling from the agencies (which has extended to character assassination and criminal actions in our case).
My partner was in the bath and I went to fill up her car for work tomorrow. When I returned, the street was in some disarray, with neighbours at their front doors and a small gang of youths making their way off. The young boy had clearly been assaulted – knocked to the ground on witness accounts. He was sitting on the pavement a couple of houses away in some distress. I brought him into our house and let him talk the matter through with my partner, before calling police. A response officer came about an hour later and I assume took him home. I also assume from what neighbours said this was an affray and a rather nasty assault. The perpetrators are known and typically there was talk of the incident arising from the boy’s own earlier assault on a younger relative of one of the gang.
Questions arise about how this matter will be ‘crimed’. The vast majority of such incidents round here, much as in the Pilkington case, seem not to be crimed or properly collated and investigated. I know of work being done by our very good PCSO and local Bobby, but broadly there is a cover-up by GMP, BMBC and our elected representatives. Criminal offences against, and almost routine bullying of victims by the agencies are involved, and this extends into oversight agencies and our supposed political ‘representatives’.
It is extremely disturbing that local youths (only some) feel they can carry out assaults like this in broad daylight, and that this troubled young lad is confused and desperate enough to turn to help in this manner. If I could have expected effective help in any other way, I would not have let him phone police and put aside time to help him personally, even though there is little connection between us and he has been very nasty to us recently. Clearly, more help is needed from ‘youth services’ and ‘housing’, but it’s hard to see how anything substantial can be done unless all the agencies and politicians admit to the real problems. The precise opposite is happening and in an orchestrated manner more dismal than the misuse of targets and statistics you have publicly criticised. The truth is that victims can expect bullying, false accusations and to be put in harm’s way by the very agencies and politicians expected to help.
At an academic level, Peter, I have seen you and ACCs from your former force, make really excellent presentations on disrupting crime, honest approaches to the public and what would be really effective ways of dealing with matters from domestic violence to cash-in-transit robberies. There has been a sea-change in phone answering at GMP – now prompt and courteous – but this still leaves questions on why it was so bad and covered-up for so many years. There is, at last, some local policing and a change in attitude towards ‘service’ – again both long overdue and raising questions about how these disgraceful failures were covered-up so long. Life in our street is very different since our vile neighbours left and a couple of other doors were broken in round the corner, but again questions arise about why this took more than seven years, why we had to be broken on the wheel in standing up to it (including the cover-up of serious offences by your officers, a sadistic performance by our MP, brutal treatment by Town Hall agencies and repeated bungling), and the mere displacement of the problem to our neighbours’ new locale. People nearly died in an arson attempt and all agencies concerned refuse to release information from which lessons could be learned.
This ‘minor’ incident with the distressed young boy (affray; gang assault) will probably lead to further stones thrown at our windows, more verbal harassment, still leave us concerned about safety and so on. The ‘arson’ case looks as though it may fail (witness intimidation was taking place within minutes of the arrest 12 months ago). The alleged perpetrator and her partner have still been ‘bang at it’. A serious assault she has pleaded to (incident 18 months ago – still no sentence) was not disclosed to us. Hardly surprising that your response officers still warn that trying to take any action will lead to intimidation and harassment from such people, who will still return to the area and probably take escalated revenge even in the (unlikely) event the CPS and courts get matters to conviction.
The problems remain what they were eight years ago. Ours were not fixed by police, local authority, political, CPS or court actions – indeed only made worse by very nasty officials who have not been brought to book. What are you going to do to put matters right? It is already clear you are not contacting and collating victim experience as a base of problem-based policing and a genuine understanding of public satisfaction with your work. There is little sign of any real understanding from your officers, other than the usual one that their time is being wasted and nothing effective can be done anyway. This is very handy thinking for idle cops who want to cuff crime and for senior officers hiding behind recorded statistics (something you have protested about in public, but are still encouraging). It is also exceptionally unintelligent and cowardly thinking in that it leaves victims with nowhere to turn.
I suspect assault charges will not be pressed. This leaves the affray. Has any of this been crimed? Clearly, witnesses who were available at the time were not contacted by your response officer -very poor practice and typical. She seemed uninterested frankly, and somewhat hostile beneath a veneer of politeness. How serious do you regard matters like this? The assailant was of the same age as me when I started playing cricket and rugby with adults, the same age as another youth who beat up a PCSO and so on. When the worst of this crew are together they are something like the one that killed Gary Newlove. My partner and I have been treated worse than the Pilkingtons (who committed suicide) and were subject to much worse harassment, including a vile attack (much still secret) by our then local inspector, supported by your PSD and IPCC. None of your officers, in this ‘learning lessons GMP’ has ever heard of the Cochranes or any of the cases relevant to learning the right lessons.
The way to bring decent policing to this area and across GMP is to bring in a system that gathers and collates victims’ experience and tracks cases through their management. I have seen no evidence of such a simple system in over 8 years. Whilst no one should want to open police officers up to attack through use of the complaints system by criminals, the current system is nasty and damaging to victims – please don’t tell me it isn’t – it is us who have the experience not you – your force does not collect this information. Your officers seem content to let people round here live in fear of a few violent and crooked families. This needs to change, and part of this change concerns your officers standing up and telling the truth and you doing the same to the Police Authority and politicians.
The young victim in this latest incident is hardly ‘innocent’. I chased him half-way round the block myself a week or so back. He has at least apologised for his behaviour, something your force and Police Authority not only can’t do, but has done the opposite of (bullying victims). Whatever this lad is, he did ring the force in trouble. You did not respond with any alacrity, and he was then assaulted, with only neighbour intervention stopping something worse. Eventually, I had to take him in and your response officer turned up with the same old story of eight years of failure. She no doubt did all she could.
Corruption is in so deep that we need a totally new approach. There is nowhere and no one to turn to. Victims are just left to their fate, whilst politicians and Senior Management Team worthies carry on in their comfortable worlds until someone dies (Gary Newlove, the Cochranes, Katie Boardman, Baby P and so on), kills themselves in despair (Pilkingtons), or strikes back in frustration (Walker). Around the corner, a perfectly decent family is suffering racially connected abuse, down the road the perpetrators of more than 20 years of benefit swindling, violence, and arson with intent to endanger life continue as usual; elsewhere another decent couple are being driven to despair by threatening drug-dealers next door and a woman with MS enters her fourth year of harassment simply because her house is near a park.
You have senior officers who have covered-up serious police crime and who described our eight years of hell as a ‘neighbour dispute’ when it was, in fact, worse than the situation that led the Pilkington’s to suicide. The two inspectors I met recently and other officers have said our situation had none of the characteristics of a neighbour dispute. We were simply lucky that when the petrol bomb was thrown, it was thrown at another house with a family in it. You appear unconcerned that bungling by your officers, that then extended into a vile cover-up in which I was secretly accused of ‘attempting to pervert the course of justice’, prevented a conviction that might have done something to prevent the later fire-bomb. What is it you keep saying about ‘learning lessons’ Peter? A similar bungle (on top of many in our case) has just occurred in the racially-connected case to one that occurred in ours ( a bungle on process). I fully expect the arson case to go further wrong.
Your officers turn up in ‘blues and twos’, even 6 to make an arrest, yet make excuses to leave the scene whilst criminal offences are being committed whilst threats are being made because of ‘lack of back-up’, don’t even visit after a further 999 call just after we were threatened again (by an man with an ASBO connected with intimidation), making a claim notorious in police circles to ‘be in the vicinity’. You can’t even deal with a chronically disturbed, drug-dealing and using, violent family; or stop chronic nuisance.
There is a need for an independent enquiry based in establishing routine methods to bring victims together, the difficulties your officers are experiencing (which would have to be confidential top prevent hapless Police Authority-PSD-IPCC cover-up) and a way forward that will give your officers proper power to act in the real public interest. I believe a fatal nexus of politicians and senior bureaucrats can at least be accused of the old offence of ‘obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception’ in the way it colludes in the pretence of dealing with these problems whilst taking substantial rewards in position, high salaries and bonuses, and encouraging character assassination of victims trying to get their voice heard and human rights protected.
A key issue in Public Law is that one ought to be able to bring a case without apprehension of bias in the investigation and judicial or quasi-judicial processes concerned. We have already been repeatedly failed in this respect and face more problems in even getting disclosure of information than terrorists. The lying involved is often calculated, acute and aimed at psychological harm to victims. This should be a criminal offence and I believe it is. More harm has been done to myself and my partner through this mechanism than by the brick through our window, repeated damage, assaults, death threats and having to live next door to regular domestic violence (including child abuse) and drug use and supply.
It must be obvious now that my partner and I have been long-term victims of a particularly vile, criminal couple and repeated bungling in a case that shows the relevant authorities and political representatives not only fail to protect decent people, but will engage in serious, intended assaults on victims through bureaucratic bullying over protracted periods. We have not committed suicide, though have both considered it, and been reduced to clinical depression, at state far worse than any physical violence I have suffered has inflicted.
I believe a criminal enquiry is needed to establish what crimes have been committed, get these ‘crimed’ and see what can be done to prevent the unnecessary suffering of others. If I have to commit a criminal offence (such as that by climate protesters) to bring these matters into full public scrutiny, I will. That I even have to consider this, as a citizen in a democracy, is offensive. It should not be necessary, but I increasingly believe it may be the only moral course of action. The level of denial on police wrongdoing is as pathological and obsessive as that of the Vatican in suppressing public knowledge of paedophile priests, and is having similar effects on victims both through police bullying and the role the suppression plays in ineffective policing.
Since 2002, instead of police deciding whether an incident should be recorded as violence, the system now requires them to do so whenever an alleged victim asks them to. It seems unlikely that your force has crimed all the offences my partner and I consider to have been violent over the last eight years – indeed much has probably been cuffed. This appears to be continuing practice and may well be connected to discrimination against disabled and vulnerable people as in the Pilkington case. It is impossible to believe our case would have been handled so dismally or that more recent events would be similarly mis-managed if you were the victim.
If you have ‘reason’ to believe either my partner or myself is not credible, put the issues and ‘evidence’ on paper and put yourself in a position that allows fair response and court action if necessary. If you are not sure enough to do this, start a full enquiry with agreement from us on independence before it starts, based on full statements from us and full disclosure from all parties. It is unlikely we will be able to get legal representation and this needs to be taken into account in all dealings, along with proper protection for us under the Victims’ Code and by taking evidence from other victims in similar situations, statements taken in confidence from police officers to protect them from your suppression culture and expert recommendations regarding dealing with innocent parties your service should protect not seek to damage.