Greater Manchester Police have referred the Askew case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The IPCC is ‘independent’ only in name and there are internal rumours that its Chair, Nick Hardwick was hauled in front of the Home Office and warned off investigations that would expose police wrongdoing and corruption. Some of its investigators had wanted to take a much more forceful line in investigating bad cops. A report by the CHRE found that the social work equivalent of the IPCC was bent beyond measure with its CEO actively preventing enquiries and social workers clearly unfit to practice staying in position for months and years after they should have been put out of their ways of harm, including paedophiles. GMP also has form for not responding to judges’ statements that one of its officers was lying (the Shipman case) and incompetent, even re-hiring the individual as a civilian and not acting until the Manchester Evening News revealed the scandal. Disciplinary charges were never brought against this individual as too much time had elapsed.
The recent HMIC report on ‘antisocial behaviour’ took the unusual step of actually asking victims about their experience. Its conclusions are damning, though at this stage it has not led to an examination of the lying it is reasonable to suppose must have been going on for a long time to cover-up incompetence and lack of accountability. GMP’s former Chief was referred to even in the broadsheets as ‘Shagger Todd’ and there are now rumours another member of its senior management team is ‘at it’ in police blogs. The report, sadly conducted by a police officer, into Todd’s activities has not be made fully public and the current Chief, Peter Fahey, is making statements about continuing on the sound basis left by Todd. One can only hope this is not true, given the official reports of GMP’s poor performance (in contradiction to past and regular lying about improvements) and Fahey’s own contradictory statements that he has had to take great strides to improve from the ‘sound base’. He has just been on television claiming the HMIC report is out of date and there have been massive improvements in his 18 month reign. If Todd had been doing such a great job whilst ‘doing’ so much not to do with police work, one assumes the HMIC would not have had reason to be so condemning or for there have been so much need for Fahey’s ‘improvements’. Mr. Askew is now dead, rather than merely a daily victim like so many bothers across this force area, hardly an improved condition! He was not a victim of ‘antisocial behaviour’, but of sustained crime, most of which is very unlikely to have been recorded.
Fahey and one of his divisional commanders have been on television giving excuses that everything possible was done and trying to lay off the blame onto the housing authority, a common tactic amongst his officers. Town Hall authorities are part of the problem as are our elected ‘representatives’, but GMP officers regularly lay claim to ‘excellent’ partnership arrangements with them, arrangements so ‘superb’ they can’t even get a family in Mr. Askew’s plight re-housed despite a probably 20 years of harassment. The Chief Constable and Chief Superintendent made me sick to the stomach as a victim through the attitudes they displayed. It’s good to know we still have cops prepared to help disabled people clean up their house (one has to wonder why this was necessary and what the ‘excellent’ partners were not up to), yet looking back to the Cochranes (GMP – burned to death some days after petrol was found on their front door after being terrorised for months – a matter subject to a hapless IPCC enquiry which may explain GMP’s referral of this matter to them for another whitewash), it’s clear officers tried to provide personal assistance (mobile numbers) only to be disciplined for not using the obviously inadequate ‘system’.
Todd was very keen to make statements that his officers needed no further powers to impress his Nulabour masters, yet after all Fahey’s ‘improvements’ and the claimed good work of his officers, Mr. Askew is dead and CCTV and covert observations from inside his house seem only to have contributed to this and become part of the excuses churned out. I’ve been to GMP-Town Hall ‘crime fighting’ conferences at which ‘success stories’ are monotonously sung from the hymn-sheets of positive gloss, at which the voices of victims are routinely excluded. I could barely stand being present.
It is an insult to refer matters to the IPCC (or local government ombudsmen and the rest) when we can have no faith in them and only apprehend further injustice. I doubt any of these bodies would survive a CHRE-style review and all of them evade evaluation of victim experience and honest and confidential research into what their street-level operatives believe the problems to be. Sarah Payne’s report identifies the need for a single point of contact for victims (the blinding obviousness of this makes one worry), but even this critical report fails to notice that one more or less has to be dead to be considered a victim under Human Rights legislation and any variety of victims’ codes. The IPCC, LGOs and complaints systems generally are part of the problems, not their resolution. They don’t look at facts revealed through independent investigation, don’t support victims in an acknowledgement of their lack of representation and the unequal power relations brought about by their individuation against the bureaucratic evasions and bullying known to be characteristic of the big battalions. Victims can only apprehend bias, a point made by the Police Action Lawyers Group, INQUEST and from within consideration of natural justice and Public Law. It is more or less impossible to redress this through Judicial Review or by going straight to court action, through lack of funding and the non-availability of genuinely independent investigators and frustrations in disclosure.
What is needed is for victims to be identified, brought together in an action group, and for cases to be subject to full, publicly scrutinised criminal-level investigation, with a damages and compensation scheme established to change the nature of ‘resourcing’ decisions made by the authorities to stop them concealing the problems and their inadequacies in dealing with them. The idea would be to get the authorities doing the job they have laid claim to be doing for years, get proper admissions they have been failing and compensate victims to help their suffering and stop the routine fobbing-off and exacerbations of their trauma by the very people supposed to help who often make matters much worse.
It’s time those responsible for the deaths of victims and the continuation of thousands of unnecessary miseries were brought to book. It isn’t just the vile perpetrators who need to be stopped. There is a fatal nexus of politicians, overpaid bureaucrats and attitudes which discount victims because they are powerless that must be taken on. I would name my own MP, David Crausby (Bolton NE) as part of the problem. A decent man would fess up to what he has done and resign. Our local paper carried a letter this week, suggesting we could do with being rid of the main parties and get some independents into our local council. Nulabour is part of the problem too, but the alternatives are really putting forward no viable alternatives. One can see the problems every time a scandal is sufficient to generate media interest. Baby P, the Pilkingtons, the Cochranes, Edlington, Stockwell (none of 17 witnesses heard police shout warnings) and the rest. Yet the real problem lies in those still suffering as the late Mr. Askew did for years, not yet sufficiently abused to get the media involved, a matter that condemns our fourth estate as well.