The hideous Bellfield case raises lots of old chestnuts on our inane Criminal Justice System. I now believe the phrase ‘lessons must be learned’ and claims ‘new procedures are now in place’ should be hanging offences. Something tragic and rotten is in place in our bureaucracies and society.
The blame should rest on vile scum like Bellfield. I’m sick of that genre in literature that promotes such scum to ‘interesting’ to attract our attention. This pales to insignificance against the way we promote their human rights in a legal system that fails to protect people leading ordinary lives.
My own sense of this is that bureaucracy is responsible and we need new definitions of this in order to change for the better. The classic read on bureaucracy is Max Weber – though not in the simplified sense of grotesquely inadequate management textbooks or the standard political wailing on ‘red tape’.
In trying to understand society we have to stop most of what we routinely do. Most of us are leading lives based on data corrupted by our own world-views. This was known to Bacon as he wrote around 400 years ago. One of the first steps we need to make is to accept our own ignorance, and most cannot get this far without a great deal of help. This message is stark and we have not learned it over many centuries.
Like all cops, I attended many ‘missing from home’ cases, most of mine absconders from ‘approved schools’ (the name had changed even then). I found the odd kid hiding in a cupboard (more than once after other cops claimed to have done a search). One case turned out to be a murder by the mother. The basic investigative idea was to go through the procedure and write them off. The final act of the pen often came after the phone call from parents or the ‘approved school’ that the kid had turned up.
Cases like Millie Dowler’s turn up against this back-drop. They are so rare that even cops trying their best could miss vital evidence. Our Response cops now seem to be flying from one call to another with no time to do anything properly.
Even when sent door-to-door in a serious enquiry is often hopeless. I once found myself making the 29th visit to a property that had actually been demolished some years before the enquiry began.
Most cops, most of the time can rely on statistics to cover shoddy work – there nearly always is nothing to find. I did it myself when some new DCS had a bee in his bonnet about pedal cycle thefts and had us all doing pointless door-to-doors that prevented real work.
There are no excuses in any of this and it shames our system when they are rolled out. I mean the whole system, including the way we always refuse to open the can of worms to proper scrutiny. Yet Bellfield was allowed to bring irrelevant material into court and lawyers have been defending this. We are quite prepared to hurt innocent parties and victims, so who the hell are we protecting in not making full details (which could be made anonymous) into public dialogue?
The same problems keep appearing – I’ve been looking from 1950 onwards. It’s rare that even a major enquiry is conducted well and I can’t find a data set of much of the evidence I would expect to make proper sense of what happens to victims in the legal process. All those I have traced so far are angry and can hardly believe what did happen to them.
I’ve also seen total public denial in the form of ‘conferences of crime fighters’ putting out the pretence of good practice. What I’m after in my search is a definition of bureaucracy that makes sense of the often brutal treatment of victims and the almost soviet performance management going on.