Sunday, 26 June 2011


Apparently, Scotland Yard has issued guidance to Officers instructing them not to arrest people who verbally abuse them in the streets, as the courts don’t convict them and the force may have to pay out compensation claims.

Reported in the Mail and the Telegraph today, Scotland Yard has issued a card to its officers, telling them to do nothing if they are subjected to a torrent of obscene abuse.
The card, which the police are told to keep on them, secreted behind their warrant badges, says: ‘The courts do not accept police officers are caused harassment, alarm or distress by words such as ‘f**k, c**t, b*****ks, w*****s’.

For the non legal reader, the common legislation applied falls under section 5 of the Public Order Act, which states that a person is guilty of an offence under the act who:-

There must be a person within the sight or hearing of the suspect who is likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress by the conduct in question. A police officer may be such a person, but this is a question of fact to be decided in each case by the magistrates. In determining this, the magistrates may take into account the familiarity which police officers have with the words and conduct typically seen in incidents of disorderly conduct. (DPP v Orum [1988] Crim LR 848).

Although the existence of a person who is caused harassment alarm and distress must be proved, there is no requirement that they actually give evidence. In appropriate cases, the offence may be proved on a police officer's evidence alone.

Police officers are aware of the difficult balance to be struck in dealing with those whose behaviour may be perceived by some as exuberant high spirits but by others as disorderly. In such cases informal methods of disposal may be appropriate and effective; but if this approach fails and the disorderly conduct continues then criminal proceedings may be necessary.

Whether behaviour can be properly categorised as disorderly is a question of fact. Disorderly behaviour does not require any element of violence, actual or threatened, and it includes conduct that is not necessarily threatening, abusive or insulting. It is not necessary to prove any feeling of insecurity in an apprehensive sense on the part of the member of the public (Chambers and Edwards v DPP [1995] Crim LR 896). The following types of conduct are examples, which may at least be capable of amounting to disorderly behaviour:
  • causing a disturbance in a residential area or common part of a block of flats;
  • persistently shouting abuse or obscenities at passers-by;
  • perstering people waiting to catch public transport or otherwise waiting in a queue;
  • rowdy behaviour in a street late at night which might alarm residents or passers-by, especially those who may be vulnerable, such as the elderly or members of an ethnic monority group;
  • causing a disturbance in a shopping precinct or other area to which the public have access or might otherwise gather;
  • bullying.

The Civil Actions Unit is a secretive body within the Metropolitan Police Authority, which handles legal claims brought against Scotland Yard.

More than 200 actions against the Met are settled every year – usually discreetly to avoid attracting negative publicity for the force – involving claims such as wrongful arrest, assault or discrimination. The unit is part of a chain of command headed by a detective chief superintendent who decides whether to defend an action or settle, and provides summaries of ongoing cases to the Metropolitan Police Authority on a weekly basis.


Here are a few examples of how common sense coppers responded to these headlines. 

Inspector Gadget 

"We totally ignore all this nonsense when it arrives in our inboxes, on plastic cards or those wretched e-learning packages. Senior Management know this, but they issue the instruction anyway to show they have ‘done something’ if the wheels come off later.

We know the law allows us to arrest abusive yobs and we know we have the legal power to use handcuffs if we think it is necessary. If any officer on my team is reluctant to stand firm in the face of the withering, violent and foul abuse we suffer every day from the public, I send them to CID. It’s that simple. The other officers on the team expect me to protect them by only allowing membership to those who can cope.

If police officers stopped arresting for offences simply on the basis that the Courts are failing to do anything about it once the defendant arrives there, we wouldn’t nick anyone for anything. We know the law, we know our powers of arrest and we understand who is a threat and who is not. Sometimes officers get it wrong, but we have tens of thousands of these kinds of interactions every day and almost all of them are dealt with satisfactorily".

And a few more . . .

What's next it's ok to assualt officers
Section 5 is so last summer
C**t is no longer a fou letterword
What a load of blks

"The thin end of the wedge is something small and seemingly unimportant that will lead to something much bigger and more serious".
Were it not for the common sense application of the law by rank and file officers, (many using Common Law Breach of The Peace powers to support their Section 5 arrests), the risk averse senior officers and departments within the service would render the working copper powerless, left only to tick boxes like their seniors. Thankfully, there are many committed officers who think like Inspector Gadget. 
One of the earliest artcles from these pages looked at "The Spoiled Generation" where psychologist Dr Aric Sigman explored the erosion of discipline, respect and civility in the youth of the UK and the negaive effect it is having on society. He suggests that children & young people’s rights must be curtailed and a firm hand is urgently needed if they are to be properly guided into adulthood.

Dr Sigman accurately captures the growing sense of unease felt by a large percentage of the UK public. He said “Children of the spoilt generation are used to having their demands met by their parents and others in authority, and that in turn makes them unprepared for the realities of adult life. This has consequences in every area of society, from the classroom to the workplace, the streets to the criminal courts and rehabilitation clinics".

The police see the consequences of the "Spoiled Generation" every day on the streets of the UK.  Britain now has the highest rates of child depression, child-on-child murder, underage pregnancy, obesity, violent and anti-social behaviour and pre-teen alcoholism since records began. A 44% rise in assaults on police by children is surely a symptom of a much greater disease that will follow if not treated fast.

Respect for law and order and authority is fading rapidly as parents and schools fail in their duty to their children. The criminal justice system including the police are then just one of the groups of agencies that deal with the fall out. The empowering of children, however well intended, has served to undermine the authority of parents, teachers, police officers and other authority figures.

If the Government are to start the task of fixing our society, then surely there is no better place to start than here. By instilling some firm handed forgotten disciplines within the "spoiled sector" of our youth, there will at least be a glimmer of hope that the UK may once again be a pleasant place to live.

If it is down to politicians to start the ball rolling, we'll not hold our breath.


Anonymous said...

I think that lack of respect for police is in part due to how we encounter them. In decades past, most peoples encounters would be with the local bobby, who everyone in the local area knew. Mmost police are good guys, so most people encountered good police. The self-regulatory nature of everyone knowing them personally means even those few with bad intentions know they could get away with less.

In these days, with less emphasis on local policing (yes, I know that efforts have been made in this area in recent years), and less emphasis on localness in general, knowing your neighbours, knowing the authority figures in your area etc, most peoples encounters with police are not human to human, but via media/news reports. The problem with this is the lack of balance. The media loves a story about how a cop treated someone unfairly or assaulted them, but they don't care as much in general for stories about how a policeman did a wonderful job. This means that the few bad apples rise to the top of the pile, so people look at the top layer, and assume all the ones below must be rotten too.

Cador said...

The lack of respect for police is, in part, due to the police themselves. Now that more of the British public are encountering, self-agrandising, self-important and the self-promoting police forces throughout the UK, it is hardly surprising that we are becoming more 'self-aware' than at any time in our history that we have no respect for the police.

The knee jerk response from the police about the lack of press coverage about them doing a wonderful job is ridiculous. There is NO wonderful job to be reported. The private sector is on it's way and will sweep all the bad apples off the floor in it' wake.

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