|Lord Dear & Steve at the House of Lords|
Lord Dear was Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police from 1985 to 1990 when he became one of her Majesties Inspectors of Constabulary. He was described by the broadcaster Sir Robin Day as "the best known and most respected police officer of his generation". Having served in the West Midlands whilst Lord Dear was in charge, I would totally endorse that comment.
Readers will know that we posted our support of Lord Dear recently. when he wrote an article in the Times that outlined the need for Leadership in policing. As a result of that article and contact with Lord Dear, he kindly extended the invite to the Lords. The article link is below if you missed it.
23 years after his retirement from the West Midlands force, it was a privilege to meet the “Boss” again. Now 75, Lord Dear is even more pragmatic and eloquent than I remembered.
Lord Dear acted as our guide, with fascinating insights into the history and activities of the Lords, against the splendour and majesty of the building. For anyone who has not had the privilege of a tour you may wish to click the links below to see a short video and an online tour of the Lords.
The most enjoyable moments however were the conversations over coffee. Lord Dear is an engaging and compelling speaker, both publicly and one to one. 34 years as a police officer, many in the most senior capacity has endowed him with vast experience of policing, justice, the law, politics and business. It was most pleasing to hear his common sense views and values on important subjects such as free speech, international business affairs, the malaise that presently exists in UK policing resulting from the lack of real leadership right through to the thorny subject of gay marriage. In a letter to more than 400 peers, Lord Dear criticised the way David Cameron “shunted” the bill through “a very one-sided” Commons committee stage after “wholly inadequate” scrutiny in the Commons.
Another of Lord Dears passions is that of free speech. Perhaps the best example of this is his tabling of the proposal to remove the word “insulting” from section 5(1)a of the 1986 Public Order Bill.
To see Lord Dear introducing the amendment go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQJBKvN42PM
Lord Dears passionate and compelling drive for the changes to Section 5, attracted the support of no less than Rowan Atkinson. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gciegyiLYtY
A person is guilty of an offence if he—
(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
(2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.
(3)It is a defence for the accused to prove—
(a)that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or
(b)that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or
(c)that his conduct was reasonable.
(4)A constable may arrest a person without warrant if—
(a)he engages in offensive conduct which a constable warns him to stop, and
(b)he engages in further offensive conduct immediately or shortly after the warning.
(5)In subsection (4) “offensive conduct” means conduct the constable reasonably suspects to constitute an offence under this section, and the conduct mentioned in paragraph (a) and the further conduct need not be of the same nature.
(6)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
With his customary eloquence Lord Dear opened the debate with:-
“My Lords, in introducing Amendment 119 I have in the front of my mind the words attributed to Voltaire as far back as 1759:
"I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".
That is what it is all about tonight. The amendment seeks to curb what I believe is an increasing misuse of the criminal law so as to curb or prevent the proper exercise of free speech. The amendment intends that the word "insulting" should be taken out of Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and that Section 6 of that Act should be similarly amended to take account of the earlier change”.
On the Thin Blue Line, this is a subject particularly close to our hearts for the following reasons:-
- We feel the demise of responsible whistle blowing police blogs is largely due to extreme pressure forced upon their authors, effectively restricting free speech. This is often as a result of accusations that authors have brought their force or individuals into disrepute. The withdrawal of the hugely popular Inspector Gadget blog is the most recent example.
- We have reported frequently on these pages that Section 5 has been widely abused as a result of Chief Officers identifying it as an easy win offence where detections are more likely. However, the matters under investigation are all too often minor domestic issues that should really not form part of police activity unless to protect life and property which is rarely the case. The common example is that of estranged couples, allegedly insulting each other to the point where one or both can allege being in fear, when in fact this is more often than not a ploy used by either or both to call in the support of the authorities to exert control over their former partner. Chief Officers have all too often been guilty of “Gaming” in the form of “Skewing” which is redeploying resources to the easy wins to the detriment of more difficult to resolve crimes that the public have a genuine fear of.
- Section 5 appears in its 000’s in the recorded crime registers, distorting the real picture of crime and criminalising otherwise innocent members of the public who will falsely admit alleged offences for fear of the trauma and uncertainty of prosecution.
- 1956: Joined Peterborough Combined Police (which became part of Mid-Anglia Constabulary in 1965) as a Cadet then as a Constable
- 1965: Went to University College, London on a Bramshill Scholarship to study law. Graduating in 1968
- 1968: Served as divisional commander in Cambridge
- 1972: Appointed Assistant Chief Constable (Operations) of Nottinghamshire Combined Constabulary
- 1975 to 1977: Seconded to Bramshill Police College as Director of Command Training.
- 1979: Awarded the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct for his arrest of an armed and mentally deranged man who held his infant son hostage and barricaded himself in a house after a shooting incident.
- 1980: Transferred to the Metropolitan Police as Deputy Assistant Commissioner (Training). In this role he came to public attention as he instituted racial awareness training for police officers in the wake of the Brixton riots, into which he also conducted an internal investigation.
- 1981: Appointed Assistant Commissioner "D" (Personnel and Training
- 1982: He was awarded the Queen's Police Medal (QPM)
- 1983: Headed the Met's investigation into the shooting of Steven Waldorf.
- 1984: Became Assistant Commissioner "A" (Operations and Administration) of the Metropolitan Police. He was the last officer to hold the post of Assistant Commissioner "A" before it was abolished in the reorganisation later that year.
- 1985: Became Chief Constable of West Midlands Police. In the West Midlands, he quickly came to the fore with his handling of the aftermath of the shooting by police of a young boy and, separately, the aftermath of the 1985 Handsworth riots. He instituted wide-ranging changes in that force, both administratively and operationally.
- 1989: He headed the investigation into the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster, the findings of which were roundly endorsed by the 2012 Independent Enquiry into the same occurrence.
- 1990: He was appointed one of HM Inspectors of Constabulary.
- 1997 to 1998: He was a member of the Glidewell review into the Crown Prosecution Service from and advised the Auld Review of the Criminal Courts process in 2002 and the Virdi Enquiry in 2003.
- 2 May 2006: Dear was created a life peer as Baron Dear, of Willersey in the County of Gloucestershire.
- He has held a number of remunerated positions as non-executive director or chairman, and is currently non-executive chairman of Blue Star Capital plc.
- He takes an active and regular part in the business of the House of Lords, speaking from the cross benches on home affairs, criminal justice, and rural affairs. In 2008 he successfully lead opposition in the House of Lords to defeat the Government's intention to extend from 28 to 42 days the length of time that suspected terrorists could be held without charge.
- He is Deputy Lieutenant of Worcestershire, was Vice-Lord Lieutenant of that county from 1998 to 2001, and is an Honorary Bencher of Gray's Inn. He is a Fellow of University College, London and an Honorary Fellow of Birmingham City University
Retired Police Officer
West Midlands Police
Creator and Author of the Thin Blue Line UK
After the photo's were taken and Lord Dear returned to his duties inside the building, we had a thoroughly enjoyable 20 minutes chatting with the DPG guys on duty at the Peers entrance. A pleasant surprise, in these dark days of policing, to meet a group of guys and girls with a sense of humour and obvious passion for the job. Thank heavens the majority of coppers do not reflect the disgraceful behavious or some of their Chiefs and seniors of recent months. Great to meet you guys, and a massive thank you, to you and all the other rank and file front line coppers for all that you continue to do for us.