Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why we should all damn the politicians for politicising the police!

I have been thinking about the remarkable similarities between the two blog topics on which I have been opining recently, the David Miranda arrest and the latest drug statistics released by RELEASE and the Mannheim Institute at the London School of Economics!

Both of them, despite being very different in topic, are very similar in the message they are sending about the way in which the police in this country are being increasingly politicised, and this political interference is enhancing the danger that the police will continue to lose legitimacy in the minds of the general public.

In both cases, the police are being used by politicians to undertake actions which are designed to protect political reputations, but which have very little or nothing to do with the usual activities which the police in this country were (and still are) designed to perform.

In using the police in this way, the politicians are exposing them to increasing public opprobrium and assisting in bring the police into disrepute in the eyes of the public.

Pushing the margin for more measurable statistics means that the police will take the line of least resistance when it comes to demonstrating how many drug stops they have made. This policy has, as reported yesterday, a series of very unfortunate consequences in the damage it causes to police - race-relations issues.

This policy is a piece of purely political requirement and needs urgent re-thinking.

In the case of the arrest of David Miranda - we now know that he was arrested by specialist anti-terror police from Scotland Yard's SO 15 department.

This in itself poses some interesting questions, because the very use of these specialist officers proves that the police had prior knowledge of Miranda's presence on the flight and the fact that he would be changing planes in London. The only people who would have had this immediate knowledge would have been our spooky friends in the intelligence services, and they would have wanted Miranda detained and made available for questioning, because they want to keep faith with their US counterparts in the NSA.

However, the fact of this knowledge means that the powers under Schedule 7 of the Terrorist Act were absolutely not the appropriate legislation under which Miranda should have been detained.

The relevant authorities knew or at least strongly suspected that Miranda was acting as a courier for his journalist partner in Brazil. They would have had little realistic knowledge of the exact nature of what Miranda was carrying, but they had more than enough suspicion that it might be carried possibly in some form of electronic storage on his person.

The real problem for the authorities was that there is very little meaningful legislation which would have given them the necessary degree of access to Miranda, because with the best will in the world, it would be very difficult to make any case against Miranda which would justify his being stopped and his property taken from him. And this is where the spooks would have found themselves stymied in their ambitions.

One of the big legal questions is whether electronic data can be said to be 'property' and is it capable of being 'stolen'?

He would have been carrying hardware on which would have been deposited data which might have consisted of records of US secret information. Now the problem with such information is that its very nature makes it impossible to define what might truly be said to be information which could be of realistic value to terrorists.

It is far more likely to be information which might possess the potential to be very embarrassing to the US authorities, or to the UK authorities possibly, but whether it is 'stolen property' which would have given the police a power to stop and detain him is extremely questionable, and how much value it might possess to terrorists, is doubtful.

This is the problem with secret information, once some spook apparatchik acquires information, it is immediately classified, and thus immediately acquires a special condition which gives it an almost mystical status.

I have had personal experience of all this complete and utter bollocks. Many years ago I was commissioned by a CIA-Front Think Tank in Washington to write an appreciation of the use of the global derivatives markets to enable terrorists to undermine the security of the US commercial systems. This was before 9/11, and it was quite a percipient request, considering the volume of derivatives activity which took place immediately before and immediately after the attacks!  

Anyway, having written my document and delivered it, imagine my immense surprise when a few months later I took a call from a lawyer from M.I.6, who wanted to take me out to lunch and discuss my paper. It turns out that my paper had been shared by the CIA with their UK counterparts, and the spooks wanted to discuss it with me.

After a congenial lunch, my contact asked me various questions about my knowledge of the derivatives dangers to financial markets. He should have listened more closely because I certainly outlined the way they could and would be used by criminal banks during the great financial scandal in 2008, but this was many years in the future, so perhaps he can be forgiven!

During our discussions, I asked to see the copy of my paper to refresh my mind on a point which had slipped my memory.

"...Sorry, old boy..." the spook told me, "...You aren't cleared to see this document...I can't show it to you..."

Hence my cynicism when I hear the official state's servants talk about the importance of such security!

However, now having adopted the use of the powers under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, use of such powers which I genuinely believe will be later struck down and criticised by the Courts, the cops are hoist with their own petard.

They now have to try and find some form of action or activity which will somehow give some spurious legitimacy to their acquisition of this information under the illegal circumstances they have used.

Perhaps , even more importantly, they have got to be hoping against hope that the information contains some nugget of pure intelligence which contains information of such awesome qualities, that no judge in any forum will want it to be given any form of publicity.

Whatever the interpretation, the police have now got to do something to justify their continued possession of the information.

They are being forced into this exercise of dubious legitimacy in order to protect the reputations of the politicians who forced them into this dangerous piece of pure illegality in the first place! 

They are going to have to be forced to engage in a theatre of the absurd in order to buy enough time to make it appear that their involvement has become legitimised, thus protecting the gossamer-thin reputations of the Home Secretary and indeed, the Prime Minister, both of whom started off by saying that they were briefed on the operation before it took place.

Of course they were fucking briefed, the cops aren't stupid!

The cops would have realised that what they were being required to do was being undertaken on grounds of extremely dubious legality. They would have known that Schedule 7 was not the right legal boat on which to embark for this voyage, and they would have said to each other, long before the arrest, 'well if the shit is going to hit the fan, we're not going to be the only ones in the target zone'!

The cops would have bought themselves a copper-bottomed set of legal underpants by ensuring that the relevant politicos were briefed before the arrest took place. It is of interest however, to note that the police did not seek the opinion of the Crown Prosecution Service prior to acting, and the CPS have been at great pains to make that fact known publicly. Clearly they don't want to be associated, even peripherally, with the dodgy dealings being cooked up by the Spooks, which begs the question whose advice did the police seek? Can only have been the Intelligence Service lawyers!

This explains why Theresa May and David Cameron were so cautious about being seen to be standing too closely behind the police actions, saying that these were all operational matters for the police and something on which they had no input!

It was these phrases that first put me, a experienced former police officer, on alert, because they had all the hallmarks of the usual degree of political double-speak and morally-feeble wording of which politicians are the past masters.

What complete and utter tosh, all this weasel worded cowardice is. They and their secret servants are all involved in this up to their refined nostrils, and everything that flows, all falls into the same dodgy political zone of smoke and mirrors!

How can you tell?

Well, it's all in the activities that are now being undertaken and the language which is being carefully crafted to describe the actions of the authorities, because whatever happens from now on in, the police must not do or say anything which might be construed as being potentially misleading, because legal proceedings have been commenced and a Judge has already stilled the hand of the investigators, under certain circumstances.

Just watch how the police language quickly escalates in its estimate of concern.

"...Initial examination of material seized has identified highly sensitive material, the disclosure of which could put lives at risk..," London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

"...We welcome the decision of the court which allows our examination of the material - containing thousands of classified intelligence documents - to continue in order to protect life and national security..," the police statement said.

Later the phrase "...highly sensitive material, the disclosure of which would be gravely injurious to public safety..." makes its way into the lexicon of concern.

Finally, in order to give even more dubious credibility, the police then state that they are beginning a criminal investigation as to whether "...Mr Miranda was a person who is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism..."

All this verbal sparring and dancing around the issue is really the police trying to weave some credibility into their actions. None of these phrases of concern are going to have very much influence on a sensible judge when it comes to evaluating the legitimacy of the actions undertaken by police and the servants of the secret state.

The police have, again, been pushed into a situation not of their own making, but by the politicians, who with their spook advisers, are content to ride roughshod over any laws when it suits them.

I suspect in this case, the secret state made a calculated decision that they would get access to the information they wanted, and if they were even later found to have acted incorrectly, they would have achieved their own ends.

The sadness that accompanies this likelihood is that the spooks will not be engaged in any court proceedings, but the police will get the initial blame, and no judge will be likely to be happy with the 'we were only obeying orders' defence!

It merely reflects the wisdom of some advice given to me many years ago by a wise and experienced detective when I first joined the CID and was told;

 "...Have nothing to do with the 'Funnies' (Intelligence services), they are a bunch of fucking wackos in brown brogues and Barbour jackets who will always let you down and get you into trouble, but who are never around when it's time to stand up and be counted..."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why UK drug policy is 'persecuting' drug users and increasing alienation among Blacks and Asians

"...Despite the increased investment in treatment, the majority of government spending on responding to illegal drugs is still devoted to enforcing drug laws. It is however difficult to estimate government expenditure on drug policy, as it is not transparently reported. From the available data, we calculate that in the UK, as in other nations, enforcement expenditure (including police, courts and prisons) accounts for most of the total expenditure on drug policy..."

A report launched by LSE and Release today (22nd August 2013), shows that drug policing is dominating stop and search, that much of this activity is focused on low level drug possession offences, and that black and Asian people are being disproportionately targeted. "...An analysis of UK Drug Policy..." Peter Reuter and Alex Stephens. 2008. 

Niamh Eastwood, Executive Director of Release and co-author of the report, states “...this research shows that stop and search is not about finding guns or knives but about the police going out and actively looking for people who are in possession of a small amount of drugs, mainly cannabis...".

This is a truly worrying statistic, it is alarming and disgusting at the same time. It proves once and for all that policing in our country has become primarily an issue of determinable statistics; policing is now so heavily politicised, that the Government insists on demanding measurable metrics, by which to judge whether their policies are effective or not. The Home Office presumes that statistics such as these show that the police are doing their job effectively.

What they don't realise is that, in reality, these statistics manage to prove that Government law enforcement policies are a virtual complete failure because the vast majority of police time is spent looking for small amounts of drugs, in the possession of people who have them for their personal use, while the vast percentage of real recidivist crime, theft, robbery, theft of and from motor vehicles, and burglary in particular, goes virtually undetected!

What it means is that the police are not looking to prevent crime as a whole, but just to get a quick statistic, a cynical practice which is undermining the whole purpose of British-style policing.

This is proving that the original purpose of uniformed street policing as foreseen by Sir Robert Peel and implemented by the first Commissioners, has been wholly subverted by a bizarre political demand for meaningless statistics.

Proper policing cannot be measured and it is pointless (and dangerous) to try. There is no metric that can measure or value the worth of the visible presence of the uniformed constable on the street, walking the beat and interacting with the public in the community, and keeping the Queen's Peace.

The sense of public safety and community well-being that the very presence of the uniformed constable walking on the High Street, talking to passers-by, engaging with shop-keepers, or joking with stall holders instils in the mind of the law-abiding public is tangible and real, but it cannot be measured. Yet it is the fundamental purpose for beat policing.

The only problem for a modern Government is that it cannot be measured, and in today's society, if it can't be measured, it doesn't exist!

The original function of police was to prevent crime. That was why they were given certain powers to stop and search persons and vehicles. These were general powers which the police had to be able to justify using when they were applied. They were very specific 'crime-preventative' powers.

Providing a power to stop and search individuals under the Misuse of Drugs legislation has a different function altogether, and was aimed at legitimating the act of stopping the person and facilitating the arrest of offenders. They cannot be claimed to be used to prevent crime, because the crime has already been committed. However, it was never intended that the powers to search would ever be used in this way.

Examine the figures.

Over 50% of stop and searches made on the street are for drugs, 10% are for offensive weapons and less than 1% are for guns .

The police in England and Wales stop and search someone for drugs every 58 seconds.
These are not proper stops made to assist in keeping the peace and preventing crime. These are 'line of least resistance' stops designed solely to keep the figures up to keep the Home Office happy!

Of the more than half million stop and searches for drugs carried out in 2009/10 only 7% resulted in arrest. This statistic alone demonstrates the 'scatter gun' approach being adopted by police in their stop and search policies. It proves that the individual officer rarely has a genuine sense of a real 'cause to suspect', and is just exercising his powers randomly and without reason.

So why do I assert that these random stops are increasing alienation among black and Asian people. Well, the facts speak for themselves.

In 2009/10 there were 10 stop and searches for drugs for every 1,000 people in England and Wales. 

Black people were stopped and searched for drugs at 6.3 times the rate of white people, while Asian people were stopped and searched for drugs at 2.5 times the rate and those identifying as mixed race were stopped and searched for drugs at twice the rate of white people. This is despite the fact that drug use is lower amongst  black and Asian people when compared to their white counterparts .Black people are arrested for a drugs offence at 6 times the rate of white people, and Asian people are arrested at almost twice the rate of the white.

Black people are more likely to receive a harsher police response for possession of drugs .
In 2009/10 78% of black people caught in possession of cocaine by the Metropolitan Police were charged for this offence and only 22% received cautions.

In comparison 44% of white people were charged for the same offence and 56% received cautions.

Black people caught in possession of cannabis by the Metropolitan Police are less likely to receive a cannabis warning than white people, and are charged at 5 times the rate of whites.
Prosecutions for drug possession are at an all-time high and this is primarily being driven by cannabis possession.

In 2010, the Crown Prosecution Service brought more prosecutions for possession of drugs than in any other year since the introduction of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 - 43,406 people were found guilty of drug possession. 60% of these prosecutions were for cannabis.

Black people are subject to court proceedings for drug possession offences at 4.5 times the rate of whites, are found guilty of this offence at 4.5 times the rate, and are subject to immediate custody at 5 times the rate of white people.  

Once they have been taken to court black people are less likely to be given a suspended prison sentence for drug offences than white people.

Is it any wonder that black people feel, (as it turns out, statistically correctly), that they are subject to a far greater degree of police attention for something which is nothing more than a personal life-style choice, albeit illegal!

Every year approximately 80,000 people in England and Wales are convicted or cautioned for possession of drugs.  In the 15 year period, 1996 to 2011, 1.2 million criminal records have been generated as a result of drug possession laws.  

In the light of these statistics, let us just ask ourselves how it is the Government can go on futilely seeking to persuade itself that 'The War on Drugs' is working? Can you imagine the cost involved in persecuting (yes I have used that word deliberately) 80,000 people for nothing more than the possession of a small amount of a naturally-growing plant which happens to provide them with some small degree of personal pleasure, and which is entirely harmless to others.

This is why the organisation that I chair in the UK, (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition UK, a global organisation of former police officers and law enforcers), is so determined that this is a policy which has got to be rescinded and taken off the statute books. This is a piece of  legislative intervention whose time has run out and it must be reformed.

Of even more importance, the police must be directed to stop this random stop and search practice, if the aim is merely to find small amounts of drugs for personal use. Police officers have a discretion as to how they exercise their many powers, ( I rarely. if ever engaged in randomly stopping members of the public to find small quantities of marijuana)! There are many more useful things tat the police could be doing with their time, regardless of the Home Office's ridiculous statistics chase!

Michael Shiner, co-author of the report and a senior lecturer in the department of social policy at the London School of Economics said: “It’s shocking that police officers are spending so much time targeting minor drug offences, rather than focusing on more serious matters. This is not the result of a carefully considered strategy, but is the unintended consequence of reforms that have created a perverse incentive structure, rewarding officers for going after easy pickings rather than doing good police work. While it is hard to see any benefits in terms of tackling serious crime or promoting public safety, there are real costs, including unnecessary infringements on people’s liberty, discrimination against minorities and loss of trust and confidence in the police.“

Ms Eastwood goes on to say: “Black people are more likely to get a criminal record than white people, are more likely to be taken to court and are more likely to be fined or imprisoned for drug offences because of the way in which they are policed, rather than because they are more likely to use drugs. Despite calls for police reform of stop and search little has changed in the last 3 decades, this is why the Government needs to take action and change the law.  

Decriminalisation of drug possession offences would end the needless stop and search of hundreds of thousands of innocent people every year and eliminate a significant source of discrimination with all its damaging consequences.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Beware the spooky servants of the secret state!

The Guardian publication of stories based on leaked information from the former NSA apparatchik, and the unlawful arrest and detention of David Miranda by officials at Heathrow Airport is beginning to become a huge cause cel├Ębre, and as is so often the case in these examples, the involvement of ministers and their shadowy servants begins to become clearer!

It now becomes clear that this grubby exercise in the abuse of power goes right up to the Prime Minister, and involves the Deputy Prime Minister and the Home Secretary!

The Guardian has been publishing articles which no doubt have the potential to be very embarrassing to ministers and officials, but as far as is yet known, the Guardian hasn't published anything that comes remotely close to containing information which might be of value to terrorists.

Nevertheless, there is clearly something very, very fishy going on here, because the number of people involved in seeking to put pressure on the Guardian, (and the arrest and harassment of David Miranda must now be seen clearly in that light) is growing in stature and sensitivity by the day!

What started off with a ".. What us.?" kind of response from the Home Office, and an insouciant early fob-off "...These are matters for the Police..." has now become a matter where it is clear that this is a case which comes directly out of M.I.6 Central, and where the police have just been used as convenient dummies to carry out the executive orders of the Secret State.

As more facts become known, the more this whole case smells more and more of political bullying designed to bring pressure on a responsible and respected newspaper, and designed to protect the reputations of Officials and to try and show their US counterparts that they know how to play hardball.

Theresa May would have garnered more credibility and credence if when asked, she had come straight out and told the truth, instead of indulging in weasel words and seeking to assert that this was just a minor administrative exercise carried out by the police and not involving ministers.

As it turns out, senior politicos and civil servants have been engaged in this up to their necks from the start, and that just adds to its 'spooky' quality.

Senior Whitehall sources confirmed to The Independent Newspaper the Prime Minister’s central role in trying to limit revelations about UK and US intelligence operations contained in information the whistleblower received from the National Security Agency.

David Cameron instructed the Cabinet Secretary to contact The Guardian to spell out the serious consequences that could follow if it failed to hand over classified material from the NSA whistleblower and US fugitive.

Nick Clegg backed the decision to send top civil servant Sir Jeremy Heywood to urge The Guardian to destroy classified data received from Edward Snowden because it was “preferable” to taking legal action.

This is all bollocks, actually. If the Guardian had information that was somehow obtained in a compromising way, why did the secret state just not simply exercise a search warrant or issue a production order or an injunction?

I can understand that the Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger didn't want to get into expensive litigation at this stage, he doesn't have to because the information concerned will be happily resting in secure servers in other parts of the world where British spooks can't get their grubby hands on it, so he doesn't need to protect it in his office. The spooks know this as well, so all this smashing up hard drives was a theatrical exercise in state bullying, just saving the face of the GCHQ toadies.

Mr Clegg agreed to the move on the understanding that destruction of the material would not impinge on the The Guardian's ability to publish articles. The Deputy Prime Minister was "keen to protect" the newspaper's freedom to publish while safeguarding national security, his spokesman said.

What utter cobblers, Clegg knows damn well that this was just an exercise in state arm twisting, like the school bully trying to look big in the playground.

What makes it even more grubby is that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, confirmed she had been briefed in advance of the detention, she won't say how far in advance she was briefed, but insisted it was the police who had made the decision to stop and question Mr Miranda on his way through Heathrow from Berlin.

Now this is where it begins to become a bit legally technical.

If Ms May was briefed in advance of the detention, it means that the decision to pull Miranda on his way through LHR had already been made. The request would have come from spook control through the Met Police liaison unit to officers on the ground. They would have been briefed as to their target and possibly told why the spooks wanted him stopped.

They, the police, would almost certainly, not have had any information or reason to stop Miranda, they do not get involved on a day-to-day basis on such issues, nor would they have had any reason to need to know about Miranda and his journey, until they were told to detain him.

So the trail gets even murkier. The police now knew that someone, somewhere, wanted to have a long chat to Miranda, so they now had a 'reasonable cause to suspect him' . It doesn't matter what they might have suspected him or what for, but he was now an object of suspicion. When police engage with such people, certain civil liberties immediately come into play when they are arrested, like the right to remain silent, the right to a solicitor, etc. All this talk about Miranda not being arrested is all so much tosh and weasel words. As soon as his forward momentum was prevented and hands were laid on him or his ability to do what he wanted was removed from him, he was under arrest, pure and simple, and his rights as an arrested man came into operation.

Thankfully, it isn't just me making this assertion. The former lord chancellor Lord Falconer of Thoroton said today that the Metropolitan police had no legal basis to detain David Miranda under the Terrorism Act of 2000. This has led to the usual and typical piece of ground shifting and denials from Theresa May, although she is no lawyer.

Amid a warning from Falconer that the authorities had "incompetently" used the wrong law to detain Miranda, Ms May said that the police had acted within the correct "framework", whatever the hell that means!

But  Ms May, seeking to hide behind the police coat tails, used highly cautious language and only endorsed the police action after being asked three times by Martha Kearney on Radio 4's The World at One about Falconer's claim that the Terrorism Act of 2000 provided no legal basis to detain Miranda.

In a Guardian interview today, Lord Falconer said the act makes clear that police can only detain someone under schedule 7 to the act to assess whether they are involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism.

He told the Guardian: "I am very clear that this does not apply, either on its terms or in its spirit, to Mr Miranda."

The former lord chancellor later told The World at One that the authorities should have used an injunction – rather than anti-terror laws – if it believed that Miranda was carrying documents that contained information that could help terrorists if it fell into the wrong hands.

Falconer said: "If the government are so concerned about this – and I can understand that they might be – use the powers competently and in accordance with the law. Don't use the wrong powers and don't use them incompetently."

Ms May initially declined to respond to Falconer's criticism. Asked by Kearney about his claim that the act provided no basis to detain Miranda, the home secretary criticised the Today programme presenter Evan Davis for suggesting earlier that the authorities were taking action to avoid embarrassment to the government. Like all politicos, she seeks to lay the blame elsewhere!

Asked for a second time about Falconer's claim, May said that the Met had decided they were acting legally. When she was asked for a third time about Falconer's claim, May finally endorsed the police action.

The home secretary said: "It is absolutely right it is the duty of government to protect the public. It is absolutely right if the police believe that somebody has in their possession highly sensitive stolen information that could help terrorists, that could lead to a loss of lives – it is right that the police should act. I believe that schedule 7 of this act enables the police to do that. It gives them the framework for that."

Here May betrays her lack of competent legal knowledge, because as Lord Falconer has said, the police do not have the powers to  act under section 7 under the circumstances outlined by the Home Secretary! They may have powers to act under other legislation, but then that has consequences because it protects the rights of suspects.

May also became the first member of the cabinet to respond to the disclosure that the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, demanded that the Guardian destroy hard drives containing leaked NSA documents or risk legal action.

"Are you saying if [the] government believes there is information that is a potential danger to national security, that could be helpful to terrorists, that is being held potentially insecurely, that could fall into the wrong hands that government should not act on that? I take a different view."
Well, if that's the case Ms May, in future do what Lord Falconer recommends and use the proper powers and act responsibly and stop trying to use these draconian powers to bully the newspaper.

Everything that now follows in this case becomes subject now to judicial enquiry and review. Included in such an enquiry must be searching questions as to the truth of the answers provided by the officials who were holding Mr Miranda. It is highly unlikely that they were all police officers. There may have been a Special Branch officer present just to pay lip service to the protocol that this was a police operation, but my guess is that most of the questioning came from the spooks.

A lawyer for Mr MIranda was sent to Heathrow.It is reported by Bindmans, the solicitors for Mr Miranda that; “He was persistently blocked by officials for a long period from gaining access to the room where the questioning was taking place. The detention lasted nine hours, the legal limit of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. He  finally gained access only during the last hour.”

The lawyer reported that Mr Miranda’s request for a pen or pencil to write down details of the questions he was asked was repeatedly refused. He says he was also unclear about just who was questioning him.

The Home Office claim the questioning was “a Met-led operation” and involved six people. 

Scotland Yard stated it could not comment on who may or may not have been involved.

Security sources contacted by The Independent admit MI6 officials could have been involved. Bindmans said this account did not surprise them. “It was unclear throughout just who exactly was doing the questioning,”

Government sources deny the Prime Minister was involved in “intimidation” of a Fleet Street editor. One source said “There was no injunction, no arrests. We just wanted to get these documents [in Snowden’s possession] back.”

So there we have it, I think this story have even more legs than we have yet realised and that it will develop like a mature cheese (it will get smellier and smellier) as the days pass. We must watch with interest the process of Bindmans' application for Judicial Review.

What this story proves yet again however, is that we all do well to be on our guard to be absolutely sure we know exactly what information about us government, whether here or in the US is garnering about us and our individual lives. We need to be vigilant because as we have seen, when it suits them, the spooks will always bend the law to its limits to get their own way.