Category Archives: A view from

A view from…an undercover cop – Part II

Honey traps

The most famous case of an Undercover Officer acting as an agent provocateur was the case of Colin Stagg and “Lizzie James”. On 15th July 1992, 23 year old Rachel Nickell was walking on Wimbledon Common with her then two year old son. Rachel was attacked in front of her son. She had her throat cut, was repeatedly stabbed and sexually assaulted. The attack caused a public outcry which placed a great deal of pressure on the Metropolitan Police to find the culprit as quickly as possible.

The investigation quickly centred on Colin Stagg, an unemployed man from Roehampton who was known to walk his dog on Wimbledon Common. There was no forensic evidence at the scene linking Stagg to the killing so the Police had a Criminal Psychologist draw up a profile of the suspect. On receiving the profile, the senior Officers involved in the case decided that the profile fitted Colin Stagg and with the assistance of the Criminal Psychologist they set up Operation Ezdell in an attempt to have Stagg either eliminate himself or admit the crime.

A female Undercover Officer Using the name “Lizzie James” made contact with Stagg. Over a 5 month period, “Lizzie James” feigned a romantic interest in Stagg and communicated with him in person, in writing and over the phone. Much of this contact carried from “Lizzie” contained violent sexual fantasies in an attempt to encourage Stagg to confess to the crime. Stagg professed some violent sexual fantasies of his own which he later claimed to have made up in an attempt to keep “Lizzie” interested.

The Police would later release a taped conversation between “Lizzie” and Stagg in which “Lizzie” claimed to enjoy hurting people, to which Stagg mumbled: “Please explain, as I live a quiet life. If I have disappointed you, please don’t dump me. Nothing like this has happened to me before.” When “Lizzie” went on to say “If only you had done the Wimbledon Common murder, if only you had killed her, it would be all right,” Stagg replied: “I’m terribly sorry, but I haven’t.” Despite this, Stagg was charged with the murder of Rachel Nickell.

When the case reached the point of trial at the Old Bailey, the trial Judge Justice Ognall ruled that the police had shown “excessive zeal” and had tried to incriminate a suspect by “deceptive conduct of the grossest kind”. He excluded the entrapment evidence and the prosecution withdrew its case. Stagg was formally acquitted in September 1994. This type of operation which was widely condemned in the press was described as being a “honey trap”. On 18th December 2008, Robert Napper pleaded guilty to Nickell’s manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after a cold case review revealed new DNA evidence.

Although a “honey trap” operation was never declared illegal in an English Court, following on from this and other similar cases, it was decided by the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that “honey trap” operations would no longer be used. It was believed that the Colin Stagg case showed that in such an operation, the suspect could and would say whatever he or she felt was right under the circumstances to continue the relationship rather than tell the truth.

Can an undercover officer commit a crime?

Undercover Officers, are legally allowed to carry out criminal activities such as purchasing drugs however they are not supposed to take part in criminal enterprises whenever possible. This was not always straight forward. On one occasion an undercover Officer was waiting with a group of others all waiting to be dealt heroin from a dealer. The dealer did not want to spend his time dealing to a number of people and decided that he would deal to one person who could then deal to the rest of the group. The dealer unwittingly picked the undercover Officer who was forced to deal to the rest of the group. This was permissible as the Officer was acting in character and was not setting himself up as a dealer.

Finally, Undercover Officers have to be careful about how they speak to criminals they come across. Normally when the Police speak to or interview a suspect they are bound by the codes of practice laid out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 (PACE). PACE states that when a suspect is interviewed he or she should be cautioned and read his rights. Obviously Undercover Officers cannot do this so they have to work around that. They are not to lead conversations that would result in someone revealing information, however if the criminal reveals the information of their own free will that is fine.

Covert Ops

For the select few who manage to pass the initial training course and become qualified as undercover Officers there are regular continuation courses covering developments in role the and changes in legislation. Finally, there are specialist courses for certain roles to allow Officers to work on operations which would otherwise be out of the question. Undercover Officers have been known to train as art experts, vehicle mechanics, computer programmers amongst numerous other skills.

In between working undercover, Officers work in their usual Police role be that being a neighbourhood Officer, a Traffic Officer or any of the countless other roles that Officers carry out until they receive the phone call.

The planning of an undercover operation can take many months or even years depending on the operation. Once the need for an undercover operation arises, a Command Team is formed in co-operation with “Covert Ops” who oversee everything to do with undercover operations. The role of the Command Team is to oversee their operation and they are responsible for the planning of, the budget of and the non-undercover staffing of the operation.

The Command Team will be made up of a senior Officer who is in charge of the whole operation. There will also be Officers trained in and working in intelligence units to ensure that the all information is up to date. The final members of the Command Team are the Exhibits Officer who deals with every single piece of evidence and one or two “runners” who carry out all of the leg work such as transporting Officer and exhibits.

Once the Command Team have everything in place for the operation, they will go back to Covert Ops and after proving that they have everything in place, they will ask for undercover Officers and a Welfare Officer to be assigned. Occasionally, members of the Command Team will request specific undercover and Welfare Officers as they have previously worked with them however this is only ever a request and the final decision is out of their hands.

Within Covert Ops there is one dedicated Officer who has the sole responsibility of overseeing all undercover Officers. This Officer will know the details of each and every undercover Officer in their Force. They will know each Officer’s strengths and weaknesses including any individual Officer’s specialisms. This Officer also knows each Welfare Officer personally.

The role of the Welfare Officer is a vastly underrated one. The sole purpose of the Welfare Officer is to look after the undercover Officers no matter what happens. During any operation, the say of the Welfare Officer is final. No one in the world can overrule the decision of the Welfare Officer. If he or she believes that what is being asked of the undercover Officer is unsafe, not suitable or even just has a bad feeling, that is it. Nothing can happen on an operation without the go ahead from the Welfare Officer.

The Officer overseeing undercover Officers will meet with the chosen Welfare Officer to discuss the operation and prospective Officers. It is very common for operations to include Officers from other forces throughout the country to lessen the chance of the undercover Officer being recognised or his or her identity being discovered. As there is only one Officer in each Force responsible for undercover Officers, it is a small group who know each other well and a quick phone call will arrange the “loan” of an undercover Officer or two.

By Officer Z

See the final part soon.

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A view from…an undercover cop – Part I

Popular misconceptions

ACPO’s (Association of Chief Police Officers) head of crime, Merseyside Chief Constable Jon Murphy, has said that undercover Officers play a critical role gathering evidence and intelligence to protect communities from harm. He also described undercover work as being one of the most challenging areas of operational policing. The question is what is it like to be an undercover Officer?

When it comes to undercover work there are a lot of misconceptions and confusion, much of which is the result of films and TV shows.

First and foremost is the belief that any Police Officer wearing plain clothes and who is not wearing a suit is working undercover. Police Officers working in specialist investigatory roles tend to wear more casual clothes such as jeans and t-shirts. There are a variety of reasons for this. One of the main ones is that they may be called to carry out surveillance or observations on a person or property at short notice and it is not practical for them to repeatedly change in and out of uniform.

Officers working undercover wear clothes to suit the role they are portraying. An Officer posing as a heroin user would stand out a mile if they were wearing a suit. Similarly, an Officer attempting to buy ten stolen iPads would not get very far dressed in a dirty old tracksuit that had not seen the inside of a washing machine for some time.

The next popular misconception is that any Officer can work undercover at the drop of a hat and work right next door to the Police Station where they are based. The first stage in becoming an undercover Officer is the assessment. The assessment comprises a number of interviews and role playing exercises to see how the Officer reacts to various circumstances. Everyone who is successful at the assessment progresses onto the initial training course.

The training course

For obvious reasons, the details of undercover courses are shrouded in secrecy. They are run by serving and ex-undercover Officers to an agreed national standard and are widely acknowledged as being the most difficult course any Police Officer can undergo.

The candidates on the course are put through a series of increasingly challenging situations. To ensure accuracy, the basis of each situation is a repetition of one that has happened in real life. Although this has the benefit of allowing the assessors to see how the candidates handle real life situations, the Officers running the course allow each situation to unfold naturally and react to the candidate’s actions.

Unfortunately for the candidates, the courses are run under “big boy’s rules” which means that there are no “safe words” to stop the exercise and on occasions, candidates have been known to suffer injuries after being assaulted or injured during the exercise. The people running the course act just like a criminal would in real life and if that includes resorting to physical violence then so be it. If the candidate cannot handle it in a training situation they will not be able to handle it in the real world.

In amongst the practical exercises, there are lengthy lessons on the legal aspects of being an undercover Officer. Although they work undercover, the Officers are still subject to the exact same laws as when they are working in uniform although undercover Officers have additional laws to work with such as acting as an agent provocateur which is something that regular officers do not have to even think about.

Most of the law in England and Wales falls into one of two categories: Statute law and common law. Statute law is law which has been compiled and passed by Parliament and is laid out for Judges to rule on. Common law has been handed down from the dawn of time and can come to exist through convention or judicial precedent. Examples of convention are the offences of murder and breach of the peace. The work of undercover officers is often affected by judicial precedent. This can often define what a word means and can only be over-ruled by a higher court. The main concern for undercover Officers are the rules covering entrapment and acting as an agent provocateur.

In short, they can act as criminals but cannot encourage the people are interacting with to carry out tasks they would not normally carry out themselves. The easiest way to explain it is to use an example of an undercover Officer trying to buy drugs.

The Officer cannot ask someone who supplies cannabis to supply heroin as this was not a drug they normally supply. To further confuse matters, the Officer has to ensure that they use the correct wording. Asking someone if they “have any heroin” is fine but asking if they “can get any” would mean that the Officer would be acting as an agent provocateur and encouraging the dealer to commit the offence of obtaining heroin to supply it to the Officer.

By Officer Z

See Part II here

A view from…an officer interviewing a suspect – Part II

Polygraph-simpson

My approach to / views on suspect interviewing:

 After you join the police, it slowly but surely dawns on you that people will and do get away with crimes that they have committed, all the time, despite your best efforts.

It can be frustrating when this happens, but it’s part of living in a country where suspects don’t have to prove their innocence, and where the defendant gets the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, I’d be entitled to that doubt too if I was ever charged with a crime.

Our criminal justice system is essentially a game, where only what can be proved matters, and what really happened doesn’t matter at all. It’s a game with very real victims and very real consequences for those on the receiving end of criminal activity states a source at http://hurwitzlawgroup.com. I accept too that there can be very real consequences for those convicted of committing crimes, although only rarely do I feel any sympathy for those convicted.

I would say, although there’s no way of proving it, that we the police arrest the right people the vast majority of the time. I would say that less than 10-15% of those who find themselves getting arrested on suspicion of committing a crime are genuinely innocent – by that I don’t mean innocent in the eyes of the law, I mean that they really didn’t do it.

As I mentioned above, when dealing with serious and complex offences admissions by suspects in interview are very rare. So, with the odds stacked against us as they are with our system, how can we use the suspect interview to maximise the chance of getting good results for victims of crime, while playing the game within the rules?

The first thing to realise is that guilty suspects, if they’re going to speak to us, lie. They lie all the time and they lie about everything. As such, if a suspect gives an account, it’s important to get as much information from them as possible and pin them down to their account. Then, if we can later show that they were lying about one aspect of their account it can throw doubt on the rest of it too.

If a suspect in interview disagrees with something that a witness has said, I like to ask the suspect if the witness is lying. They will often say yes, which can open up the suspect’s bad character at court further down the line (gateway ‘g’ of the bad character provisions).

Similarly, I like to ask a repeat offenders “is this the type of thing you would do?”, which is a difficult question for them to answer. If they say no, then their bad character could again go in at court further down the line (gateway ‘f’ of the bad character provisions). If they say yes, then it can make their account seem less plausible.

‘Bad character’ basically means information about the suspect which suggests that they may have behaved in badly in the past, including details of their previous criminal convictions.

Then we have special warnings, which can be given to a suspect when they fail to account for things found at the time of their arrest (like stolen property being in their house), or if they fail to explain why they were somewhere close to the crime scene when they were arrested. If a special warning is given, a judge can later tell a jury to consider why the suspect didn’t give an answer to such questions, which can help to tip the balance of the case in our favour.

Of all the parts that make up a criminal investigation suspect interviewing is, for me, one of the most interesting and enjoyable areas. It’s good to finally sit across from a suspect you’ve spent a long time trying to identify, or to see a suspect squirm when you ‘hit’ them with evidence that they know means that they are going to jail.

It’s even nicer when someone has the guts to admit what they’ve done.

By Officer Y

A view from…an officer interviewing a suspect – Part I

Polygraph-simpson

Most people know that the police interview suspects at the police station, but why do we do it and what actually happens?

This is my take on suspect interviewing, from my perspective as a member of the CID in a Home Office force.

Why we interview suspects:

Suspects are interviewed for two main reasons; to give them a chance to give a version of events about their suspected involvement in an offence, and to put to them the evidence we have so that they have a chance to comment on it.

What is said by a suspect in their interview can alter how an investigation progresses. If a suspect says they have an alibi (ie – they weren’t at the crime scene, they were elsewhere) then this has to be checked. If they say they were at or near a crime scene but they didn’t commit the crime, then depending on what other evidence we have this may be difficult to disprove, and the suspect’s bad character (ie – have they done a similar crime before) is likely to become more relevant.

Suspects occasionally make full and frank admissions, but this happens far less often than people probably think, especially when dealing with serious and complex offences where jail time is likely. Of the many suspects I’ve known who’ve gone on to enter early guilty pleas at court, far more deny the offence or “no comment” in interview than ever admit to us what they’ve done.

What actually happens:

Before an interview I plan and prepare. I’ll read and view the material we have, and write an interview plan. This includes the areas I want to discuss with the suspect and the ‘points to prove’ of the offence under investigation. If I fail to ask the right questions, then the value of the interview if later used in court could be diminished.

Sometimes I may only want to ask the suspect for an account (a ‘non-challenge’ interview) when, for example, the investigation is in its early stages or material is still being gathered. A ‘challenge’ interview is when I plan on putting to the suspect evidence that suggests guilt, to see what they have to say about it.

If the suspect has opted to have legal representation, I will also prepare some form of disclosure for the legal representative. This is information that we give to the legal representative before they meet the suspect that they are representing.

The appeal courts have repeatedly stated that we the police don’t have to disclose anything, but I always try to give sufficient so that the suspect has an appreciation of how they have come to be suspected of involvement. By doing this I hope to suggest to them (and their legal representative) that they have a case to answer, which I hope will encourage them to give an account or answer my questions, rather than going “no comment”. What I never do is spell out exactly what’s linked them, as this would assist them in coming up with an account to fit around the evidence. It’s a balancing act.

If they have a legal representative, the suspect always gets to speak with them privately before we begin the interview (I’ve always wondered what’s said in these conversations!). The suspect in fact has a right to speak to their legal representative in private whenever they like, even mid-interview.

The interview begins. We start the tapes or digital recording equipment (every interview is recorded this way), and then everybody present is asked to introduce themselves. The time, date and location of the interview is stated. We remind the suspect of their legal rights (even if they’re legally represented) and state and explain the caution, usually asking a few questions to check that they understand it.

There are a couple of variations of the caution, but the one used most often is what you’ve probably seen on TV many times before; “You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”.

 The caution is in essence a warning to the suspect, given to them by law, which means the following:

 – They don’t have to answer our questions, speak to us, or even speak at all,

but,

– It may do them more harm than good at court if they don’t mention in the interview something they bring up at court for the first time,

or,

– It may similarly do them more harm than good at court if their account changes between the interview and the courtroom,

and finally,

– If they do choose to say anything, it could be read out in court from a transcript, or the recording of the interview could be played back.

 This is a very basic explanation of the caution. What can and can’t actually go on to harm their defence at court can be quite technical and varies case by case.

 We then ask the questions we need to ask, and the suspect can say the things that they would like to say. Sometimes, in what I think is often a tactical move encouraged by legal representatives, a suspect will give a ‘prepared statement’. This is usually spoken by them or their legal representative at the start of the interview, and they will give their account before going on to reply “no comment” to all further questions. This way, they can get across their version of events without having to answer questions which they may not be fully prepared for.

 At the end of the interview the time is again stated, the recording is stopped, and if tapes are used one is sealed as a master copy using a seal signed by everybody present. The suspect is also given a notice about their rights of access to a copy of the recording, should they be charged or otherwise told that they will be prosecuted.

By Officer Y

See Part II soon.

A copper’s view of a typical Friday night – Part IV

(c) Flickr / Lee J Haywood

(c) Flickr / Lee J Haywood

If the door staff find someone in possession of drugs as they enter a pub or club, they will detain that person until Police arrive.  In these cases it is necessary to obtain a statement from the door staff.  To speed this process up, we carry pro-forma statements which is just a case of “fill in the blanks”.  This is required to ensure that there is a chain of custody for the suspected drugs.  A more detailed statement can be compiled later on should this be required.

Whilst I prepare the file, the radio does not stop.  There are at least three domestic disputes, two people have turned up in hospital with nasty wounds claiming they have been assaulted and an Officer saw what he believed to be an attempted car thief who made off on seeing the Police car.  Despite 3 patrol cars and a passing dog unit looking for him, the suspected thief disappeared without a trace.  Maybe he was innocent I will never know, all I do know is that there were no thefts from cars that night.

When doing paperwork such as this, I only leave the Station if I have to.  My aim is to get it done as quickly as possible and then get back out on the streets but tonight was different.  I was half way through the file when I heard the words no Police Officer wants to hear on the radio: “Assistance”.

When using the radio you might ask for backup, help, additional officers but you never use the word “assistance”.  That word means that you are deep in the brown stuff and need help from any and everybody there and then.  No matter what you are doing, when you hear that word you jump into the nearest available transport (sometimes 4 or 5 in a single car) and get to where you are needed as quick as is humanly possible.

Tonight, one of the domestic disputes turned very nasty when a bodybuilder who had been drinking and taking copious amounts of cocaine decided that he did not want Police Officers in his house.  He began to smash up the house and attack the officers.  Eventually it took five of us, CS gas and batons to restrain him.  He barely had a scratch on him but two Officers ended up in hospital, one with cuts and bruises, the other with a suspected broken nose.

Just as I finish the file around 5:45 I receive a call from the Custody Sergeant telling me that my prisoner was ready to be charged.  I type the “charge wording” into the computer and head down to the custody suite as the Detention Officer is bringing my prisoner from his cell.

As the prisoner is now sober, the Custody Sergeant reads him his rights again and again asks if he would like a solicitor.  This time he says that he doesn’t.  Believe it or not but no one really wants to hear this right now.  If he had said yes, a phone call would have been made to the solicitor of his choice and he would have received advice over the phone which would have been to make no comment to charge and that the solicitor would see him in Court.

As he had now changed his mind about wanting a solicitor, the Custody Sergeant would need to record the reasons for this change of mind on the Custody Record.  The prisoner then needs to sign this and then the Duty Inspector needs to speak to the prisoner to confirm again that he had changed his mind himself and that he had not been coerced into this change.  This would also be recorded on the Custody Record.  This delays things by about 25 minutes as the Duty Inspector has to return to the station from wherever she was at the time.

After all of this was done I cautioned him and charged him with acting in a disorderly manner whilst he was drunk in a public place.  He made no comment to being charged and then it is time to take his fingerprints, photographs and a DNA sample.

On a quiet night, the Detention Officers would do this for me but with at least 10 people waiting in the cells to be charged, it was down to me.  Fingerprints are now taken electronically using a form of scanner.  Whilst it is cleaner than using ink and paper, it takes a long time as each print is analysed by the computer to ensure that it is of a high enough standard.  The computer is very fussy.

After the fingerprints are taken, it is time to take photographs of the now charged person.  A minimum of 3 photos are required: one face on, one looking to the right and one looking to the left.  If the person has any obvious, visible scars, marks or tattoos, photographs need to be taken of these as well.  Even though he had had his photographs last taken about a month ago, a new set was required just in case he had changed his appearance or hairstyle (he hadn’t).

Finally, it is time to take a DNA sample.  Luckily for me, his DNA had already been entered onto the system.  Otherwise I would have to take a swab from the inside of each cheek, seal the samples and after completing his details on the sample bag I would place them in the freezer ready to be taken to the lab.

It is now 6:25am which gives me just enough time to grab a quick cup of tea and drive to the nearest garage to fill my car up ready for the day shift before I hand my keys over and head home.

My shift was officially 9 hours (10pm – 7am).  I really started work at 9:40pm and left just after 7.  For some reason unknown to anyone, the day shift starts at 7 so there is no crossover period.  Out of that nearly 9½ hours I worked I was on the streets for less than 3 hours.  The rest of the time I was dealing with one simple drunk and disorderly case.

A copper’s view of a typical Friday night – Part III

(c) Flickr / Lee J Haywood

(c) Flickr / Lee J Haywood

It’s now 11:45pm and I have a decision to make.  Before my shift finishes at 7am tomorrow morning I have to complete all of the paperwork for the prosecution of my prisoner and get a copy of the CCTV from the camera control room.  He won’t be ready to charge until about 5:30 or 6 which means I have plenty of time to complete it but it is a Friday night and I can’t spend my whole night dealing with something as minor as a drunk and disorderly case so I am going to have to manage my time well as I would need exceptional circumstances to claim overtime for dealing with this.

We grab a quick cup of tea and head back into the town centre.  The pubs have just kicked out and along with the rest of my shift we try to keep an eye on the taxi queues, nightclub queues and everyone else just milling around trying to decide what to do.  We are lucky in that the town centre is covered by CCTV with operators who are really on the ball.  They call us in on any trouble brewing and usually just the sight of the uniform is enough to settle things down.

In some larger towns, the Council along with the pubs and clubs pay for “Taxi Marshalls” but we are not so lucky.  Taxi Marshalls are usually made up of private security staff (door staff) and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and Police Officers who are working overtime.  These Marshalls keep an eye on taxi queues and the surrounding area in an attempt to prevent fights from occurring.

For a Friday night, things are relatively quiet, there are a couple of arrests for possession of drugs and drunk and disorderly but not as many as usual for a Friday night.

Around 1:30am the call comes out for my shift to “take the cars over”.  As we don’t want to suddenly leave the Town Centre bereft of Officers, this is an act carried out with almost military precision.  The back shift Officers will drive into the town centre and hand over the cars to us while they gather in a van which will take them back to the Station.  For my shift it is a chance to finally warm up after hours patrolling and for the back shift it is a chance to get back and catch up on their paperwork.  It is important that this is done well before 2am when the next wave of revellers will strike.

Fortunately for me, there are no nightclubs with late licenses in the town so the last one closes at 2 and by 2:30 everyone has gone home.  After a quick bite to eat it is nearly 3am and time to start preparing the paperwork for my arrest.

As the only offence was being drunk and disorderly there is no need to interview the prisoner which is one less thing to worry about however, a “file of evidence” has to be completed before I leave and that will still take 1-2 hours at least as long as there are no interruptions.

I will have to complete a number of forms all starting with the letters “MG”.  As this is an “expedited” file for a straightforward offence, I can skip a few of these for now and only worry about them if he pleads not guilty when he appears at Court.

First of all there is the MG3 which is a report to the prosecutor.  Some of this is automatically completed when the person is charged however there are still parts for me to complete.  Already printed in this report are the person’s name, and date of birth, the case unique reference number and the date of the person’s first Court appearance if they have not been remanded in custody.  I add to this details of which forms I have included in the file along with any “points of note” I have for the prosecutor.  In this case I will advise that I have obtained CCTV evidence of the offence which my colleague kindly picked up when I was preparing the file.

The MG4 is the charge sheet which is automatically generated when the person is charged.  Before being charged, the prisoner is cautioned again and after being charged they are asked if they have anything to say.  Usually, there will be no reply to charge as this can be used as evidence against them however there is always one who thinks it is funny to reply “stop hitting me, I’ll admit anything you say” knowing that this will be recorded and read out in Court.  Fortunately, the Courts are wise to this and in the case of a jury trial, Judges have been known to advise the jury to disregard such a comment or refuse to allow this to be read out at all unless there is a genuine belief that the accused has been assaulted.

Next up is the MG5 which is a summary of the case.  As all details of the case are included in the statements of me and my colleague I can skip this.  If I had interviewed him or the case was more complicated details would be added here.

Then comes the dreaded MG6s.  There are 5 different MG6 forms in total appended with the letters A-E.  Each form contains confidential information including Officer’s disciplinary records, lists of sensitive material and details of anything that might assist the defence or undermine the prosecution.  As this should be a straight forward case I only need to complete the MG6A stating that there is no confidential material to disclose at this stage of the case.

As there is no need to request that the prisoner be remanded in custody I do not need to complete the MG7 “Remand Request Form”.

I add the statements (MG11s) completed by myself and my colleague and then add a printout of the prisoner’s previous convictions.  Fortunately I am one of the two people on my shift who can actually print this out.  Although everyone on the shift can view previous convictions, cost issues mean that only a select few on the shift can actually print them out.

Having to print out previous convictions for all of the other 14 people in the cells awaiting charge takes me nearly 45 minutes but it is something my colleagues rely on me for so there is nothing I can do about it.  The only other person who can do this is currently in interview so I also print out the previous convictions of her prisoner too while I am at it.

The final form I complete is the MG20 Further Information Report.  On this report I advise the prosecutor that in addition to the town centre CCTV, CCTV will be available at the club for a further 28 days should it be required and that my colleague has the details of the door staff involved should statements be required from them too.

These statements are not taken as routine for a simple drunk and disorderly case due to the sheer quantity and time it would take.  An average Friday or Saturday night will see somewhere between 15 and 30 arrests for drunkenness offences so as well as employing a “statement taking” team to deal with this, it would mean that there would be no staff left to cover the doors.  Besides, as most of the people involved in these cases plead guilty at Court there is no need for additional statements.

By Officer X

See Part IV soon.

A copper’s view of a typical Friday night – Part II

(c) Flickr / Lee J Haywood

(c) Flickr / Lee J Haywood

The man doesn’t walk 30 yards before he starts banging on the shutters of a closed bakery.  Although he is not banging hard enough to cause any kind of damage he is shouting extremely loudly that he wants a steak bake and once again, every other word is a profanity.

I know that I can’t let this continue and with a very heavy heart I head towards him knowing that I have no choice but arrest him.  He’s had enough chances and I can’t let him carry on like this.

As I approach him he starts to run or should that be stagger.  He repeatedly turns round and gives me various hand signals accompanied by more abuse until we catch up with him.  As I grab him he makes a half hearted effort to fight me off but in his intoxicated state all he manages to do is fall on the floor in a heap.  As I put him in handcuffs I caution him and tell him that he is under arrest for being drunk and disorderly.  In the state that he is in, I could not count his feeble attempts as “resisting arrest” which is a separate offence entirely.

The next job is to use my radio to call for someone to transport us (me, my colleague and the arrested male) to the Police Station.  Even though the station is only a few minutes walk away it is illegal for me to walk the prisoner there through the streets.

After receiving a lift to the Custody Suite, the booking in process begins.  The first thing I need to do is make a note of the time we arrive at the Police Station as this time plays part of what is known as the “custody clock” which relates to the amount of time someone can spend in custody along with determining when reviews of detention must be carried out.

As it is a Friday night and there are a number of people waiting to be booked in by the Custody Sergeant I have to remain with my prisoner for about 30 minutes.

During this delay I take all items of property from him along with his belt to prevent him from harming himself.  All of these items are recorded and placed into a bag which is sealed with a cable tie which has a unique number on it.  I don’t need to confiscate his shoe laces as his shoes are left outside of his cell.

I ask the prisoner if he would like to sign to confirm that I have placed all of his items in the bag however he tells me in no uncertain terms what I can do with my sheet and the bag.  My colleague countersigns my signature to confirm that I have placed all of the prisoner’s property into the bag and that he refused to sign when asked.

Eventually it is my turn to present the prisoner to the Custody Sergeant.  I outline brief details of the offence to the Custody Sergeant and the prisoner provides his name, address and date of birth (he actually is 23).  Often someone who is drunk or under the influence of drugs refuses to give their details until they have sobered up and until their details are ascertained they are entered into the system as “Uknown Unknwon”.

After answering a series of questions about his health, if he wants anyone informed of his detention and asking if he wants a solicitor (he does) his detention is authorised until he is sober enough to be dealt with.

Once the prisoner has been taken to his cell by a Detention Officer, the Custody Sergeant gives me the bad news.  My prisoner has a long record with a number of convictions including two in the last 6 months for being drunk and disorderly meaning that he is not eligible for a caution or Penalty Notice for Disorder and as such he will need to be charged to attend Court at some point in the future.  I am going to have a lot of paperwork to do before I get back out on the streets properly.

After arresting someone it is best practice to write up my statement as quickly as possible to prevent any accusations of tampering with or creating evidence.  At one time, the practice would have been to write the events up in my pocket note book and then write a statement based on that.  Common sense eventually prevailed and it was decided that writing a statement alone was good enough.

With my colleague we find a space and write up our statements.  Although it was a minor offence, the statements take up nearly 3 pages each.  If we miss anything out of the statements now, we can’t add to them at a later date without serious questions being asked so we have to be as thorough as possible.  You can imagine how long the statement would have been had he actually resisted arrest.

By Officer X

See Part III here.