Tag Archives: police officer

Prosecutions by PC Plod

Another day another seemingly radical cost-saving endeavour thought up by the government.

Recent news is that the Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC is advocating a new role for police officers. In short, they’re going to be turned into Magistrates’ Court prosecutors! His suggestion is that police officers should prosecute summary criminal matters. At present, these cases are prosecuted by members of the Crown Prosecution Service or instructed counsel. The idea is designed to free-up the overworked CPS prosecutors from the simple and mundane non-contested matters.

Presumably these police officers will be legally educated, trained and will have undergone the requisite training contract or pupillage to allow them rights of audience in our courts? Erm, no. Presumably they will be independent prosecutors, constantly bearing in mind their overriding duty to the court rather than their colleagues at the police station? Hhhmmm…you can see the potential difficulties there.

At present if independent counsel is briefed to prosecute a “list” of matters in the Magistrates’ Court, they will be authorised to present the case but have no authority to make decisions. If, for example, none of the prosecution witnesses attend court, we, as experienced barristers, cannot take the decision to offer no evidence on our own volition, but have to telephone the CPS to take instructions. Invariably we will speak to an administrative assistant who will have had no prior dealings with the matter. They will ask for our advice, we will advise and they will then instruct us to follow our advice! So what will happen when PC Plod prosecutes? PC Plod having no legal qualifications, no court experience and no appropriate training! Am I the only one thinking this isn’t going to work?!

The Guardian reports on the matter here.

Ex-Police Officer sentenced for making indecent images of children

Exley

Christopher Exley, aged 33, was formerly a member of the Met Police in the diplomatic protection squad.

He pleaded guilty to four counts of making indecent images of a child under the age of 18, in December 2012. He was dismissed from the Met earlier this month and was today sentenced at Southwark Crown Court.

HHJ Leonard QC imposed a community order for a period of 3 years, with a programme requirement that he attend an internet sex offender programme. The order will last for 3 years. Additionally, Exley will be subject to a curfew (8pm – 6am) and a supervision requirement for 18 months.

What does this all mean?

Well, the curfew is presumably the punitive element of the sentence. Exley is required to be at a specified address (his home address most likely) between the hours of 8pm and 6am. A breach of this requirement will result in him being returned to court to face further punishment. The curfew may be electronically monitored; in this case, Exley will wear a tag and a Serco or G4S employee will attend the specified address and install the monitoring equipment which alerts the authorities if Exley breaks his curfew.

Supervision; well this can be seen as a bit of a wet blanket as regards punishment. Exley will be required to attend appointments with his responsible officer. This is to ensure that Exley is progressing satisfactorily through his sentence to enable him to continue with his life post-sentence. The legislation (CJA 2003 s 213(2)) suggests the aim is to promote the offender’s rehabilitation.

But the real rehabilitation will come from the sex offender course that Exley is required to attend. Courts can impose programme requirements which require offenders to attend accredited courses which have been recommended to the court as suitable for the particular offender who is before them.

Why not custody?

Well here we are talking about 53 images, which, whilst highly unpleasant, is at the very low end of the scale. Many offenders who plead to this offence (most do plead) have thousands of images on their computers. I read one recent case where the offender had 75,000+ images.

Further, we are not given any information about the seriousness of the images; by that I mean, there is a scale which the courts use to assess the severeity of the images. Levels 1 through 5 are used to categorise the material found, which helps the judge to assess how serious the case is. Level 1 is the least serious and level 5 is the most serious.

Additional factors listed by the judge were that 49 of the images had been deleted. This may suggest that Exley was trying to cover his tracks, it may also suggest that after he had a taste of the material, he decided that he had overstepped the mark. However, without further information, this is purely speculation.

Sentencing remarks

We know that Exley was of previous good character and that the Judge stated that he would get no special treatment because he was formerly a police officer.

The BBC reported that the Judge said:

“Most of the images that were downloaded were only in the form of thumbnails and you did not go further to download the full pictures,”

“They were downloaded or accessed at four separate accounts only, I took that into account.”

Guidelines

The guidelines (presuming this was a Protection of Children Act 1978 s 1/Criminal Justice Act 1988 s 160 case) suggest a starting point of a community order for the possession of a large amount of level 1 material and a small amount of level 2 material. Of course it is possible the material was higher up the scale but that the mitigation (plea etc.) reduced the starting point.

On balance, and with the usual caveat that we don’t have any real specifics, a community order may be about right considering the number of images, the plea and the other mitigation. Exley may feel fortunate that he has escaped custody as former police officers often receive a difficult time in prison. Sex offenders also receive a difficult time in prison. Adding the two together, a non-custodial sentence would seem like the only thing that Exley would have been hoping for.