Tag Archives: police

Steven Peers not to be prosecuted for impersonating a police officer (by wearing a toy helmet and pig mask)

DTR_MEN_230514PEERS_01

 

We covered the case of the man, now named as 46 year old Steven Peers, arrested for wearing a toy police officers helmet and pig mask last week. Well, common sense has prevailed and Mr Peers will not be prosecuted for any offences relating to his action.

There are now more details of Mr Peers motivation. Apparently, his purpose is to perform ‘comical parodies’ of the Greater Manchester Police. Whilst wearing his faux police outfit he calls himself ‘Officer 666’ which he does to highlight ‘violence, corruption and bad behaviour’ carried out be Manchester police.

The Police haven’t stated why they won’t be prosecuting Mr Peers – whether it was felt that there was not sufficient evidence to get a conviction or there was no public interest in prosecuting Mr Peers. We would hazard a guess that it was both. At least after this was publicised and they looked ridiculous in the press …

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Man wearing pig mask and toy police officer’s helmet arrested for impersonating an officer

 

 

From the MEN

From the MEN

Well, where to begin with this one?

A dis-grunt-led Steven Peers was arrested on suspicion of impersonating a police officer. He was in Manchester City Centre wearing a toy police officer’s hat, a pig mask and a hi-vis jacket.

Why?

The MEN reports:

Steven Peers said he has often donned the mock outfit to perform ‘comical parodies’ of Greater Manchester Police after becoming unhappy with how officers behaved during the Barton Moss anti-fracking protests.

He was reportedly filming sketches when he was stopped by an officer who asked questions about his outfit. He was arrested (without resistance so no need for a hambulance) detained for 8 hours and then bailed. The outfit was confiscated.

Peers huffed and puffed and said: ‘It’s ridiculous’…’ It’s just a parody making fun of GMP. I’ve dressed like this at Barton Moss, in front of Swinton police station and in front of the force HQ in Newton Heath. Other officers have laughed it off.’

What’s the offence?

Police Act 1996 s 90 created offences relating to the impersonation of a police officer:

(1)  Any person who with intent to deceive impersonates a member of a police force or special constable, or makes any statement or does any act calculated falsely to suggest that he is such a member or constable, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.

(2)  Any person who, not being a constable, wears any article of police uniform in circumstances where it gives him an appearance so nearly resembling that of a member of a police force as to be calculated to deceive shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

(3)  Any person who, not being a member of a police force or special constable, has in his possession any article of police uniform shall, unless he proves that he obtained possession of that article lawfully and has possession of it for a lawful purpose, be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale.

We shan’t comment on which we think it is most likely he will be charged with – if at all – but all three offences are triable only in the Magistrates’ Court with only subsection (1) having a custodial sentence available.

Comment

We’re rather limited as to what we can say about this for obvious reasons, but we’ll certainly return to this as and when it pops up in the news.

Let’s hope he has a good brief to save his bacon (sorry-couldn’t resist). We would imagine that, given the pig mask, it is unlikely that a member of the public would have mistaken that for a genuine police officer.

Other cases

A quick Google led me to these three idiots:

To get donuts

Directing traffic

At a funeral

 

 

Consultation on the use of Police Bail

Image from the BBC

Image from the BBC

Introduction

We looked last year at the question of whether the police abuse bail when cases drag on for many months and sometimes, (as in the case of Freddy Starr) for years. This is of concern to many people.

Well, topically, the College of Policing is currently running a consultation : “On the use of pre-charge bail“.

 

Summary

They summarise the ’10 Key Principles’ of Bail that has been set out by ACPO, as well as giving a very quick overview of how and why police bail is used ,before inviting feedback.

This is not a question of proposing new legislation that governs the use of police bail (which is something that we would prefer), but the aim is to provide guidance for police forces on the use of bail to ensure that it is “used in an effective and transparent manner“.

Whilst this consultation is not promising the earth, it is feeding into a wider process and is certainly worth responding to. The whole consultation paper is refreshingly short (12 pages in total) and is easy to respond to.

 

Consultation questions

  1. What concerns, if any, do you have about the use of pre-charge bail?
  2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

“There needs to be a more formal structure to manage the use of pre-charge police bail.”

  • Strongly agree
  • Agree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Disagree
  • Strongly disagree
  • Don’t know

If you responded strongly agree or agree, please state how you think the current structure should
be changed.

3. Bail principles provide a managerial framework for the use of bail. What amendments, additions or alternative methods would you wish to see included in the bail principles?

4. What other views do you have on the use of police bail.

The deadline is 19th June 2014, so get your pencils sharpened and get replying. I will be doing a short response and will post it for anyone to steal use as inspiration.

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.

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.