Monday, March 17, 2008

Can I Complain Please?

I attended at my local Police Station today to assist a Client who was attending at the Police Station on bail to be reinterviewed. As I was waiting for the Officer to collect my Client and myself I stood listening to a conversation that a member of the public was having with one of the Station's civilian station office staff.

The member of the public wanted to report a number of crimes. He said words to the effect of, "A person I work with has been defrauding a large number of companies out of thousands of pounds by using a false identity." The station officer replied, "Are you the victim?" The member of the public then explained that he felt it was his civic duty to report the matter to the Police, but no, he was not the victim.

The conversation then consisted of a five minute dialogue where the member of the public was told that because he was not the victim of the fraud he was not entitled to make a complaint, and that he should tell the victims of the fraud what was going on so that they could then decide whether or not to prosecute the matter. It was quite clear that the member of the public was unhappy with the advice as he repeatedly explained that he was a witness to several of the frauds and only wanted to help.

The member of the public was finally turned away, he walked past muttering, "Why do I bother to pay my council tax?" I did speak to the member of the public, as I knew him, and told him that if he did want to make the complaint he would be able to speak to someone that was interested in taking the complaint - he just needed to get past the barrier that the current station officer had created. He told me he would try again another time.I was somewhat surprised by the attitude of the station officer - they are the point of contact between the public and the police and she had given blatantly bad advice. The member of the public was entitled to make a complaint and the Police should have acted pro-actively in taking the information and then deciding what to do with that information when in possession of it.

The suggestion that only the victim could decide whether or not a prosecution should follow on from the complaint was completely wrong. I deal with many cases of domestic violence where the complainant withdraws their complaint but the prosecution continues on the say-so of the Crown Prosecution Service.It must be terribly demoralising for someone to make the effort to report a suspected crime to the Police to be told to go away. How would the station officer deal with a call from a member of the public who said, "I am witnessing a nasty assault, the man has just hit the other man round the head with a hammer?" Perhaps they might reply, "Sorry, sir. You are not the victim of an assault - perhaps you could get the victim to give us a call... What did you say? Well, when they get up off the floor out of their pool of blood could ask them to call us."

What this comes down to is sheer laziness on the part of the station officer.

45 comments:

Scotsman88 said...

What?! A station officer refused to take information on a serious crime (fraud) from a witness who was more than willing to give the information. Beyond beggars belief!

Anonymous said...

How about stepping it up a gear, not withstanding the issue was serious. "I wish to complain about the people in the flat upstairs, there is an odd chemical smell coming from there all day everyday, they have their windows open all night and there was a delivery of rucksacks last night". "Nah, go away". Civilian staff member = bad pay = lack of interest (quite often).

Howard Wilson said...

Pigs "not interested" is an attitude that they've always possessed. Idle, Incompetent and Indifferent sums the Police up quite nicely.
In my part of the world Dyfed-Powys Police are now committed to responding to every allegation, although the enthusiasm conveyed by 'investigating' plod varies tremendously.
My answer is simple, I no longer bother reporting any crimes or 'suspicious' activity, unless it's directly affecting me.

PCSO Bloggs said...

That was wrong and a complaint should be lodged. We need to weed these types..

PCSO Bloggs said...

'weed out'

Aussie Solicitor said...

Accompanied my client (charged with assault, later dismissed on an application that the prosecution agreed to--self defence made out on civilian witness statement) to the Police station armed with the mobile phone and a transcript of text messages from the alleged victim to my client attracting 7 years jail for "intimidating/influencing/threatening a witness".

Police basically said, they were not interested.

Funny thing about it, a common assault here has a max of 2 years jail. What the alleged victim did was legislatively 3.5 times worse.

Hard not to be cynical of a system that 'strains out gnats while swallowing camels.' I suggest we need to divert some Law Society funds for private prosecutions, instead (in NSW) of funding half the State's legal aid budget from solicitor's trust fund interest.

Anonymous said...

In a system where even successful cases end in little or no punishment, and don't do a blind bit of good for anyone, is it not inevitable that interest wanes?

When someone whom we have put before the court several times for petty assaults / thefts etc comes to me stating that he has been "harassed in'it, I want by brother's ex girlfriend's new partner done, look at all these text messages!", knowing that it would take hours of work, and will end in nothing, is it surprising I want to tell him to piss off?

I always imagined the police as being there to preserve the status quo for the law abiding majority, not to be at the beckoned call of adults who spend their lives behaving like toddlers. Was this ever the case? In a time when the individual is the most important unit, can our system ever make any sense?

In a further instalment a tiresome slagging match, I will say, if the court was able to take some action, which would make even the slightest bit of difference, then most police officers would pull their socks right up. I have been in the job three years, and I have to admit that the police are often useless, and disinterested. But given the utter crap they are forced to spend their time on this is inevitable. I was so enthusiastic when I started.

However, looks like the office of constable will soon be a thing of the past, and "work force modernisation" will deliver a new, cheaper service staffed by even less competent, less well paid and even more thick and lumpish persons. We will get the police force we deserve.

I am off to try and join SOCA :-)

Skewed System said...

This is an absolute disgrace.

The police should have taken the complaint, investigated, then at the point of arrest you could have arrived, advised him to go "no comment", and then he could properly avoid justice rather than through Police indifference.

Anonymous said...

Probably acting on instructions to keep the crime figures down!

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Anonymous said...

he should have complained for malpractice and seek to pursue it against the officer.

I find the criminal justice system in England fundamentaly flawed. In continental criminal justice systems any person can directly file a "legal doccument" (-similar to a complaint but at the same time substanitally different) directly with the prosecuting body

Dion said...

In Europe the criminal justice system is corrupt! (see Greece, Italy, France).

How can you cope with a system where everyone can bring a private prosecution successfully?

Anonymous said...

i realize that it is a bit irrelevant with your post, but do you know whether use of pre-marked money as part of police investigations resulting to an arrest and a subsequent charge is admissible in evidence in E&W?

if yes, wouldn't it automatically give rise to the defence of entrapment?

PI Guy said...

"if yes, wouldn't it automatically give rise to the defence of entrapment?"

in answer to your question,"In the UK however, PACE states that such methods make police "agents provocateurs" and evidence gathered in this way is inadmissible. Article 6 of the EU Convention on Human Rights also outlaws evidence gathered by entrapment."

Rechtsanwalt said...

This is a good point to be discussed here. I think the police men had not done good in turning him away. They first should listen to what the complainer wants to say and then decide whether to deal with it or do some else. This was a bad act turning away a public man giving a bad piece of advice.

Anonymous said...

I dealt with a job where a civilian station desk officer from a neighbouring force refused to take a complaint of theft from the victim where she had left her rucksack on the beach whilst she went in the surf. Two youths picked it up and ran off with it. The SDO explained that it was not stolen but lost as she had abandoned it on the beach !! Now that's massaging the crime figures at its most inventive. BTW, the thread is about a Civilian desk officer not Police officer as some of the commenters believe, it shouldn't affect the standard of service though.

Anonymous said...

G you are missing again???

Numenius said...

This is completely out of order. However, as a defence solicitor, no doubt you'd have done as much as you could to prevent the offenders being prosecuted anyway so you would get paid (never mind the fact that it means they could go out and harm more people, as long as it's not you eh?). Is your gripe actually that you could have made some money getting the guilty fraudster off any charge?
Also, if this is genuine, and experience tells me is quite probably is, then name the station - these things need to be addressed.

huggles said...

My friend tells me that police officers at Hornsey Police station in Haringey use organised stalking and harassment tactics to 'sort out' individuals. I thought he meant drug dealers and burglars but he clarified that most people dealt this way seem to be law abiding, ethnic minorities more and often black males.

As a juvenile, my friend who works locally at a garage, used to get into a lot of scrapes with the law. He has been asked to help out in surveilling and what he calls cocooning these individuals. He says that he thinks most are not criminals but appear to have annoyed someone for whatever reason. He also gets paid for his jobs.

Is there substance to this or is old matey pulling my leg?

Anonymous said...

Helen Curtis has just made a podcast on this very point, for any lawyers unsure how to advise... see http://www.cpdcast.com/podcasts/advising_at_a_police_station

Fotos Pittadjis - Cyprus Lawyer and Advocate said...

Thanks great article.

I nkow how you feel :-)

FOTOS PITTADJIS
Pittadjis Law Firm
http://fotospittadjis.blogspot.com

The Public Eye said...

You're probably right on the broader ethical point, but let me focus on the narrower question: Shouldn't cops (or any authority figures) treat with great care and suspicion the "complaints" of third-party busybodies?

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will said...

This does not really encourage covil responsibility does it?

william said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adrian P said...

Common Law and Statute Law, the important difference

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Find a Solicitor said...

I am in utter shock reading this, the Police Officer clearly couldn't be bothered to find the time to deal with the complaint.

If anyone should be prosecuted it's him!

rob said...

wow

Anonymous said...

Not a surprise to me. I reported a burglary in progress. The police told me exactly the same thing. Only the victim could report it!!

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Anonymous said...

This is why we need to go back to having a police officer on duty supervising the desk staff working the station counters. Those station assistants know they are supposed to submit intel reports on that sort of information from the public but some of them as you say are just bloody lazy.

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Justice Directory said...

I guess the time spent investigating this would put dent in their crime solving targets.

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Steppenwolfe said...

Unfortunately the comment made by the police officer are about typical. Perhaps if the information had got past the basic plod to the economic crimes unit and were looked at by a financial investigator, then something might be done.

Unfortunately this rarely happens.

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