Recent Crime Articles
by Jonathan J Lindsell
Trigger warnings: rape, sexual assault, child abuse.
“Man fucks woman; subject verb object.”
That’s how Catharine MacKinnon, American feminist legal professor, characterised Western gender relations and savaged pornography. Women are objectified statues, men are aggressive actors.
But if you look at the media’s treatment of gender-related crimes in the past few months, you’ll see something different:
“Victim was assaulted; Object verb.”
That’s how sexual crimes are reported. ‘X children were abused’, ‘Y women are raped in India each day’. Discussion overwhelmingly uses the passive voice and focuses on the victim to the perpetrator’s exclusion, unless the aggressor is notable – an ethnic minority, a celebrity, a religious figure. Otherwise rape and abuse are described as if they ‘just happen’ like freak weather events.
This absolves the public from considering whether Diane Abbot’s ‘crisis’ is a genuine problem in their immediate community – rape is either a misfortune that happens to unwary women, or a vile crime committed by people so different from the reader that their motivations are wholly alien.
Society has a standard narrative for how rape ‘just happens’ – usually a young, attractive girl, alone at night, wearing inappropriate clothing, who indulged in excess, attacked by a stranger. Passive reporting feeds this trope by focusing on victims and minimising the rapist’s role. He just ‘happened’ to be tempted when all necessary factors were in place.
The narrative is dangerous. In the eyes of the public and of juries, it discredits stories which don’t fit. Abused male or trans*people are ignored. Likewise accusations from women who are unattractive, sensible, or lived with their assailant face ridicule. The myth thrives despite SlutWalk’s efforts to dispel the idea that women’s clothing or actions constitute ‘asking for rape’ and UK government statistics showing that 90% of serious sexual assault victims know their attacker.
Whereas most sex-crime coverage investigates what personal failures caused a horrific ‘accident’ to happen to the (culpable) female victim, there’s a flip-side. When the perpetrator is different, comfortably distant from the largely white male middle-class world of today’s writers, then it’s fine to pick them apart.
This is especially evident in recent stories: Dehli bus rape, Oxford abuse ring, Catholic Church scandals and Operation Yewtree. In each case, the perpetrators are either foreign, non-Christian, or live highly atypically. Priests are celibate and secretive; celebrities extremely extrovert.
This was highlighted in Joseph Parker’s piece, It’s time to face up to the problem of sexual abuse in the white community. Parker was satirising the media, I’m not. By deploying the passive tense in ‘normal’ sex crimes and demonising minorities in sensational cases, we blind ourselves to that fact that, statistically, we almost certainly know such people ourselves.
Supporting victims is important, but so is acknowledging and exploring how violent misogynist attitudes flare in all communities, and run deeper than we’d admit. Rape culture exists, and until we start to think about the rapists, it will continue. That’s unacceptable.
Jonathan Lindsell is a freelance writer who has written for Bluffers online, Trinity College Oxford’ Broadsheet and the Leamington Courier. As a research fellow at Civitas thinktank he also writes a weekly blog there.
The Oxford gang of men who abused, raped and exploited young girls were finally convicted today, and the issue of race has raised its head again.
Reading through the details of what the girls were subjected to is enough to make anyone physically sick, and feel angry at how this was allowed to happen for so long.
Anger also makes people want to reach for easy answers so they can deal with it.
I’m aware that the far-right are trying to exploit these cases for politician gain. But I think the focus should always be on doing what is right and highlighting injustices, even if it raises some uncomfortable issues that can be exploited by extremists. In other words, the presence of the far-right should not lead us to blunt our criticisms or arguments.
To what extent is race a relevant factor in the exploitation?
Let’s look at some evidence first.
After the Rochdale case, the children’s commissioner in England conducted an inquiry into what could be learnt from the case. They published a short briefing paper and later an interim report. The Foreword said:
The vast majority of the perpetrators of this terrible crime are male. They range in age from as young as fourteen to old men. They come from all ethnic groups and so do their victims – contrary to what some may wish to believe. The failure of agencies to recognise this means that too many child victims are not getting the protection and support they so desperately need.
Moreover, of the backgrounds of the victims who gave evidence to the inquiry, 42% were white British and 28% were ethnic minorities. I’m assuming the remaining were mixed or unknown backgrounds.
During the Rochdale case the Judge said: “You preyed on girls because they were not part of your community or religion” — this is repeatedly cited by some people. But it’s also untrue. As was revealed after the ring-leader in the Rochdale case also ‘repeatedly raped an Asian girl over many years.‘
My point is not that race is irrelevant – but that it’s not relevant to why the girls were targeted.
In some of the cases of gang-related child grooming and rape, the men were primarily of Pakistani backgrounds. I suspect this is simply because they congregated together for work and to commit crime. There are other similar cases where the gangs of men have been exclusively white.
To my mind, the key question is: did they target white girls because of their skin colour and because they hated white girls, or simply because they found it easier to groom white girls? The fact that there are instances of black and Asian girls also being raped implies that in the Oxford (and other similar cases) – the men simply found it easier to prey on young white girls.
Of course, in the Oxford case the men may have deliberately targeted young white girls – I can’t read their minds. But generalising that Asian men are pre-disposed to targeting white girls make no sense given the evidence. Furthermore, these generalisations make no sense since the Jimmy Savile revelations and other cases where not only did rape and abuse take place, but many more people were involved in the cover-up.
But we can make one generalisation with some certainty: too many men still find it acceptable to exploit, groom and rape young girls without much regret. Rape culture remains a serious and widely prevalent problem and we need to do more to help and listen to the victims, rather than using them to score political points.
On Wednesday evening, The Backbencher broke the news of how the English Defence League’s leader, Tommy Robinson – aka Stephen Lennon – endorsed UKIP and their policies on immigration and Islam. It was a controversial interview, and we found it fascinating to hear the comments from the EDL’s most senior figure about where his political allegiances lay. The EDL, on its official Facebook page – which boasts over 18,000 ‘likes’ – has written comments which throw the radical-right wing organisation’s weight fully behind UKIP and the oratory finesse of Nigel Farage.
Farage himself is unlikely to welcome the endorsement, despite the EDL boasting a significant amount of online support (2/3rds of the number of Facebook fans as UKIP). This is because the majority of British people overwhelmingly reject the politics that the EDL espouses, and association with an anti-Islam group will threaten to drag UKIP back into the territory of ‘BNP in Blazers’ accusations; a view the party has put some considerable work into dispelling.
But why do Farage and his Party – of mostly older white men – so often get dragged down into the pits of British politics by highly despised groups which advocate all sorts of nonsense?
Well, despite being a fully fledged political party with a well rounded if woefully uncosted manifesto, UKIP has only ever really focused on two main issues: The EU and immigration; often linking the two via tough rhetoric on the EU’s internal open borders and how they give access for migrants to travel easily to Britain. Election after election, be it town or Parish councils, London Mayoral or EU elections, regardless as to whether the position they are running for has any influence over immigration or not, UKIP will push immigration as hard as they can; which can see all range of weird and wonderful leaflets coming through your letterbox. Indeed UKIP’s London Elections campaign saw them sauntering around the Capital in a bright purple taxi which demanded that Londoners say ‘No to Open door Immigration’, despite the Mayor of London having no actual control over Britain’s immigration policy.
UKIP are the only party that has found the need to ban the BNP, EDL, and NF members from joining their brigade – something that is not always effective – which in itself suggests that their politics attracts undesirable members. Moreover, accusations of racism have dogged UKIP from the very beginning, with their founder quitting and calling the Party ‘morally dodgy’ and ‘extremely right wing.’ This was highlighted in recent times when a Tory MEP wrote that Nigel Farage had allegedly said some highly controversial comments in regards to ethnic minorities.
UKIP’s stance on immigration is not the only area where their policies have caused problems for their image, their former leader Lord Pearson – who was heavily backed by Farage, and Robinson of the EDL – pushed the policy of a Burka ban with great significance in UKIP’s 2010 General Election campaign. The notion was met with horror by many voters, commentators, and newspapers that a political party would attempt to regulate the clothes we can and cannot wear.
But why do we care? Why do we care if UKIP is anti-immigrant, opposed to gay marriage, and at one point became so authoritarian it wanted to regulate your clothes? Well it’s not because we are worried that UKIP have enough support to win in 2015; nor are we writing this because we are affiliated with a party and have a particular motive to win back lost votes; and nor is it for some personal vendetta against the party – even if one of us was recently scorched by UKIP’s wrath. No, we are writing this article, and highlighting these issues because despite the authoritarian politics that UKIP provides, they still have the nerve to call themselves libertarians.
Politically speaking, it may be smart to advocate for closed borders – we see it as a dreadful policy – if it means that you could win votes. It may be a politically smart move to continue to push for a protected NHS, oppose individual rights to gay marriage, decide what people can and can’t wear if you think you can gain votes in the process; but that doesn’t make it libertarian in the slightest.
Libertarianism is about freedom of the individual and being allowed to live in an environment as far away as possible from the shackles of the state. For example, libertarians would not want the government to increase defence spending by 40%; adopt a much tougher stance on crime and punishment; control who citizens can or cannot marry; and impose a strict border control policy – those ideas are in direct contrast to the idea of ‘don’t tread on me’.
The fact is that UKIP have jumped on to the growing brand of libertarianism in order to persuade the public that they are not in fact the bastion of Social Conservatism; but we see through the rhetoric. For us the fact that UKIP are attracting the endorsement of figures such as Tommy Robinson proves that they cannot be advocating the libertarian cause; how could they be if they are getting the thumbs up from the leader of an anti-Islamic organisation?
If UKIP want to continue down the road of Social Conservatism, protectionism, and anti-immigration then that is their prerogative, – and quite frankly it is not our concern – but calling themselves libertarian whilst doing it only serves to damage their credibility, and will damage the identity of what it really means to be a libertarian. This is not a good look UKIP; we think you should remove the word Libertarian from your Party’s description.
The Backbencher is a Libertarian blog
by Bethan Jones
Yesterday I was found guilty in the Oxford Magistrates’ Court of causing “harassment, alarm and distress” following a peaceful and legal political protest in Witney in December. The judge said “I can think of nothing more alarming than the statement that ‘Cameron has blood on his hands’.”
I will continue to say that Cameron has blood on his hands, whenever the opportunity presents itself.
The words that the government and media are using is the indirect part of their attack on disabled people. Disability hate crime, which ranges from comments in the street through vandalism of motability cars up to imprisonment, torture, rape and murder is growing.
I knew about this through hearing and reading stories about the people who are being affected, I also knew that these stories weren’t being given the front page spreads that ‘scrounger’ stories get.
Here’s what happened. On the 30th November David Cameron was booed as he came on stage to turn on the Witney Christmas Lights. There’s a very funny video of him trying to drown out any criticism by awkwardly getting the crowd to cheer everyone from themselves to the Queen.
I find it very weird watching the video, because while this was going on I was being beaten up by the police on the other side of the stage. I have never been so scared.
I held up a placard that said “Cameron has blood on his hands,” and I shouted that “disabled people are dying because of Cameron’s policies.” I didn’t expect that to be a big deal, I only wanted to do my bit to show that we’re not all taken in by the rhetoric that disabled people are ‘scroungers’ and ‘shirkers.’
My face was pushed into the ground, I could feel blood coming from my nose, there was someone putting their whole weight on my back while someone else was stamping on my knees, along with various people grabbing and twisting my limbs. And then the officer on my back moved a knee up onto the back of my neck.
Up until then I’d been shouting “I’m not resisting, I’m cooperating,” trying to ask them to stop, but from the moment I felt someone pressing their body weight into the back of my neck I gave up trying to communicate anything to them, I realised the police officers on top of me either couldn’t or wouldn’t hear me.
Instead I began begging anyone who was nearby to intervene, to tell them to stop. Images flashed into my mind of what could happen. I was in pain, I couldn’t see what was going on, I was crying and bleeding, I couldn’t properly breathe, and I thought that they might leave me seriously injured. I’ve worked supporting people who’ve badly damaged their necks or back, and I can’t believe that any police officer was taught that kneeling on the back of someone’s neck is every an acceptable thing to do.
I didn’t think that it would lead to being beaten up, arrested, held overnight and then taken to court on two ridiculous charges.
The fine and costs come to more than I earn in a month. The judge said that on a whole £700 a month, of course I’d have no trouble paying it back. After rent, travel to work, food and paying off loans I don’t have money left at the end of the month, and my salary is going down soon.
We can listen to the voices of the people who know what’s going on, the people on the front-line of the cuts, and share them with our friends. Calum’s List lists the deaths caused directly by welfare reform.
A longer version of this post is posted to Facebook.
Anonymity for rape defendants is a bad idea that benefits one key group of people – rapists.
It was a bad idea in 1975, when it was how rape cases were conducted. In 1975, lest we forget, men still had the legal right to rape their wives (until 1990). It was a bad idea in 2010 when the new coalition government tried to bring it back into law. And it will be a bad idea now, as the Chair of the Bar Council in England argues for it again.
Anonymity for rape defendants, and only for rape defendants, is a policy based on the belief that women routinely and maliciously lie about rape in a way that no other crime gets lied about. But this belief is entirely false.
The idea is justified by its supporters because of the stigma of a rape accusation. But if that was really the case, then anonymity would apply to all violent crime. There is stigma attached to an accusation of murder. No crime carries more stigma than child abuse. Yet the only reason rape is singled out is because of this pernicious belief that women are just making it up in order to hurt men.
False accusations of rape make up about 3% of reported rapes. This number is no more than false accusations of any other crime.
The evidence is there to prove that naming rape defendants is a sensible policy that encourages reporting and that leads to convictions. When a prolific rapist is named, like John Worboys, it helps women who have been attacked by him feel confident to come forward. Once his identity was known, around 70 women came forward reporting attacks – reports that helped convict him.
Naming Worboys meant that he was finally, after years of terrorising women, convicted. Otherwise the police might still be dismissing reports – which they did at the time.
We cannot propose or make laws based on women-hating myths. We’re in a real crisis of violence against women in this country. There are 500,000 sexual assaults every year including 69,000 women raped and yet there are only 1070 convictions. Only 2910 reported.
This is the time to be doing everything we can to create an environment where women and girls feel confident reporting rape to the police – confident that they will be listened to, believed and that their rapist will go to jail.
Rape Crisis Helpline: 0808 802 9999
National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247
A longer version of this post is here.
Take a walk down any high street these days and you’ll probably see a cluster of betting shops. Pack-like, they feed off of the customers of the others, safe in the knowledge that there will always be demand for their most addictive product – the FOBT.
The FOBT, or Fixed Odds Betting Terminal, is a touch-screen twin-screen roulette and casino gaming machine found in the bookies. They have been described as the “crack cocaine of gambling” because of the high stakes and high speed of play – it is possible to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds. Law limits each betting shop to four, so bookies open as many shops as possible. This is why we get clustering, and it’s not surprising when each FOBT is worth over £900 per week in profit to them.
But bookies are a business, they exist to make a profit, what’s wrong with that? Well, a number of things.
Firstly, research commissioned by Dispatches and carried out by Geofutures found there to be more than twice as many betting shops in areas of high unemployment than in areas of low unemployment. The trend across the country suggests they are targeting the poor.
Secondly, the FOBT-driven proliferation of betting shops in some of our most deprived areas is not creating jobs. In 2010, there were 8,822 shops employing 57,319 people. Last year, with 9,128 shops the industry creates just 54,449.
A magnet for violence and anti-social behaviour, bookies are an irresponsible industry, proliferating in our most deprived areas, sucking demand out of local economies and treating their staff with total contempt, many of whom have spoken to us in confidence but are frightened to speak out in case they lose their jobs.
Thirdly, there isn’t the infrastructure in place to deal with the number of problem gamblers we’re going to have if we keep seeing an incremental rise in the number of FOBTs. There won’t be a Prevalence Survey this year as the funding has been cut, but in 2010 there were 450,000 problem gamblers in the UK.
According to international evidence, each problem gambler costs the state £8,000 per year – yet the industry give £5m, just 0.1% of their £5bn profits – to the Responsible Gambling Trust, which funds one single NHS Clinic for Problem Gambling in the entire country. I spoke to someone recently who’d been on the waiting list for eight months.
For these reasons, this week we launched the “Stop the FOBTs” campaign in Westminster. Sign up, get involved, share your stories. If you know someone who has been affected by FOBTs, or if you have yourself, then we want to hear from you.
Despite stating that “common sense dictates there is a problem with FOBTs”, the government has said they will wait for the conclusion of research carried out by the Responsible Gambling Trust before it imposes any restrictions. But when the chair of the Responsible Gambling Trust is also the chair of the Association of British Bookmakers, is it surprising this issue has been kicked into the long grass until just before the election, when corporations start writing cheques to political parties?
We believe we can win by highlighting to MPs the extent of the problem, so find out how much is gambled in your constituency on our website, write to your MP, and join our campaign.
I don’t know how much national press coverage this story will get but the Birmingham Mail is reporting another sorry case of a Police officer falling down on the job:
A “rogue” policeman has quit the West Midlands force after admitting retracting a domestic violence victim’s statement without her knowledge. PC Stuart Williams, 37, resigned after pleading guilty to forgery at Coventry Crown Court on Monday. He was charged after an investigation was carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The cop had been due to stand trial over the charge but changed his plea to guilty at the start of the proceedings. He received a four-month suspended prison sentence and was ordered to pay £2,400 costs.
Yes, you are reading that correctly.
The officer in question was tasked with investigating a complaint of harassment against the woman’s ex-partner but instead of doing his job properly he chose, instead, to falsify paperwork to make it appear that he’d been investigating the case. Then, to cap it all off, he visited the victim in April 2011, wrote up a false statement withdrawing the complaint and forged the victim’s signature to make it appear that they had asked for the case to be dropped.
Only a few months ago, Ryan Coleman-Farrow, a former detective constable with the Metropolitan Police, was jailed for 16 months for failing to investigate 10 rape cases and three sexual assaults and for falsifying records, including making entries on the police computer system which indicated that the Crown Prosecution Service had advised no further action in cases when no such instructions had been given.
The impact the Coleman-Farrow’s misconduct has had on women in London reaches far beyond the 13 cases that he failed to investigate and can be clearly seen in the Met’s own crime statistics.
The earliest round of significant publicity given to this case and concerns relating to the conduct of officers in the Met’s specialist Sapphire unit, which deal with rape investigations, occurred in May 2012 with media interest peaking in September when Coleman-Farrow stood trial and entered guilty pleas to 13 counts of Misconduct in Public Office.
Monthly statistics for the number of rapes reported to the Metropolitan Police are available from April 2011 to November 2012 and make for very interesting reading, especially when you compare the number of rapes reported from May to September 2012 with the same period in 2011.
Overall, the number of rapes reported to the Metropolitan Police for that period of 2012 (1217) is just about 17% down on the same period in 2011 (1465) with the biggest fall (30%) occurring in September.
The fall in the number of rapes reported to the police also coincides with the period during which there adverse publicity being generated by the Coleman-Farrow case. Furthermore, the biggest fall over the previous year occurs in the same month as the case went to trial, allowing the full details of Coleman-Farrow’s misconduct to be made public.
In this case it looks really suspicious, enough to suggest that the likely cause of a sizeable proportion of the fall in reported rape cases during this period stems from a serious loss of confidence in police’s ability to investigate rape cases properly, particularly as the figures for October – the month following Coleman-Farrow’s conviction – appear to revert back to their usual trend.
There is far more at stake in these situations, where a serving police officer fails to carry out their duties, than just the direct impact this has on the women whose complaints aren’t fully or adequately investigated.
It damages public confidence in the police which means fewer rapes, sexual assaults and domestic violence incidents getting reported to the police and more rapists and abusers getting away with their crimes and remaining free to rape and/or abuse other women.
This kind of thing has to stop.
by Paramjot Kaur Gill
“Beauty is power, the same way money is power, the same way a gun is also power,” said Chuck Palahunik in his book Invisible Monsters. I never believed it until I made an effort to join NCC – the National Cadet Corps in India when I lived there. I was fifteen years old.
My main aim was self-defence. I never imagined myself being a part of the army until I saw some of my school friends being targets of abuse and even rape. No woman wants a life like that.
It didn’t matter if some people thought women were not strong enough to take up guns, the camp commandant didn’t stand for any of it. “If a man can pick up a gun to protect his country, so can a woman,” he used to tell us.
This week it was reported in the Guardian that hundreds of women in Delhi have applied for gun licences, reflecting the widespread feeling of insecurity.
Abhijeet Singh of Guns For India told the newspaper: “Lots of women have been contacting us asking for information about how to obtain licences. Any woman has a threat against her. It’s not surprising. There are fearless predators out there.”
This is true – there are a lot of predators there. But the rise in gun use will not overcome a larger problem. When we hear of ‘defensive gun use’, we are invited to think of a law-abiding citizen confronting a criminal aggressor. Yet crime does not always present itself so neatly. The vast majority of rapes and assaults on women are from an acquaintance or someone they know closely.
Delhi police sources told the The Times of India that hundreds had turned up at their office demanding guns. “We had to patiently tell them that one needs to have a clear danger to one’s life to be given a licence. However, some of the parents were not happy with our replies. They said that with even public transport no longer safe in the city, they just cannot take chances. When we told them this could not be reason enough, we were told to give in writing that their daughters were indeed safe on Delhi’s roads.”
Of course, we didn’t feel safe at all. The Indian police exists only in name, not action. They make women feel more uncomfortable and unsafe if anyone reported an assault or even rape. They treat women as a piece of meat and are perhaps the most unreliable people on earth. They tell women to wear ‘appropriate’ dresses so that men do not rape us.
I felt like I needed to take my safety in my own hands. My first rifle was a 3 knot 3 rifle and the second an automatic Mauser pistol. I felt safe when I carried it along with me. I recommended it to other women too – telling them to learn how to shoot. I told them to carry it with them at all times — even in the house.
I never used the gun, and the one time I felt the need it was not with me. I understand that the focus should be on telling men to stop attacking women, but in the meantime I would still ask any woman in India, “If someone was about to rape you, would you not want to have a gun to protect yourself?”
Paramjot Kaur Gill is a journalism student at Kingston University.
Sometimes people miss the wood for the trees. Owen Jones says that ‘Sexual violence is not a cultural phenomenon in India – it is endemic everywhere’.
As Owen summarises a key strand of thinking, one that many have referred me to, I think its worth challenging as it can be counter-productive.
I’ve not yet read one piece in the media that says violence against women and/or rape is exclusively concentrated with Indian men, and that western societies are utopias in contrast. Until this becomes a narrative I see no need to become knee-jerkingly defensive.
2. It’s counter-productive to lump all countries together when they have different cultures, laws, biases and records on protecting (or not) women. It would be ludicrous for example to say both Sweden and India are doing the same on violence against women.
The reason why campaigners point out that it is way better to be a woman in Canada than India is because they want the latter to improve and challenge its own record. If you disregard the differences then there is no pressure on countries to improve their laws.
3. Violence against women is a cultural problem. There is no getting away from this fact. It is culture that leads to a country’s laws and culture that discourages or encourages this violence. And it is this mentality and culture we need to challenge if we want people to behave differently.
It is culture (education, religion, media etc) that sends the messages to men that women are sexual objects, and somehow less equal than men. It is culture that builds the masculine ideal; which includes violence, controll and domination. (You must remember that men rape men and women can rape men. The same with domestic abuse, women aren’t always the victim.)
By saying it is a ‘male’ problem, you imply that it is somehow hardwired into their brains from birth, just because they possess a penis rather than a vagina.
Of course such views are also prevalent in other countries, but South Asia is getting worse and a huge proportion of humanity lives there. It is imperative on all of us to loudly show solidarity with the women there who want to be heard, instead of hiding behind moral relativism and fear of sounding ‘Orientalist’.
4. Trying to avoid talking about India lets the government and many Indians off the hook. This unwillingness to point fingers for fear of looking racist is counter-productive because it allows some Indians and their government to brush the problem under the carpet and pretend things are the same as in Canada. They’re not. To see meaningful change you have to prod and poke and expose.
India has a woman problem – that’s not just me saying it but Indian women themselves. Listen to them. Or instead of Rashmee Roshan-Lall you could ask Urvashi Butalia. Or see how Shazia Nigar points fingers. Some Indian women even want chemical castration as an option.
Lastly – I’m not saying this is an Indian-only problem either. I would be equally outraged if it were to happen here too, but it happens much more in India. It also seems hypocritical to point out that Uganda and Iran have a terrible record against gays, and Israel has against Arabs, while trying to avoid pointing fingers at India (or Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for that matter – they all have very similar cultures).
It would be rather sad if people avoided showing solidarity with women who want to challenge Indian culture to change, for fear of looking racist. That is a road paved with good intentions going straight to hell. Come and join the Southall Black Sisters demo on 7th January.
Forget what Andrew Mitchell actually said. Put aside the stubborn suspicion he hasn’t wholly come clean. The damage was done not because he actually said ‘pleb’ but because people found themselves so readily able to believe he did, because it resonated, because it seemed to sum up his party’s attitude. That’s not changed.
This is about the police.
Michael Crick’s Channel 4 report casts serious doubt not just on the police account of events but also raises the possibility that police officers actively conspired to unseat a cabinet minister.
The police log that ascribed the ‘pleb’ remark to Mitchell also claimed that “several members of public [were] present” during the incident. So too did a statement from ‘a member of the public’. The two accounts apparently closely corroborated each other on that and several other details.
Yet CCTV footage seems to show no members of the public outside the gates. It doesn’t even show Mitchell behaving in a way that would lend credence to the reports of a tirade. Of course it would be no surprise if two accounts had tallied if they were founded on the truth, but if two accounts carry very similar false accounts it must raise the strong possibility that, at the very least, that the author of one version had access to the other.
Now we are told not only that the independent witness was not there but that he wasn’t a member of the public. He is apparently a serving police officer.
Furthermore Crick’s report contrasted a recording made by Mitchell of a meeting with Police Federation representatives with their account of the meeting. The comparison certainly seemed to suggest that the Police Federation account misrepresented the meeting in a way that put Mitchell in a very poor light.
When the contents of the police the report were leaked it wasn’t to the Guardian or the Mirror, it was to The Sun. The Sun, already locked in a tussle with the political class, published; not too many questions asked. Together the police and News International took a major political scalp just when they most needed to. It served as a reminder to Downing Street that both could bite back.
Mitchell was one of the less sympathetic figures in a government that no one who believes in social justice had much sympathy for in the first place. So some on the left might be tempted to simply sit back and enjoy the show. That would be a mistake.
No one in politics, left or right, should be anything but deeply disturbed at the possibility that part of the state’s security apparatus is meddling in politics. It was bad enough that police officers and News International journalists apparently conspired to invade the privacy of victims of crime and people in public life alike.
Too often the left has found itself on the rough end of the criminal justice system. From Blair Peach to environmental protesters left pregnant by undercover cops the police have appeared to some to take sides, pursuing their own agenda and that it’s a right wing one.
The possibility that they’re working to bring down our elected representatives is way more worrying.
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