Recent Crime Articles

Bookies are targeting the poor with gambling’s crack cocaine

by Guest     February 15, 2013 at 9:45 am

by Matt Zarb-Cousin

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.

It’s not just the Met police that is failing women…

by Unity     February 7, 2013 at 9:06 am

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.

I had to acquire a gun to protect myself

by Guest     January 3, 2013 at 10:05 am

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.

Yes, it IS right to point fingers at Indian culture for its rape epidemic

by Sunny Hundal     December 31, 2012 at 9:38 am

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.

1. No one had said rape is an India-only problem. Neither the Reuters blog post nor the Telegraph news piece Owen doesn’t link to cover the issue sneeringly. Both are balanced pieces.

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.

Jenny McConnel summarised this perfectly on my Facebook wall yesterday:

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.

Why the ‘pleb-gate’ affair should also worry the Left

by Guest     December 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm

by Jonathan Kent

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.

American attitudes to gun control are about how they see the state

by Guest     December 16, 2012 at 11:52 am

by Jonathan Kent

There are some reactions to the Connecticut primary school killings, such as those expressed by President Obama, that will be almost universal: “This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another.”

But the different reactions here and in America tell us a great deal about our concepts of freedom and our relationship with the state. However crazy it may seem to allow the casual sale of weapons in a country that suffers around 30,000 gun deaths a year, the issue goes to the heart of American traditions of liberty.

In England our national myth is the myth of the good king: King Arthur sleeping until England needs him; Robin Hood siding with good king Richard against bad Prince John; Richard II – ‘your leader is dead, I shall be your leader.’ When English kings behaved badly they were rarely blamed directly, people preferred to believe that ‘if we can just prise the king away from his wicked advisers he will listen to sense and all will be well.’

Just as the most common dream in Britain is apparently about the Queen dropping in for tea, we also cherish the notion that the King or Queen will always protect the best interests of the people. Perhaps as a result most Britons have a benign view of the state. But it’s also a remote state – not an embodiment of the public will, but ‘The Crown’, and it still has a tendency to act like ‘The Crown’.

In America the national myth begins from the fear of a bad King; bad King James from whom the Pilgrim Fathers fled; bad King George against whom good General George rallied the colonies and their militias and drove from the continent.

Americans’ right to bear arms, guaranteed under the Second Amendment to the constitution, stems from the right of citizens to protect themselves and their homes from bad rulers; whether it be invading armies, their own government, or the bad folks from over the valley.

Ultimately we have to decide how to best balance different and often competing kinds of freedoms; ‘freedoms to’ and ‘freedoms from’, as in: Your freedom to own a gun impinges on my freedom not to live in fear of being shot.

What Americans have grasped is that ‘freedoms to’ are the mark of a truly free society. What they haven’t grasped is that ‘freedoms to’ also favour the powerful and the rich.

What Europeans have grasped is that ‘freedoms from’ are the touchstone of a peaceful and more equitable society. What many haven’t, especially on the left, is that authoritarian regimes always use ‘freedom from’ to justify their repressive behaviour. If we’re to err on one side it’s surely that we should be generous with ‘freedoms to’ and rigorous, even parsimonious, with ‘freedoms from’ – we should always be satisfied that we really are talking about freedom.

Getting the balance right might be the devil’s own job but in the wake of Sandy Hook hopefully even US Republicans will concede that the devil has been far too busy and it’s time that citizens step up to the plate and stop outsourcing the task.

When is the right time to talk about gun control?

by Sunny Hundal     December 15, 2012 at 9:14 pm

I grew up with guns around me. My father, an officer in the Indian Army, used to keep a rifle (and occasionally a hand-gun) in the house when I lived in India before my teens. I had used the rifle for target-practice on cans in a controlled environment even before I had turned 13. In the last 10 years I’ve been to a shooting range while visiting Las Vegas twice, once using a handgun and the second time an M-16 semi-automatic assault rifle.

So when I say that I’d like to see very tight gun controls (Japan seems to have got it right), it isn’t because I’m uncomfortable with handling guns. It always astounds me that so many Americans pretend their absurdly high rate of gun-deaths isn’t down to ownership. After the horrific Newtown shootings yesterday, lots of people on both sides of the Atlantic once again called for tighter gun control in the US. I support these calls.

But this is an explicitly political call. That’s fine for people who want to push the issue, but a political demand means that other considerations also have to be taken into account. This was the point I was trying to make (perhaps badly) on Twitter last night.

I said that while it is right for people to raise their voice for tighter gun control, it was the wrong time for the President of the United States to do so in the immediate aftermath of the shootings. My aim wasn’t to defend Obama (I noted that he has done virtually nothing to tighten gun laws) but to point out that timing matters in politics if you want to win the debate.

Perhaps talking about the right timing and framing is too cynical and opportunistic for some. But if you want to inject politics into a national tragedy and want laws on tighter gun control, then it isn’t any more political or opportunistic to discuss when is the best time to make that argument. A key reason why gun control advocates in the US have lost public opinion is because they’ve been essentially preaching to the converted (via @ByrneToff).

President Obama’s job last night was to reflect everyone’s immediate emotions of horror, sadness and pain. If he had immediately started pressing for tighter gun laws then there would have been a backlash (perhaps from grieving parents) that would have derailed such calls. The media would have gotten into a discussion of whether Obama was right to make the call then and whether it was sensitive enough.

I think the best time for the President of the US to call for tighter gun laws would be in days or weeks after the event, not when the bodies aren’t even buried yet. But to re-iterate, gun control is a political issue not just a moral issue. I accept that some people find strategic considerations distasteful, but if you want to see some political action then discussing the best time for that action is part of the same debate.

[On a related note: I re-tweeted an old message by a guy with the same name as the shooter, as it seemed relevant to the shootings. It turned out initial media reports had named the wrong guy and I didn’t adequately check to see if that was indeed him. I apologise for my lax judgement.]

Nick Clegg: time to re-think war on drugs

by Newswire     December 14, 2012 at 8:00 am

Nick Clegg has written a comment piece in The Sun newspaper today saying “it’s time to re-think drugs”.

It will be interesting to see if it affects policy.

He declared the war on drugs a disastrous failure last night — and demanded that David Cameron plucks up the “courage” to order a major review of Britain’s ageing narcotics laws. In an explosive intervention that will rock the Coalition, Mr Clegg insisted: “It’s time we told the truth.”

And he threw his weight behind a controversial report by MPs this week that called on ministers to consider legalising cannabis and stop prosecuting even cocaine and heroin users.

The Lib Dem leader said: “We are losing the war on drugs on an industrial scale. In politics, as in life, you can’t keep on doing something that doesn’t work. You can’t keep repeating the same mistakes.”

Mr Clegg explained: “If you were waging any other war where you have 2,000 fatalities a year, your enemies are making billions in profits, constantly throwing new weapons at you and targeting more young people — you’d have to say you are losing and it’s time to do something different.

“I’m anti-drugs — it’s for that reason I’m pro reform.”

The Sun also commissioned a poll from YouGov to ask their views on drug legalisation

Sun poll

In the article Clegg insists he is not for full legalisation, but feels decriminalising possession while cracking down on traffickers and dealers “may be a solution”.

The tide is turning against strict drug laws

by Tim Fenton     December 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Last week, following some consultation and much enquiry, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee recommended there be a Royal Commission to consider alternatives to the current drug laws in the UK, including decriminalisation of use and even legalising substances that are presently illegal.

Moreover, as the Guardian reported,

the MPs say Home Office and health ministers should be sent to Portugal to examine its system of replacing criminal penalties for drug use with a new emphasis on treatment. They say the Portuguese example clearly reduced public concern about drug use and was backed by all political parties and the police.

Note though that Portugal has not legalised any previously illegal drugs, but moved the emphasis from punishment to treatment together with informing and persuading users.

But the results from more than a decade of decriminalisation have been emphatic: the number of users has been halved, and drug related diseases and overdoses have also been reduced.

The prediction that Portugal would become a centre for drug tourism has been disproved. Of those infected with HIV, the proportion has shrunk from over 50% before decriminalisation to around 20% today.

The number of new HIV cases has gone from around 3,000 a year to less than 2,000. There has been an apparent decline in deaths among street users, too.

This time even the Daily Mail softened its coverage, although they insist on also reporting those who talk of “opening the floodgates” and telling apocalyptic tales of what cannabis can do to the brain while ignoring Portugese example.

Of course, the Mail just has to give the pundit slot on this one to Melanie Phillips, who ascribes a rise in homicides in Portugal to drugs (the numbers are not attributed to any one cause, or number of causes). Then there is a screaming denunciation of Russell Brand, because he gave evidence to the Commons committee.

It does not seem to occur to Mad Mel that a reformed drug addict is an ideal person to comment on the present law, its enforcement, and the treatment offered to those criminalised. Instead, all those who favour decriminalisation are dismissed as being of dubious character.

But her ever more desperate ranting shows that the tide is turning against her.

BBC reports on tributes being paid to a man who *murdered* his wife

by Sian Norris     December 4, 2012 at 9:10 am

Hot on the heels of the Daily Mail re-branding stalking as romance, the BBC reported yesterday that tributes are being paid to a man who shot his wife before killing himself.

I honestly cannot think of another situation where tributes would be paid to a man who committed a violent crime.

The police describe how the man, who was the leader of the council, shot his wife and then himself. But this doesn’t seem to be the news story. The news story instead is about the tributes made by councillors, colleagues and neighbours to the man who:

typified what’s good about the town and the district of North Norfolk

It’s a story about how the flag on the council building is flying at half mast, how despite ‘being from different parties’ he was ‘always very good to deal with’, how he was a ‘good public servant’ who was ‘respected across the political spectrum’.

No-where is it really mentioned that by shooting his wife, this pillar of the community murdered a woman.

It seems that it’s only when crimes are committed against women does the media try to mitigate it by assuring us that – apart from in his relations to his wife – the man with the gun was a ‘good guy’.

On the Yahoo report on the former story, one of the commenters says:

Probably another domestic incident gone wrong

It’s a telling comment. It’s not murder, it’s a domestic incident gone wrong. That’s how this story can so easily be re-framed, to be one about how tributes are being paid to a man who shot his wife and then killed himself. It’s just another example of how our culture refuses to acknowledge what violence against women and girls looks like. 

It reminds me of the man who killed his wife and only got eighteen months because his actions were ‘out of character’ and he led a ‘respectable and successful life’.

The deaths of the women became subordinate to the story of the man. The way the media reports violence against women matters. It has an impact on all of us women. 

This year, according to the OneinFour Twitter feed, 104 have lost their lives as a result of gender based violence. 

If you can, please make a donation to WomensAid and Refuge, so no more women lose their lives to men. Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

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