Complaint: An outcome letter

Today I got a letter and report from the Professional Standards Department of Kent Police. The letter confirms that my ‘…complaints relating to unlawful and unnecessary arrest and detention have been recorded as proven’ .

The complaint relating to oppressive conduct or harassment  resulting from officers treatment to me whilst under arrest has not been upheld.  I am minded to appeal against this. The account of the officer in question is untrue in relation to point 3.4 and 5.9 of the investigation report.

A few choice remarks from the report:

The fact that the man did not give his name or checkable details is obviously frustrating for the police officer. However there are no specific powers available under the terrorism legislation to demand a person gives such information in these circumstances. (p7 para 12)

PC XXXX offers a concern of the males demeanor or attitude but does not expand on this only by repeating the fact that the male refused to give the Officer his details as he stated “He didn’t have to”. In my opinion, legally, Turner is correct. (p8 para 1)

There are no powers to require someone provide details for the purposes of stop and account/search. (p10 sec 5.3)

So to the letter:

20 Comments

  1. As the arrest has been classed as unlawful, surely the detention and locking you in the back of a van unlawfully is very oppressive?!

    I can’t think of many things more oppressive than locking someone up in a box!

  2. “The fact that the man did not give his name or checkable details is obviously frustrating for the police officer. However there are no specific powers available under the terrorism legislation to demand a person gives such information in these circumstances.”

    Why is it “obviously frustrating” that a police officer cannot obtain information to which they have no entitlement? This false logic is rather unnerving. That’s like saying that it’s “obviously frustrating” that I can’t gun down the people ahead of me in the checkout queue in order to serve my own ends more efficiently. Such language barely masks the inappropriately control-oriented mentality that triggered this situation in the first place.

    “… it might be nice and even nowadays morally expected for Mr Turner to help an officer to make enquiries…”

    Yes, and it might also be “nice” if particular members of the police force didn’t overstretch their powers to cover areas to which they were never intended to apply. It might also be “morally expected” for members of the police force to apply heavy-duty terrorist legislation pragmatically and sensitively.

    “Kent Special Branch highlight that Chatham town centre may not be a primary attack location…”

    ROTFL. First, because they’ve finally come out and said it. Second, it’s fudged with a “may not”. Third… “primary” attack location: I have visions of terrorists sitting in darkened rooms debating heatedly whether Chatham is of secondary or tertiary importance. (Disclaimer: I love Medway… but a strategic terrorist target, it isn’t.)

  3. Surely since you were unlawfully arrested, the rest, as the first post states, is harassment. The police once again seem stubbornly intent on leaving just that last wafting aroma of smoke, and the lingering suggestion there really was a fire after all.

    Good luck with the appeal.

  4. I do find it worrying that a police officer, or the police force in general, would think that exercising a legal right is somehow obstructive or demonstrative of a bad attitude. I would have thought acting within the law would stand in your favour, or at least be viewed calmly and neutrally. I don’t think bringing a subjective argument, i.e. whether your actions were perceived to be ‘nice’, ‘helpful’ etc. should be applicable here – your actions and those of the police should be judged only in terms of the law. On those grounds, I can only see that it was the police officers involved who were in the wrong. On a lighter note, there’s an amusing grammar failure in section 3.4:

    ‘…he seemed to be very obstructive and for no apparent reason he was arrested…’

  5. This letter is an absolute corker. Never before have I seen the like! Plod just exceeded their powers, pure and simple. I’m still intrigued as to what powers the council officials thought THEY were running under. Why did the council “environmental enforcement officers” demand to see identification and what the hell has an amateur photographer’s perfectly legal hobby got to do with them? Surely they should be sought out, brought to account and disciplined for harassing a member of the public.

  6. 3.4
    “No apparent reason”
    Perhaps Mr Turner was slightly concerned by the fact the PC was insisting on information he/she was not entitled to, therefore infringing upon Mr Turners civil rights…His perceived unhelpful behaviour in respect of not providing information the Police were not entitled to provoked them into making an illegal arrest!

    It appears that the reason Alex was arrested was because he did not give information that the Police were not entitled to have, under a law they had insufficient evidence to arrest him under anyway?

    Surely even after this wordy explanation of a very simple situation that anyone armed with the facts and a modicum of common sense could see was unnecessary under any circumstances, given the evidence of what occurred.

    Any rational, reasonably minded person can see this for what it is, even when concealed under the cloak of The Prevention of Terrorism act.

    A total overreaction by the Police tantamount to bullying IMO…

    5.13
    Ignorance of the law is no excuse. That’s what we are told obviously that doesn’t apply to the Police then.

    Why can’t they just admit when they are wrong it’s patently obvious even after reading this explanation?

    I think the evidence that proves all your complaints is in their own explanation. They are still holding back even now.

  7. I’m having considerable difficulty reading the response in its entirety as a casual observer and not actually directly involved with your unfortunate brush with the law. It must be all the more difficult for you. Keep up the good work.

    I’m a little incredulous at many elements of it… and can only imagine how difficult it must have been for the responding inspector to have to actually commit pen to paper and write what he had to write.

    When the arresting officer states “I arrested the male under the terrorism act as after considering all the facts and circumstances *I reasonably suspected him to be a terrorist*” – I can not fathom the thought processes going on in that ladies head.

    The extensive section from the (unnamed) counsel (Section 4.3, p9 onwards) is littered with a lot of uncomfortable language. The incomplete nature of the original notes of the arresting officer and the similar lack of clarity in the follow up is further cause for concern.

    Your proven complaint of an unnecessary arrest and detention must have looked like a foregone conclusion from the very earliest stages of the internal investigation by Kent police. The fact that it’s taken quite so long to produce t his document which is peppered with so many admissions that the officers on the ground and their immediate escalation points had/have such a poor grasp of the points of law concerned.

    Your efforts to date have made extensive headway in highlighting the issue faced by people in the UK at the hands of a poor interpretation of the legislation.

    I have read that for 2008/9 there have been 350 S44 stop and searches per day ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/nov/26/stop-and-search-big-fall ) and the focus by the police on photographers and the baffling level of mistrust seems unreasonably ingrained in the police force. It has to stop.

  8. Well Hg above says it all really, but that report does seem to ring of “Oh poor old us, we’ve this difficult law, we don’t know how to run with it, and now this guy’s making our life difficult.”

    Seems strange that the PC feels that you’re threatening in some way for refusing to give her what she is not entitled to have, but after they have nicked you, cuffed you, and put you in the back of a van, you’re not supposed to feel threatened, intimidated, harassed or oppressed by the subsequent actions of the police. I fail to see the logic of stating that an unlawful arrest isn’t being oppressive or harassing; and we’re not talking here of an officer making an arrest on reasonable suspicion when an offence has been committed, or when they reasonably expect that a crime is about to be committed, only to find after investigation that no offence has been/was going to be committed (or the person arrested didn’t do it) – that’s a regular, even normal occurrence. No, the officer gets it totally wrong – no offence had been committed, no offence about to be committed, wrong section of act, no powers of arrest under the section that does apply (if she but knew it), section she is using not even in force at that location (well we know now, S44 doesn’t apply to Chatham High St!!) Doh!

    While the report makes the valid point that following the unlawful arrest the subsequent search is unlawful, I didn’t see any mention that the (unlawful) search, in the circumstances,might form an act of common assault (as might the act of handcuffing!) Are Kent Police really thinking that it’s all ok now? “Whoops, we screwed up. Sorry, British!”

  9. I agree with Dave these council officials have some very strange ideas of their own importance and remind me slightly of Walter Mitty type characters. They should certainly be sought out and brought to book. this seems quite sinister if council officials believe that they have powers to stop and threaten members of the public with arrest.

  10. @ Steve – It seems the logic is that my because I was already under arrest and detained then the manner in which I was subsequently treated i.e. questioned and searched falls within the principles of what used to be called double jeopardy.

    @ Hg – your analogies and extrapolations make me laugh. Thank you.

    @ Mark W – I suppose they subscribe to the belief that if you fling enough mud after a while it starts to stick.

    @ Andrew Day – Points well made. Thank you. As for the grammatical error; there was me thinking she was being honest!

    @ Dave – the strategy of FUD is alive and well.

    nickJ – certainly not by default. I wonder if they could be prosecuted for anything. You think because they acted unlawfully a criminal offense was committed which could be prosecuted by law? I suppose I would have to bring a private prosecution against them if I wanted to test that.

    @ Dave regarding the council officers; I was wondering what they would have done with my ID if I’d of given it to them. Do you think they have been given access to run checks on the Police National Data Base?

    @ Reavesy – You have articulated the motivation behind my actions exactly. It was simple – tell me under what legislation I am required to produce my ID and I will. I think it’s reasonable to expect an answer to that. They refused to cooperate with my request. I should have placed them under citizens arrest for being obstructive and harassing me!

    @ Adrian – Sloppy policing is one thing. Sloppy legislation is another. The politicization of the police force and a government kowtowing to big business is what’s really scary.

    @ Richard – The PC’s account of his actions (point 3.4 and 5.9) are lies. I was handcuffed and locked up when asked to provide ID. I pointed out that with my hands cuffed behind my back I couldn’t have done so even if I wanted. I was still handcuffed when I was searched. I asked to be uncuffed but the request was refused because I was ‘…still under arrest’. It did take him a few seconds to think that through. My wallet was removed from an inside jacket pocket by the PC while I was handcuffed. Whilst I was handcuffed I was asked to remove my shoes. I removed each shoe whilst I was cuffed by prised each one off at the heel with the toe end of the other foot. So technically he did not remove my shoes but in my view being asked to do something like that under the circumstances I was in is the same as having my shoes removed. The PC is a liar.

    @ Peter – To be fair the council people never threatened me with arrest. They simply said that they would call the police if I refused to cooperate and provide them with some ID. See my second response to Dave. What would / could they have done with it even if I chose to give them any?

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  12. Glad to see they’ve finally coughed, but it’s a shame that they’re not going to do a damn thing about it.

    I was particularly irked at section 5.4 where PC Hopeless felt that she had to “resolve the matter”. Key thing is, the matter was already resolved – you’d explained what you were doing, so end of.

    The fact that she felt that you hadn’t been sufficiently compliant to fulfil her authoritarian tendencies is her problem, not yours, so well done for (a) standing up for your rights and (b) pushing through a formal complaint.

  13. This has also just turned up. Video seems genuine about yet another plastic plod with a severe attitude and manners problem (note the disgusting gum chewing) but the other accusations re. being “beaten”, rough handling, bruising and a fine need to be looked at. The “fine” details are sketchy. Fined for what and by whom? Was she (the videographer) detained and for what reason? The vid. has some irritating music and some “arty” inserts, which I think should have been left out for clarity. The outcome has been rather left in the air.
    http://www.boingboing.net/2009/12/15/photographer-beaten.html

  14. Well if one of your complaints was rejected as the police were flat-out lying, then certainly appeal. I wonder whether there was any CCTV evidence in the area, or any witnesses….

    Probably the most important issue has not been addressed, namely what is to be done to expunge your police record. As the arrest was unlawful, can your record be wiped, so you can enter the US on the visa waiver scheme, not have a PNC record, and be able to apply for an enhanced CRB check safe in the knowledge that you’re not listed as a dangerous terrorist.

    Can you obtain a copy of the advice from the police’s legal counsel?

    The issue of compensation has also not been discussed.

    So the outcome is that the arresting officer will receive management training and was not acting in malice.
    What exactly is management action and is it the non-punishment it appears to be? The assertion that the officer was not acting maliciously seems to directly contradict the findings of the investigating officer who said that you were arrested ‘because they could’. One thing that sticks out throughout the report is that the Terrorism Act was misused again and again and again throughout the encounter because you failed the ‘attitude test’.

    I believe you can appeal against the lack of sanction applied against the officer as well as the outcome of the investigation.

  15. Throughout the whole process and the video I have seen it seems you have acted with calm restraint at extreme provocation. As for the dopey WPC that arrested you I would be expecting her to resign very shortly before she is sacked… If I was her commanding officer she would be working in the office on the tea run ( she’d probably mess that up too !). It seems its not over yet and I really hope that you are awarded financial compensation so you can by yourself a new camera! In addition I’d like to see the WPC send you a hand written apology instead of leaving it to the inspector. I,m right behind you.

  16. Dominic Lawson has jumped to your denfence in the Independent.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/dominic-lawson/dominic-lawson-if-we-are-all-under-suspicion-then-we-are-all-threatened-1857777.html

    “Thus, last year, police officers must presumably have thought they had reason to suspect that Alex Turner, taking pictures of a fish and chip shop in Chatham called Mick’s Plaice, was in fact a terrorist. Chatham no longer has its dockyard, or indeed any army barracks… but that didn’t stop two officers from stopping him taking his fishy snaps; and when Mr Turner – quite rightly, in my view – questioned their authority to stop him, he was arrested, held handcuffed in a police van, searched. and interviewed by two plain-clothes officers.

    This is the most unpleasant aspect of such encounters, as most of us will intuitively realise: if the innocent citizen reacts with the outrage of the genuinely guiltless, the officers involved may well take a special pleasure in humiliating him – and it is this which makes most people meekly accept official behaviour, even if they might strongly suspect it is the police who are behaving illegally. “

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  18. It is always interesting to note that the police take more than 6 months to investigate these complaints. I can only assume that this is so that, if the officers involved are found to have carried out an unlawful arrest, you are prevented by the Magistrates Courts rules from bringing a summary prosecution. Such a summons has to be issued within 6 months. This is what happened to me when I was attacked and assaulted by a primary school teacher who had seen me using a camera in my village, some way from the school. When | complained to Derbyshire County Council about this young man (I am 58 and disabled) they used the excuse: ‘Stuart White acted as he perceived a risk of harm to the children inside the school building.’ When I asked DCC to explain the nature of this ‘perceived risk of harm’ they informed me that they considered the matter to be closed as they had already done everything that they could to assist me! (just a reminder that we photographers were suspected paedophiles before we were suspected terrorists)

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