Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Daft arrest

The #daftarrest tag on twitter is dealing with the fallout from Carmarthenshire council getting someone videoing a council meeting from the public gallery arrested. The council was upset by the person filming's blog, apparently, to such an extent that the Chief Executive of the council used public funds to sue for libel against him, apparently without having read the allegedly defaming article. This neatly gets around the problem for the council that you cannot libel a public body.
During the meeting the council officers called the police, who obediently turned up, arrested the woman, cuffed, her and carted her off to the cells. The major problem is that HMG has gone as far as to actively encourage video etc. of public meetings.
This isn't the first control freaky action by council staff, not by a long way, recently Rutland Council was getting legal advice on whether or not it could sue one of its own councillors for libel. Further back in Liverpool was the case of "" who the council tried to set the police on, the police in the end said they could find no evidence of a crime, so the council carried on with threats by other routes.
If you work for a council like Knowsley then it is best to not answer any questions, asked by TV crews, on the street, unless you want to go through a protracted unfair dismissal case like Kevin Robinson.
The Carmarthenshire case raises some more interesting questions, firstly what did the police think they were arresting the woman for, shouldn't you make sure that what they are alleged to be doing is actually a criminal offence before you take any action, on top of that you have shown that the arrest was necessary, when you get back to the police station, that should have been an interesting conversation! Cuffing someone is assault in all cases, there is however lawful justification, which means that it was still assaulted but that it was for one reason or another justifiable, the person would try to escape, assault someone or self harm being options. There can be no lawful policy on cuffing everyone.
When that person arrived at the station the custody sergeant had to believe the arrest was necessary before authorising the woman's detention, when it was realised that what she had done was in no way illegal she was released but she should never have been arrested in the first place. The council CEO then decided to get public funding, from the council, to sue for libel, without having read the allegedly defaming article, this alone may be a first. This neatly bypasses the prohibition on public bodies suing for defamation.
The law is being flouted on an industrial scale, by the people who supposed to be running the system. It is largely a result of the reduction of ethics training. There is a big difference between what I as an individual, acting on my own and for myself can do when I feel it is right and how I must behave when I'm am acting as an executive or officer of an organisation. In any official capacity I am there to execute the rules as they a set down by policy or law, as appropriate. If as I Police officer I feel it is for the better if I cuff everyone rather than just when I have grounds on an individual basis for doing something, I am not fit to be in the police and neither are my colleagues, who do not arrest me for assault. If as a custody sergeant I authorise someone's detention after arrest when I would be prepared to let them go on police bail afterwards then I am a criminal not a police officer. If I work for a council and make up a rule about no filming and then report it to the police, I should be fired, the excuse "me mate said" is not a legal defence.
This flouting of the law has consequences beyond the person held against their will when an interview could be arranged at a convenient time, for both. It costs money to hold someone in a cell, they have to be fed, people could be doing other things.
A little power is a dangerous thing, it makes the holders of it crave for more, why invite someone to a police station for an interview, then release them with a note explaining what will constitute interfering with the investigation/witnesses/perverting the course of justice then, if need, send them a summons in the post, when you can lockem up for hours, and then bail them. The overall results are unlikely to be very different from the current system the same people will cause problems as broke bail.

1 comment:

  1. Carmarthenshire Chief exec. should have learnt from his neighbouring Council - Pembrokeshire. Bryn Parry-Jones has said nothing, in fact his staff wonders if he exists when the Council has been slated by parliament or by the High Court
    PS Not for nothing is the council office block is known as the Kremlin on the Cleddau