They used to catch crooks - now they trawl Twitter. Are our police turning into spies?

With crime rates plunging, the police are pouncing on innocents instead — and attacking freedom

26 October 2013

9:00 AM

26 October 2013

9:00 AM

Just before the hacking scandal broke, the Sun sent a young and by all accounts decent reporter to meet a woman who said she had a story — a ‘walk-in’ as we call them in the trade.

The walk-in produced a phone and said the Sun would want to take a look. One picture on it showed the face of a much-loved TV presenter. The rest of the celeb’s body was more lustful than lovable, however, as he was exposing his member in triumphant fashion. Accompanying the picture was a lot of explicit sex talk. The phone looked as if it belonged to the star’s mistress, and the very famous and very married presenter had been sending her pornographic ‘selfies’ and sex texts to remind her of the joys that awaited her when they next met.

The reporter took the phone. Contrary to received wisdom, tabloid hacks are not all monsters. He told the Sun’s lawyer he suspected his contact had stolen the phone. He and the lawyers killed the story. He gave the phone back to the walk-in. Later the police arrested and cautioned her under the Theft Act, and returned the phone to its rightful owner.

That seemed to be that. The reporter moved on to another job as a foreign correspondent in the States. The petty thief had only a tiny mark on her criminal record that hardly anyone would know about. The celebrity continued to keep his sex life private.

It was as if nothing had happened, until three years later in 2012 the police arrested the reporter for possession of criminal property and a catch-all offence that could trap every investigative journalist — ‘computer misuse’ — a charge without a public interest defence. He lost his job and his new life in America. Like scores of other journalists and confidential sources — more now than ever before in British history — he is waiting to see if the Crown Prosecution Service will send him to the dock.

If it does, it will show how stupid Britain’s forces of law and order have become. I hear that the CPS is trying to keep the celeb’s name secret, but there is no guarantee that it can. If it fails, the state, which accuses the tabloids of invading the privacy of the famous, will be invading his privacy itself. The reporter, meanwhile, will face a full criminal hearing, even though the police let off the actual thief with a caution. In the 1990s, I published a collection of essays called Cruel Britannia on the early Blair years. I chose as my subtitle ‘Reports on the Sinister and the Preposterous’. What applied then, applies now — only doubly so.

Britain’s authorities are sinister because they are turning on fundamental liberties, without which a free society cannot function: freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right to protest. They are preposterous because they are wasting their time and our money on crimes that turn out not to be crimes on closer examination. Instead of keeping a steady head, they pander to popular hysteria and round up despised minorities: left-wing demonstrators, tabloid journalists and the politically incorrect users of social media. It is as if the criminal justice system has become a vast job creation scheme for cops and briefs. Or perhaps the better comparison is with the Aztec gods, who needed a steady flow of sacrificial victims to satiate their hunger. It certainly feels that way when I talk to honest men and women caught in the law’s maw.

‘Don’t they have anything better to do?’ used to be the question when the police were caught wasting their own time. The surprising answer today is that often they do not.

Crime is falling across the developed world. Sociologists cannot say why. Tougher punishments do not explain the trend. The punitive United States has two million in custody, and has seen its crime rate collapse. But so have the soft-liberal states of northern Europe. The authors of the best-selling Freakonomics claimed that freely available abortion had led to poor women aborting boys, who would otherwise have grown up to be criminals. Their eugenic fantasy had no basis in fact either — crime rates were lower when abortion was illegal. The right’s warning that ‘the collapse of the family’ would lead to social breakdown has proved to be as false — crime has fallen as single parenthood has grown. The left’s warning that inequality and poverty will bring disorder on the streets has turned out to be nonsense too — the crime figures keep going down despite the worst recession in a century. Better car immobilisers, security cameras and burglar alarms are probably part of the explanation, as are an ageing population and more humane treatments for the mentally ill and disabled.

For whatever reason — and even the pacifying effects of unleaded petrol have been suggested — the developed world is going through a cultural change as dramatic as the shift in the mid-19th century when the Victorians rejected the licentiousness of the Georgians and embraced respectability. The ‘young people of today’, so often condemned, are less likely to get drunk or stoned than their parents were, and much less likely to burgle your home or rob you in the street. Saffy, Jennifer Saunders’s puritanical daughter in Absolutely Fabulous, is as much a sign of the times as a comic character.

There are two ways to respond to the news that crime has halved in England and Wales since 1995. The public could rejoice that last year we enjoyed the largest fall in violent crime in Europe over the last decade. A safer society is a society worth having, after all. For the police, however, a safer society is a clear and present danger. Crime may have halved since 1995, but police numbers are up: from 127,222 to 129,584 in 2012 in England and Wales; and from 14,323 in to 17,436 in Scotland. How can these officers justify their salaries and pensions, when so many are surplus to requirements? The answer the police have found is to criminalise behaviour that was never criminal in the past and should not be criminal now.

We will have to wait until the trials are over, but from what I am hearing the phone hacking cases stand a good chance of being remembered as the most vexatious litigation in English legal history. They are already the largest and most expensive police investigation ever. That on its own is an astonishing fact. Britain’s largest police investigation — costing £19.5 million as of June this year, the last month for which we have figures — was not into murder or paedophilia or terrorism but into journalism. Detectives have arrested more than 100 journalists and their sources to date. Only countries like Iran and Turkey arrest reporters in such number, and for this reason alone the Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service will be as much on trial as the defendants.

I urge you to keep your eyes open for two tricks they may have pulled when the hearings begin. Off the record, I am told that many reporters charged with paying for stories — of ‘procuring misconduct in public office’ as the archaic wording of the common law has it — will say, ‘Yes, I paid for information but the story I received was in the public interest.’ If they do, they will tell us that the authorities took advantage of an outbreak of moral hysteria — which, as Lord Macaulay noted, periodically make the British so ridiculous — to punish whistle-blowers and send a chilling message to all state servants that they will receive the same treatment if they speak out.

You should watch out too for cases so trivial and pointless that you wonder about the mentality of the prosecutor who approved them. A reporter I know has been kept on bail for months for an off-the-cuff remark he made in an email and because he worked near a man who was an alleged hacker. If they come to court, these prosecutions will send journalists rather than sources a message. ‘We can make your lives hell, for years,’ they will say. ‘Are you sure you want to go through all of that?’

Too few realise that the police have every-thing they need, because, to save his worthless skin, and the skin of his equally worthless son James, Rupert Murdoch handed over all the evidence, however flimsy, for detectives to use against his own journalists and supposedly confidential sources.

Despite promises from the Director of Public Prosecutions to the contrary, the web remains an equally profitable source of material for underemployed officers. Kent police, for instance, investigated their own youth commissioner — a luckless 17-year-old called Paris Brown — for making allegedly racist and homophobic tweets. In this, as in so many other investigations into ‘hate speech’, the fundamental principle of free societies was forgotten. It is not enough for the state to say that speech is hateful: it should have to show that the offending words would incite violence before our underemployed cops can investigate. If a religious fanatic is inciting a mob outside a gay bar, arrest him, of course. If he is expressing an obnoxious opinion, argue with him.

Just in case you are thinking it is only Sun reporters, ‘bigots’ and other traditional objects of leftish antipathy who are suffering, notice how the police boast of mass arrests at left-wing demonstrations and only months later admit sotto voce that they have made a mistake. The most notable climbdown came from protests against the G20 in 2009, when the Met had to accept that its arrests were unlawful. More often, they just quietly release innocent protestors without charge.

We should be enjoying a peace dividend as crime falls. We should be a happier country, freed from fear. Instead we are becoming a frightened and cautious people. The devil has found work for the police’s idle hands, and they are meddling with the freedoms that make democratic life worth living.

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Show comments
  • Swiss Bob

    Just watching the HoC Home Affairs Committee.

    First witness is the officer who conducted the investigation and found that there was a case to answer for misconduct (later downgraded to ‘no case to answer’ by his superiors), which is stretching it a bit because the officers concerned had a case to answer for gross misconduct in the opinion of the IPCC.

    Putting that aside Chief Inspector Reakes-Williams appears to be a decent police officer, I feel sorry for the poor bloke given the quality of a large number of his colleagues who are clearly bent as the proverbial nine bob note.

    Can anyone tell me why such senior police officers (The DCCs and ACCs) are standing up for an inspector and a couple of sergeants without mentioning Freemasons because one would think these bozos are putting their careers on the line for no sane reason?

    • Mike

      It was a disgrace watching those liars at work !

      • mikewaller

        The devastating thing is that they seemed completely oblivious to it. I have seen confidence tricksters who lie with the utmost ease and nervous liars who can be read like a book; but those 3 were something different again. Subconsciously their opening premise seemed to be that, other than for mere detail, we can do no wrong. Ergo, we can have done no wrong.

        That they initially got support from the very top shows just how ingrained this self-image is. Indeed, the BBC’s web-site carried a story a couple of day ago about 2 Liverpool police who had arrested and put in the back of their van a guy they has spotted urinating in an alleyway, Then, presumably because he became difficult, they shot him 5 TIMES with a Tazer. The initial judgement of their force’s Tazer expert? Their approach to the situation in which they found themselves had been “textbook”.

        Fortunately the guy complained to the IPCC and eventually the two PCs got sacked. But, really, what kind of world do the police live in? The sooner higher level entrants with other backgrounds are forced on them, the better

        • Mike

          There’s three sections of society in the UK today who think that the rules of society either moral or through legislation don’t apply to them. They are as follows –

          1/ MP’s who didn’t wish to understand (and still don’t) that gratuitous expenses and fiddles are fraud in the real world. They refuse to come under the HMRC remit that the rest of us have to abide by and see nothing wrong in their fiddling expenses from the tax payer.

          2/ Then there’s bankers who have created all manner of fraudulent schemes to steal from their customers and not one of them has had their collar felt. They spin it as ‘mis-selling’, a non existent word in the English language, they cop a plea with the regulators and get let off provided they’ll pay back any poor soul who has the stamina to pursue them. They like many MP’s and these Plod also refuse to accept they committed a crime.

          3/ The police who we’ve already thrashed to death are a law unto themselves and the problem is at the higher ranks. They are the ones who cover up and white wash all and any misdoing by lower levels whether just intimidating home owners trying to protect their property, killing innocent Brazilians (and others) through incompetence or in this case by lying their ass’s off. Then we have SOCA white wash over which blue chip companies hire PI’s who then went on to commit illegal actions like hacking phones.

          In actuality, there’s very little difference between Zimbabwe or the UK with the exception that in the UK they don’t have to resort to physical violence as there’s more than enough fiscal sanctions between all three groups to control the masses and maintain their status quo. ALL three groups have been quizzed in several forums over their behaviour and the result has been virtually the same. The laws that apply to Joe public do not apply to them and even when caught bang to rights, they sit there facing the camera and deny everything.

          Basically, the system is as corrupt as many third world countries and controlled purely by the elite establishment !

  • David Prentice

    The rozzers don’t even look the part any more — tattoos, beards, bespectacled weeds who look like a puff of wind would do for them and those hideous, baggy, multi-pocketed cargo pants.

    • Ricky Strong

      And they don’t seem to have many rights anymore. Some of the sheer cheek and abuse I have seen hurled at the police to which they are legally not allowed to retort is madness.

      Extreme I know but during those riots/mass lootings in London I wanted nothing more than to see the police wade in with batons at the ready promptly followed by broken bones and bodies writhing on the floor. Might have been a better deterrent and would certainly have set an example. Perhaps then that poor pregnant lady wouldn’t have had to jump for her and her babies life. Utter scum the lot of them.

      • Schadenfreuden

        Socialist Manifesto:

        Point 38 – Undermine public trust in positions of state authority, transfer some of the powers of arrest from the police to social agencies. Treat all behavioural problems as psychiatric disorders which no one but psychiatrists can understand [or treat].

      • Fergus Pickering

        Sorry, who exactly are utter scum? Hve you any idea how dangerous London was in times gone by when men habitually carries life-prexervers and the police went in pairs in the working-class areas?

        • Ricky Strong

          I was just referring to such people as those who thought it a grand idea to burn down Reeves Corner furniture shop, and those who smashed and robbed peoples businesses without any consideration or respect for the law or the people they may hurt. I also refer to the scum that pretended to help that foreign student while simultaneously robbing him.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Victorian policemen, and I suppose you would LOVE Victorian policemen, had splendid beards.

    • Fractal Vortices

      They never did look the part, I can imagine they weighed at best a maximum 14 stone fit, could sprint 15 mph max for 0.25 mile, do 30 full pushups and 5 pullups. Anyone who respects people wont be able to stand their culture, the lying, the laziness, the cowardice.

  • MikeF

    The police have been politicised and are now used as a tool to intimidate the mass of the population into acquiescence with an increasingly authoritarian state. The smokescreen for this is legislation to ‘protect’ minorities from such spurious concepts as ‘hate speech’. That is the reality – it is not an accident and it is not the result of the police having too much free time.

    • Eddie

      I have lost all faith in the police.

    • Mike

      They’ve been politicised in two ways, one by their masters and also by themselves as in Plebgate !

    • Fergus Pickering

      The police in every countr have always been used in the way you describe.

    • Callan

      Spot on sir. And as for crime rates falling, this is mere manipulation of the figures and the general public despairing of making crime reports, even if there is a police station within 50 miles to report such. Scarman and McPherson bear much of the blame by the way for the fact that police leaders prefer to concentrate on the legislation you describe instead of concentrating on their common law duties which it bears repeating are the protection of life and property, the prevention and detection of crime and the prosecution of offenders against the peace. In that order.

      • Maturecheese

        You are spot on about not reporting crime. You have to jump through hoops to do so on the phone and even if you manage that very little seems to happen afterwards. Eventually you just don’t bother. The Police lost my respect a few years ago and I suspect I’m not alone in this negative attitude.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “With crime rates plunging…”
    Make that reported crime rates plunging, because so many have realised that reporting a crime is a waste of time and effort. And besides Plod may well charge the victim with some victimless crime.
    Bottom line, Plod`s a waste of space.

    • Baron

      Spot on, Jackthesmilingblack, most of the fall is easily explained – not reporting the crime, reporting it, but being told to drop it for the cops inability to do anything about it. It’s still the case 93% of all reported cases aren’t solved, why bother to hike the percentage.

  • Knives_and_Faux

    I am at the point where I think Raul Moat had a point.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      You mean, “Kill a cop for Christ”?

    • Nick

      Go and say that to the victims of the coward Moat.

      • Knives_and_Faux

        Why would I talk to a dead copper who couldn’t handle being blind. An insult to blind people who get on with it.

        • Nick

          And let me guess….you’re a respectable member of society?

        • mikewaller

          You sad, childish, sack.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Good heavens did you really say that?

  • Eddie

    Absolutely spot on!
    The police now seem to spend most of their time pootling around in police vans, arresting people for silly things like posting rude words on Facebook or Twitter or sending emails.
    Remember, sending only 2 emails to someone that has left them (apparently) ‘alarmed and distressed’ will mean they can phone the plods and you will get arrested. Most of the 6000 people arrested in this way are young men who have emailed former girlfriends – this is NOT harassment as any intelligent person could define it.
    Needless to say, anyone can BLOCK any email sender, or Twitterer. Yet they do not. Why? Maybe they like being poor wickle victims and getting revenge against their exes. The police oblige and boost their arrest figures, and thousands of innocent young men get criminal records.
    Time to repeal or reform all harassment laws.

    • Greenslime

      And closing large sections of major roads at peak times in order to take photographs and measurements for their acident statistics. No sense of proportion. Couldn’t give a toss about the hundreds of thousands they inconvenience in their box ticking progress!
      Still at least those who are measuring seem to be able to get out of their cars. Most coppers I see these days seem to have their tail-end welded to their car seats.

      • Eddie

        Yep, and the police have just wasted £600,000 of tax payers’ cash in one year. How? By putting petrol in diesel cars. Really. Thick or what?

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      e-mailing former girl friends, I mean come on. What kind of loser would do that? If it`s not broke don`t fix it. If it is broke, replace it. Applies pretty much universally.

      • Toby Esterházy
      • Eddie

        Not relevant. But anyway, plenty of p-teasing girls out there who enjoy hooking boyfriends then dumping them – for a sense of power no doubt (but what kind of loser would do that? lots of ex-girlfriends, that’s who).
        I am just making the point that harassment USED to mean someone actually stalking someone else, following them, standing outside their house etc. Now, it means sending 2 emails.
        The harassment act was created in 1997 by some German bint aristo whose daughter had been stalked, It was meant to address SERIOUS stalking, and 100-200 arrests per year were expected. Now around 6000 (mostly) men get arrested and charged. Silly, stupid, pointless, and sexist – with police acting as a sort of private enforcement bodyguard for women to get revenge on men.
        But anyway, women can also be arrested under that act. I know about a married couple who each sent one email to a neighbour. They got arrested for harassment and accepted a caution. For sending ONE email each telling their neighbour what a bad noisy neighbour he was.
        we live in an age where people crave victimhood and offence – and the plods are dedicated to fighting this ‘crime’ – which is easy meat really and leads to lots of arrests and successful prosecutions.
        Forget about catching muggers or trying to solve thefts – all too hard, so the police don’t even bother.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Here in the Japan Alps we have say several types of women:
          Young, single, eager to please shallow Japanese women; like shooting in a barrel. Obviously Japanese is largely the language of communication, even though improving their spoken English is the main attraction. However, changing the relationship to platonic can be a challenge. But like all women, you bed them once and they think they own you.
          User hostile western women who respond with a sensitive approach by going deaf and rendering you invisible. In UK you must be wall-to-wall with that type. Fortunately they are not the main source of the home comforts.
          Married women (other than White) that can engage in discussion without putting on a childish act and refraining from disagreement. But nevertheless, get their information and opinions from the Japanese MSM.
          But that`s a hardship posting for you, where even the most basic comfort is an unobtainable luxury.
          Jack, Japan Alps

          • Toby Esterházy

            Oh, do shut up! We all know that this is your REAL life (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24614830 )!

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Terrible thing, envy.

          • Toby Esterházy

            Comic books are no substitute for the real article.

  • “pacifying effects of unleaded petrol” – No. You’ve missed the point. It’s that the petrol no longer has poisonous lead not that unleaded petrol has some magical properties.

  • Manfrom

    …”the developed world is going through a cultural change as dramatic as
    the shift in the mid-19th century when the Victorians rejected the
    licentiousness of the Georgians and embraced respectability.”

    For more on this Ben Wilson’s Decency and Disorder is well worth a read.

  • “they pander to popular hysteria and round up despised minorities:
    left-wing demonstrators, tabloid journalists and the politically
    incorrect users of social media. It is as if the criminal justice system
    has become a vast job creation scheme for cops and briefs. Or perhaps
    the better comparison is with the Aztec gods, who needed a steady flow
    of sacrificial victims to satiate their hunger.”

    Drumming up business by the police has been going on for years – with feminist-inspired laws coupled with the machinations of the abuse industry being worth billions of dollars across the western world.

    Lawyers in America are the biggest contributors to the Democratic party – because of every law, rule and regulation – no matter how inappropriate – brings them money.

    • Catherine Allinson

      The American lawyers you mention who contribute to the Democrats would be lefties and anti-right. How does that square with the suggestion that the police act against despised minorities such as left-wing demonstrators? Oh wait – you may have been right where you were wrong as it were…

      • “The American lawyers you mention who contribute to the Democrats would be lefties and anti-right.”


        MOST of the big-money lawyers and their firms are after the money, not the politics.

        They couldn’t give a hoot who’s in power.

  • mikewaller

    There is a lot of very good stuff in this although I find the abortion data rather more convincing than you do. As for police under-employment,I have just heard a horror story which, if true, appalls me [Five short visits by a very senior man regarding a case which they eventually decided was not really a crime they could investigate. That said, the guy who told me alleges Masonic involvement so that too might have been a factor).

    However I think that your cause celebre would have been far better served by simply majoring on it. I seem to think that I have already heard something about it. Would I have done? Certainly it should be shouted about from the roof tops. Is nobody actually doing anything other than letting the wheels of “justice” grind on at their usually pathetically slow speed?

  • Mike

    Watching those three scumbags at the select committee hearing over ‘plebgate’ yesterday said it all to me and I’m not talking about the committee members. These ‘upholders of the law’ used an interview with Mitchell as a platform for a political opportunity on the 6 o’clock news, they lied to the media when they claimed he (Mitchell) wouldn’t state what he said to plod outside Downing Street despite it being documented and even the IPCC deputy chairperson said they committed gross misconduct.

    At the other end of the spectrum of misdoings this week, we have the ‘Angel of Woolwich’ (Woolwich beheading) intimidated and warned by Devon & Cornwall police for daring to complain against kids committing criminal damage.

    No wonder most people today would look the other way if they saw plod getting beating up by feral yobs as they’ve lost any trust they may have had. Mutual support cuts both ways but plod has sold us out and now we’ll sell them out !

    • Nick

      Don’t be so daft.

      • Mike

        Twice as many disagree with your comment.

        • Nick

          I’m doing well then.

    • Eddie

      True. I have to admit I would look the other way. I no longer support the police and they have lost my trust completely.

      The police who lied at Downing Street should be arrested and charged. They lied and lied and lied – to police, to parliament, to the public. Not fit to hold office. 5 years inside for each would be fair.

      Or is it OK to lie? If so, police should stop using the argument in court that suspects have lied, but apparently, according to the plods, it’s OK to do that now.

      Also, those thickie plods who put petrol in diesel patrol cars thereby wasting half a million in taxpayers’ money last year should be made personally responsible for doing repairs on the cars their incompetence and stupidity has damaged. The police management have tried everything – warning notices on bright yellow petrol caps, even TALKING petrol caps to remind plod to put diesel in, not petrol, yet they still ruin thousands of car engines every year costing the taxpayer. Why? If plod is thick and causing damage to a police car, then they should pay to make it good.

  • Blazeaway

    A friend is a former journalist and he has his own story.

    He used to live in a town with a history of racial problems, rioting and BNP activity.
    Upon his return recently to meet old friends, he went to a pub. While waiting for friends he started wondering out of journalistic curiosity how people now felt about their town with a view to possibly writing an article.

    He asked a couple on the same table what they thought about immigration. They said – and he agreed – that most immigrants were hard-working and were no problem.

    It was a 60-second conversation and that was the end of that.

    Two minutes later, a girl in her 20s – a friend of the couple – approached their table and asked what they had been talking about. They told her, whereupon the girl, reproached my friend and told him he couldn’t speak about such matters. He said it was a free country and he could ask what he liked. A 30-second conversation.
    That was the end of that and she left.

    Two minutes later she returned with a bouncer who grabbed my friend by the throat and dragged him to the door and threw him out.

    He soon found two police officers and alleged assault. He asked them to investigate. They refused. He asked again. They refused again.

    He then went to the police station to report the assault and to report the police refusal to assist.

    Having reported the incident he walked back through town to find his friends and saw the same two officers. He told them he had reported them and urged them again to investigate – whereupon they arrested him and took him to the cells.

    The next day he reported the assault to the police station desk and an ‘investigation’ was launched. To cut a long story short, the police later rang him and asked what the subject matter of his conversation with the couple was. As soon as he mentioned immigration, the police confirmed that the girl – who they had tracked down – had said he was talking about the subject and had made her feel ‘uncomfortable’. His conversation, of course, had been with the couple at the table.

    The investigating officer implied my friend was a racist and said he should not talk about ‘inappropriate and sensitive’ subjects. He would take no further action on the assault charge because, it seemed, my friend had brought his trouble upon himself just by raising – not with the girl – a subject that officialdom doesn’t want to be discussed. Hate speech, you see.

    My friend later complained to the IPCC about the initial two officers’ refusal to investigate the assault and his subsequent arrest.

    The ‘investigation’ was a calculated smear upon my friend, a married man: they lied that the officers on the night had investigated – and had found out that he had approached the girl, refused to leave her alone and then threatened her.

    They added that he had then approached a group of ‘Asian girls’ in the pub and had threatened them.

    They added that he then lurched through town, swearing loudly at the police officers – and that then they had lost their patience with his thug-like behaviour and arrested him. So an innocent man with a clean record and a record of church and civic involvement is now a lecherous, racist, ranting and threatening thug.

    The IPCC, of course, changed its rules last year so that only the most serious cases such as death in custody are independently investigated. All other cases are simply given to the police and they investigate themselves. Unsurprisingly, justice is not done.

    There is an article elsewhere in this edition of the Spectator about health tourism.

    What would happen if someone stood in a town centre handing out leaflets about the problem and someone complained? The subject would be a legitimate matter for debate on a public policy issue but would the person be allowed to continue?

    What price freedom of speech? What price liberty?

    Can journalists do their job if they are not allowed to talk to people about prickly subjects?

    • Eddie

      Incredible, but not – utterly believable, sadly.

      ‘and had found out that he had approached the girl, refused to leave her alone and then threatened her.’
      which means he asked the girl a couple of questions. But the truth does not matter – the police will always side with anyone who screams ‘racism’ and also with any woman over a man. See, women are perpetual victims in plod-land.
      The law that says if someone overhears others talking ‘in a manner which gives offence’ they can claim they have been a victim of racism is very bad law indeed. It came from the Stephen Lawrence aftermath of legal ineptitude, and should be repealed.

  • Nick

    So I take it the author of this article Nick Cohen has just been given a parking ticket or has been caught speeding? And because he can’t hack it,he’s taken to slagging the police off……….What a tosser.

    How is it that all these bad things that the police supposedly do,never happen to me?
    I reckon I must be a saint or something.Or maybe I’m just an all round good egg who keeps his nose clean.

    And with regards to some of the anti police posts that I’ve just read………well,mmmmm,I reckon you’re lying….Making it up as you go along.
    Grow up you silly sods and grow a pair.

    Oooops! Here come the ‘vote downs’……;-)

    • dodgy

      …Oooops! Here come the ‘vote downs’……;-)…

      I don’t think we need to vote you down. We just need to point out that the police recently fitted up a cabinet minister in Downing Street…

      • Nick

        Yeah that may be true.But the government are fitting up the police by ruining their existing golden handshake and pension schemes.
        The government chucks money at foreign aid and immigrants but it doesn’t look after our protectors…….More power to the police I say.

        • dodgy

          You omitted the /sarc…

        • mikewaller

          Are you so insulated from reality that you seriously think the young, themselves struggling to find work, pay for their education, buy a home and save for a pension, can be expected to provide retired police-persons with a good index-linked pension over the course of what for many will be 40 years of retirement? As the Americans say and the workers at Grangemouth have just learned: Get real!

          • Nick

            Wayne Rooney is paid (what is it?) £250,000 per week.
            I rest my case M’Lord.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Yes I know what you say. And it’s balls. Now shut up, there’s a good fellow..

          • Nick

            The force is with you young Pickering…..But you are not a Jedi yet.

  • sarah_13

    Perhaps it would be helpful if all officers were given a copy of On Liberty to read.

  • Nick

    The problem that the police have is that they have to deal with scum…….Human scum.

    • Eddie

      Sounds like a spot on description of some police officers really, especially the corrupt lying toe rags who get away scott free after an investigation (by their mates in the police, obviously!).

      • Nick

        Well you could say the same thing about the general public involved in crime.
        They commit a crime…..get nicked and can’t hack it so they scream for a solicitor to get them off…………F ing scum.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Imagine screaming for a solicitor instead of simply hastening to the cells like a good person.

          • Nick

            Imagine all the people…..living life in peace.

          • Eddie

            Imagine no possessions. Muggers like to imagine that their victims don’t want their possessions anyway.
            It’s easy if you can – just grab and go. The police will never catch you, and so you get free stuff, innit?

          • Nick

            That’s a narrow minded and daft way of looking at things.Another way of looking at it is by looking at our prisons which are either full of nearly full……..With prisoners……….Which the police have caught.
            Whoops nearly forgot……Innit.

          • Eddie

            The vast majority of muggings are not even reported and those that are reported never lead to arrests. These are real crimes, with real victims. The police however prefer to focus on the easy meat of arresting boys who post rude words against ex-girlfriends on Twitter, Facebook and emails (which the ex girlfriends could have blocked with a click of a mouse).
            Even the police admit this – they actually compete to attend the calls to do with internet ‘crimes’ because they seize the computers and have evidence, so a charge is a dead cert. The point is, these arrested achieve nothing – whereas arresting a few muggers and real criminals would do so much good.
            Of course the police catch criminals – but it’s not hard. Most have been inside already, so they just arrest familiar faces. They really do not do the real policing work any more, and seem to have more or less given up trying to stop street crime.

          • Nick

            So Eddie….who caught all the murderers,rapists and terrorists that are in prison if it wasn’t the police?

          • Eddie

            DNA tests, silly, and the police are too thick to even have a low grade science GCSE so it weren’t them what invented that.
            Terrorist are caught by surveillance and the specials – not plods.

          • Nick

            Whatever loser.

    • Blazeaway

      Nick, you’re a police officer. Get yourself to the nick and start filling out some absenteeism reports, rather than insulting law-abiding citizens on here.

      • Nick

        Law abiding citizens my a–e.You’re good kids when you’ve been in a car crash and are trapped.And the first person to arrive is a cop who pulls you safely from your car……that’s probably unroadworthy.
        And by the way,I’m not a cop.But if I was,I’d have some fun cracking bones…..;-)

        • Fergus Pickering

          Dear me, are you still here? Got your Batman suit on?

          • Nick

            ‘It’s the car right? The chicks dig the car’.

        • Eddie

          In fact, Nick, when I had a small car crash the obese police officers who turned up were rude, sarky and – ignoring the fact I was in shock – moaned that my car was an obstacle, and I quote ‘you’re blocking my road’.
          This is after the plod sneered at my car and said ‘they’s a lot of scratches on your car’ to which I told the porcine person that the car was 15 years old and that’s why. Utterly unhelpful pigs and rude with it.
          I don’t believe you have never been a cop, Nick. But then, lying through your teeth is all part of being a bobby these days, innit?
          By the way, are you happy the police have wasted over half a million of tax payers money by accidentally putting petrol in diesel patrol cars? And this despite warnings on petrol caps and even TALKING petrol caps. Let’s make police officers personally responsible for those bills – over £3k per car engine messed up by the wrong fuel. Agreed?
          Let’s also increase the police retirement age to match that of teachers.

          • Nick

            Heard it all before……Boring rubbish…….May I suggest that you prepare yourself for the storm that’s coming our way.
            Oh and I suppose you’ll blame that on the police.
            Ta Ta for now.

          • Eddie

            Boring rubbish? Sounds like you, duckie.
            Me, I just report the fact that over half a million quid of tax payers’ cash has been wasted because police officers are too thick to know you can’t put petrol in a diesel car.

  • Paddy S

    I laugh at Nicks naivety – Western crime rates going down. Really so why do many British and Irish people (old, single parent, working class parents) feel afraid every night when they go to bed. The reason crime rates has fallen – is not that there are less crimes, its threefold – ONE people dont report many crimes anymore, what is the point -breakins, assaults, thefts, threatening behaviour, drug use – the police do little to nothing at all on it. TWO – police gerrymander the statistics – its in their interests to call multiple crimes on person one or when an appartment complex and various houses in there robbed – call it one crime. THREE – murder rates have fallen because technology is better doctors can repair injuries that befre 20 years ago were a deathsentence….

    • Nick

      Stop reading the Guardian.

    • Eddie

      Agreed. Crime rates are going down because of burglar alarms and the fact that many criminals are in prison.
      Street crime has not gone down – it is endemic in London, and the perpetrators are mostly black too, a fact which many cannot bear to acknowledge.
      Thing is, the vast majority of mugging is not reported to police, so they stupidly say street crime is going down when in fact all that has happened is that people have lost faith in the police being able to do anything to catch the muggers, so no-one bothers reporting.

  • george

    Why can’t Britons defend themselves in their own homes (only slightly allowed, only now, after much suffering)? Why do burglars have carte blanche to enter if they can (imagine — if you haven’t experienced it — the depravity and cruelty of those that do)? Why do police take so long to arrive at a real emergency — in stark contrast to the polite efficiency of cops in the USA where I live (and I have dealt with police North and South: they are good wherever you are). You’ve all been too slow to fight against the more essential injustices.

    • Eddie

      The police arrive, do they? Last time I needed the police and phoned them (3 or 4 years ago) they didn’t turn up at all. I phoned again and again.

      Four hours later, 2 fat plods waddled up to my front door, yawning and smirking. These were not the police I had ‘ordered’; no, these were neighbourhood plods advising me about how to contact victim support! Useless beyond belief!

      By this time, the thief I had been staring at through a window had long gone – probably already fenced the gear he nicked from neighbours, and possibly was already in the departures lounge at Bristol airport off to a new life on the Costa del Crime. And why not?

      • Blazeaway

        Couldn’t agree more.
        My neighbour’s house was burgled and I could hear the burglars in the house. I went round and shouted inside my neighbour’s house to let them know that they had been rumbled.
        They ran out, pushing me aside – and waited at the end of the road until I went – presumably so they could go back and finish the job.
        I rang the police to report the burglary. I told them the miscreants were at the end of the road and, if they cam round quickly, they could arrest them and I would give evidence.
        Their reply? They merely asked me to secure my neighbour’s house by boarding up the door (which had been damaged when the burglars forced their way in).

        • Eddie

          I am sure there are many other examples of this sort of police negligence and apathy when it comes to real crime. Maybe because they know it’s unlikely they’ll make arrests so prefer the easy meat of arresting people who have said rude words on Facebook and Twitter?
          The police have become utterly useless and I do not trust them any more.
          However, in future, if you ever call the police, scream RACISM – if you claim the criminals conducted a racist attack, the plods’ll be there in 5 minutes max.
          Bear in mind that you don’t need to prove with evidence any racism – the law ridiculously now says perception of racism is all. That was one of the effects of the Stephen Lawrence report. If I perceive racism against me, therefore it exists!

  • Ricky Strong

    I would suspect that had we still been governed solely by English law many of these seemingly ridiculous cases we often hear about would not have even made it to court. The central issue I believe is that as every day goes past EU law infiltrates our own law, so if you want to understand why the police arrest people for hate crimes, or magistrates and judges pass comical judgments you must look to the law that governs their decisions and increasingly so, our own lives.

    • Eddie

      Not really. Things like the Harassment Act 1997 and the Malicious Communications Act are to blame and are being misused – this act was not intended to lead to 6000 arrests per year, mostly of young men saying things on Twitter, Facebook or in emails.

      The EU did not foist those laws on us.

      The ridiculous thing is that ANYONE can block ANY OTHER USER on Twitter, Facebook and in emails – and yet they do not; they prefer to phone the police and play the victim – usually to get vindictive revenge against others (hell hath no fury…)

      • Eddie

        I’ve just read of an absurd case in the local paper. Some Bangladeshi bloke who sat next to a teenage girl (no doubt 18) on a bus and started chatting her up. She didn’t move to another empty seat or tell him to F off. He then touched a pen mark on here hand and rubbed it, saying her skin was soft.
        This teenage girl ‘victim’ (ha ha!) then made a complaint to the police, who went to the man’s place of work (a restaurant) and arrested him. He went to the magistrate court and got fined £110 for this so-called crime, and lost his job. The teenage girl retained her anonymity.
        So in these days of hysterical feminist pity parties, it seems any man who chats up a woman or who touches her hand or arm is a sex offender. This bloke now has to register with police and tell them of his movements in the UK (he is leaving the city and moving back to Birmingham – so watch out Brummies for the evil Bangla sex beast hand-toucher coming your way!)
        This is utterly nuts! Our laws infantilise women like this and criminalise innocent men – but the teenage girls gets £100 compo out of it and victim status.
        This is what I mean by police wasting police time constantly. Maybe we should charge them?

        • The Laughing Cavalier

          If some wierdo starts touching a teenage girl he has never met before this is an assault. She was right to report him.

          • Eddie

            Nonsense! He touched an ink mark on her hand for F’s sake.
            What about all the drunken leery girls who grope young men of a weekend then? Funnily enough, none of them get arrested…
            My bet is the girl craved the victimhood and the compo. Sorry, but I think it’s about time women grew up and stop infantilising themselves. Would someone who touched a man’s hand get arrested? No. So why was this bloke?
            I actually hate it when people touch my hand or arm – it has become VERY common in recent years for female managers to do that (they learn it on management courses). But somehow that’s OK.

    • Nick

      Excellent post Ricky and very true.

  • bugalugs2

    “Crime may have halved since 1995, but police numbers are up: from 127,222 to 129,584 in 2012 in England and Wales; and from 14,323 in to 17,436 in Scotland. ”

    Why? maybe because the absurd amount of regulatory hoops that the Police have to jump through every time they as much as stop and chat to someone means that the productivity of the Police has taken a disastrous turn for the worse.

    The other issue is that many of the new non-criminal crimes reverse the principle of mens rea, ‘hate speech’ is defined not in terms of the mind of the person uttering it but in whether in a hearer’s mind it was, or even worse ‘could be’ construed as hateful.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    I refer you to my recent, “sucks” list.
    The police suck, the criminal justice system sucks, the Social Services suck, the DVLA sucks, HMRC sucks, public drunkenness sucks … Feel free to continue with your own contributions.

  • Kubrickguy

    Re Rip off prices cartoon.. with the government accounting for up to 64% of the price in tax and duty let alone secondary taxation and stealth taxes and retailers and energy companies sometimes working on net margins of less than 5% for all their work and delivery. I’d say the cartoon was targeting the wrong culprit…

  • e2toe4

    Spot on article.

    It IS a difficult subject to untangle; the way in which journalists have been hit with the sledgehammer they have.

    But it isn’t impossible and the article is as good a place to start as any.

    But I do think there are other factors at work that are making the job of any conspirators to gag the press easier than it ought to be.

    These days just because an imputation COULD (possibly) be given to any statement it almost immediately follows that this worst imputation IS then so ascribed.

    It is a commonplace now, almost every day, to hear people who are not racists or xenophobes (or professional communicators) struggling to say something they wish to say but failing because they don’t wish to be attacked by some passive/aggressor as ‘stereotyping’ or worse.

    This has become incredibly intimidating to Journalists as well, and all the more so, as they invariably commit things ‘to the record’, either print, broadcast or cyber.

    In addition the journalist reporting the remark can and often is, routinely accused of sharing the ideas expressed. as opposed to just reporting them.

    Journalists are just ‘ordinary people’, doing an often not all that very well paid a job, and as ordinary people they too are already intimidated in writing about things in that same, ordinary everyday way in which everyone of us, in talking about them..

    The phrase ‘I am no racist, but….’ has in itself become such an invariable point of attack that it has become unusable because it ‘shows’ that unconsciously one actually is a racist.

    A separate, but connected issue I have seen creeping into young journalists behaviour, at first insidiously, but becoming more and more apparent in recent years is the over reliance given to ‘official sources’, and extending the definition of what are ‘official sources’, to comments from press officers in organisations such as local councils, large companies who are handling whatever story it may be.

    These ‘official sources’ rarely deny the truth of a story, and the skill lies in the ability to manage it away using a number of methods, depending on the story itself and the perceived level of seriousness.

    Finding out ‘what ‘they’ are saying about it?’ is a part of good traditional journalism, but becomes corrosive in a different way to overt official intimidation by the authorities, when it leads to self censorship and to big stories becoming smaller, and even in journalists, who should challenge the increasingly prevalent methods of managing news, becoming complicit in the process.

    I am not saying this emergence of journalists who appear to me far more ready to accept the ‘official view’ than in the past, is AS bad as the systematic prosecution of journalists by the state in an attempt to intimidate the press and gag free speech.

    Nor, is the fact that many local newspapers now depend to a far greater degree proportionately for ad revenue on ‘official’ (ie council and quango) ads, and statutory notices than in the past, as bad as systematic persecution.

    This dependence is growing as other sources of advertising continue migrating to the web, continuing to create dramatic revenue falls in newspapers.

    I do think these three things are strands in the same issue though.

    Weakening revenues across virtually every newspaper leading to collapsing numbers of experienced journalists even in large newspapers.

    Young journalists necessarily recruited from a society that does seem more ready to mistake gullibility for niceness, asking questions for ‘harassment’, or pursuing a matter of public interest as nasty intrusion

    And this possibly opportunistic hijacking of the phone hacking issue to create a kind of anti-press moral outcry to cloak calculated attempts to control the press by people who feel we have the ‘wrong type’ of freedom.

    My point isn’t, that if there is an establishment plot to hijack the moral outcry arising from the phone hacking issue, that it isn’t important. I don’t know if there is a worked out, all signed-up plot going on, or not.

    But I feel these other strands, of a press being eroded by revenue falls, faster than a sandcastle on a stormy beach, and (inevitably) having to recruit from a society that is prizing individual personal privacy, and sensibilities, above the balancing virtues of civic and societal duties and responsibilities, may help to make such a plot easier, or even, sadly, eventually unnecessary.

  • allymax bruce

    Free speech is more important, and is more representative of a Free Democracy, than a private company called Twatter. If you are scared of putting up a comment on Twatter, then that’s exactly what you should do; force the Imposed political correctness OUT of our social society by standing up for your Rights!
    The police are like parking attendants now; all they do is look for easy targets, thinking they are more moral than thee if they try to force Labour’s evil Imposed political correctness. Twatter will soon, lose its ‘political correct’ status when the courts are full of twatters that are only exercising their Free Speech. I mean, anybody can say they they are offended by anything; F***, I’m offended by Labour lies, Labour destroying our economy, Labour illegal wars; the BBC propaganda, BBC Labour bias, BBC brainwashing, BBC ‘dark noise’, Channel 4 racism! Why don’t the police start arresting Labour politicians for Iraq illegal war??? Besides, when the police lie, & fit-up a Government Cabinet members, you know it’s time to fight back against the police. Why didn’t the police arrest Murdoch for his NotW/Sun extremely offesive attacks on the public??? Freedom of Expression laws guarantee the police are stepping outside their ‘service jurisdiction’ when they start criminalising citizens for Freedom of Speech. It’s time to start criminalising the police when they offend our Freedoms of Expression, and Free Speech, in our Free Democracy. Twatter is, just that; f***ing twatter!

  • Roy

    Remember the filming of police being chased through the streets by hordes of Muslims? That was a shameful scene and highlighted the disappearance of any grit to stand and uphold the law. They now concentrate on the old and infirm, who they can easily instruct to do as they are told, and easily transported to the nearby lockup, for it is a certainty they have had instructions not to mix it with the untouchables, the immigrant Muslims. It appears the ones at the top are under instructions not to upset the feelings of the new street ratbags. From the Mayor on down, they need their vote, and through spurious misrepresentation, juggling and trickery, they will get their treacherous way.

  • pa55word

    Sticks and stones may break my bones, but upsetting anyone is the most serious crime you can commit in modern Britain

  • In2minds

    As of today we have another ‘error of judgement’ from the police. Despite the Private Eye front cover with its Rebekah Brooks picture being ruled not in contempt of court the police have decided it cannot be sold on the streets of London

  • Jackthesmilingblack