policing

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).

The Sue Gray Report: The Rotten Heart of a Political Culture

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/05/2022 - 5:15pm in

The 'Partygate' scandal represents a systemic failure of multiple British institutions – with the fault not solely lying with Boris Johnson, says Jonathan Lis

The ink has been dry on the Sue Gray report for only a few days and already the media has begun to move on.

There was little we hadn’t already guessed and no ‘smoking gun’.

The arguably most serious incident – Boris Johnson’s apparent ‘ABBA party’ in the Downing Street flat after the departure of Dominic Cummings – warranted no investigation at all. Mysteriously, Chancellor Rishi Sunak chose the day after the report’s publication to introduce major new assistance to tackle the cost of living crisis.

And yet, 'Partygate' is not over, in any sense. Substantively, Johnson still faces an investigation by the House of Commons' Privileges Committee about his statements to Parliament. Politically, his party continues to lag in the polls, with voters expected to punish the Conservatives in two forthcoming by-elections. Ethically, he is beyond redemption.

The Sue Gray report does not merely expose the lack of principle and integrity in the man entrusted to lead us – he exposed that himself long ago. It also lays bare the decay throughout an entire state architecture.

A Culture of Impunity

A broad sweep of Sue Gray’s report emerged at the end of January, before the Metropolitan Police began its investigation into various lockdown-breaking parties held in Downing Street during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In her initial findings, the civil servant judged “a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time”.

She further declared that there had been “failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10”.

Given that the ultimate responsibility for the leadership of No 10 lies with the man who lives there, this marked an implicit condemnation of Boris Johnson himself. Crucially, Gray’s initial conclusions cut through all of the Prime Minister's excuses: that his role is not simply to observe the behavioural norms of the general population, but to set an example for it. Johnson failed to do either.

The full report reveals more detail of wrongdoing.

Contrary to what the Prime Minister always insisted, it makes clear that the guidance was not, in fact, followed. There were drunken parties long into the night; the Deputy Cabinet Secretary arrived at one with a karaoke machine; cleaners and security staff were treated with “a lack of respect” on multiple occasions; red wine was splashed up the walls of the heart of Government.

Officials’ private communications did not reveal the slightest concern about law-breaking, still less the risk of actually spreading a lethal virus – only the fear of how it might look. They did not care about following the laws they made; they cared only about getting caught.

But this was never principally about the officials. Culture is set from the top. And Sue Gray affirmed that “senior leadership must bear responsibility”. The only action Johnson has taken is to move some of his staff out of their jobs.  

ENJOYING THIS ARTICLE?
HELP US TO PRODUCE MORE

Receive the monthly Byline Times newspaper and help to support fearless, independent journalism that breaks stories, shapes the agenda and holds power to account.

PAY ANNUALLY - £39 A YEAR

PAY MONTHLY - £3.50 A MONTH

MORE OPTIONS

We’re not funded by a billionaire oligarch or an offshore hedge-fund. We rely on our readers to fund our journalism. If you like what we do, please subscribe.

The Man at the Top

What do we learn about Boris Johnson from the report? The short answer is nothing we did not already know.

At no time has he shown any sense of duty or respect for his position. In response to the report's publication he first claimed that he was "humbled", then "vindicated". For months, he had told people to wait for the inquiry and now it had been delivered it was simply time to move on.

Facing repeated questioning in Parliament, the Prime Minister frequently smirked or looked bored. He did not dispel the perceived lack of gravity – or suggestions of undue influence on the report – by repeatedly referring to the civil servant by her first name alone.

The problem for Johnson is that each new lie demands an elaborate infrastructure to sustain it. Because he needs to maintain the proposition that he did not mislead Parliament, he must pretend never to have known that the events were illegal and never to have sanctioned – even implicitly – their wilder elements. Most preposterous of, in response to the report, he declared that attending leaving events for staff members in person was his duty.

For all this, Johnson relies on the public and media not simply taking him at his word, but responding to the issue on his own terms. It requires people to accept that he was attending ‘work events’ – an exemption that never existed in the law. This has become such an accepted part of ministers’ rhetorical ammunition that few journalists ever observe that it does not exist.

Contrary to Johnson’s claims, large social gatherings were never permitted in workplaces. People were not allowed to have parties in an office through the night just because people had performed essential work there during the day.

Nobody needs a law degree to understand this point. Imagine for one moment a 2020 press conference in which a journalist had asked Johnson whether in-person leaving events could take place. Perhaps, to mark the special occasion, there might be speeches, alcohol and food. Anyone who lived through that period will instinctively know the answer. During lockdown people were not even allowed to attend the funerals of close relatives. The Prime Minister would have emphatically said no and advised people to perform such events online.

Johnson takes us for fools, but we do not have to turn into them.

Given that everything about the COVID-19 lockdown was unprecedented, it is sometimes hard to place Partygate in context. It seems strange to ask how Attlee, Wilson or Thatcher would have responded to illegal parties in Downing Street because parties have never before been illegal. But it is necessary to do so.

Regardless of politics, and without any need for rose-tinted spectacles, previous prime ministers have had a basic sense of honour, duty and integrity. Some may have been narcissists, but they understood their responsibility and strove for something greater than basic self-interest.

This was never just about people eating cake or sandwiches. It was about basic decency and respect; taking a pandemic and laws to fight it seriously; treating the highest office in the land not as a personal amusement or unending vehicle for self-gratification but as an instrument of power to be revered and respected. To accept that the role of Prime Minister is to serve the people, not the other way round.

Boris Johnson not only failed to attain a higher level of behaviour, he even failed to meet the lowest common denominator.

Britain’s Institutions

If this was simply a story about one man, we could seek to isolate both. The problem would be Johnson, and when he finally moves on to his next entertainment, we could remove the cordon sanitaire. But it is not just about Johnson. He sets the national tone and political culture, but he is also enabled by it. Partygate reveals a devastating decay in the heart of key institutions.

First is the Conservative Party.

The number of MPs to have publicly called for Boris Johnson’s resignation currently stands at around 6%. There is no sign that there are enough MPs yet to force a vote of no confidence. The signal is clear: the Prime Minister can preside over industrial law-breaking in a national emergency – even receiving a fine for breaking laws he made – and nothing needs to happen. It does not matter that the Conservatives are basing a calculation on their perceived electoral interests and would happily despatch Johnson if it was opportune – they are content to place self-interest over basic standards in public life.

Then there is the Civil Service.

As former senior civil servant Jill Rutter has noted, civil servants were not simply involved in the law-breaking itself but the cover-up afterwards. Sue Gray was careful to note that not all civil servants participated in this culture, but it is clear that a sizeable element was prepared to degrade itself.

More worrying still is the police.

For months, the Metropolitan Police repeatedly declined to investigate the Downing Street parties. The force then appeared to derail Gray’s inquiry by changing its mind just as Gray was about to release her report. Now the investigation has concluded, it is clear that junior officials have borne the brunt of sanctions, even though their bosses – including the Prime Minister – attended the same events.

Indeed, reports suggest that Johnson was only personally investigated for two events and that the police declined to investigate the ABBA party at all. The former senior police officer Brian Paddick has suggested that the police may have sought to help the Prime Minister and has launched a judicial review.

Finally, there is the media.

While the Daily Mirror and ITV News have driven this story from the beginning, the right-wing press has done everything to trivialise and mock it. Part of that, no doubt, springs from the revolving door between the media and No 10 – one of the illegal parties was, after all, honouring the now deputy editor of the Sun, James Slack. But it is also about naked partisanship.

The Daily Mail, in particular, devoted seven successive front pages to a curry eaten by Labour Leader Keir Starmer during an election campaign. But the day after Gray’s report revealed endemic law-breaking in Johnson's No 10, the newspaper simply asked ‘Is That It?’. Much of Britain’s media is no longer interested in upholding standards – it solely wishes to defend its team.

Partygate represents a systemic failure of multiple British institutions at the same time. Boris Johnson drove and engineered the contamination, but it goes far beyond him. The poison will linger in the body politic long after he has finally vacated it.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

The Sue Gray Report: A Very Etonian Coup

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 1:33am in

In the effort to save his skin, Boris Johnson has waged a campaign against the institutions of British democracy, says Sam Bright

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

In A Very British Coup, the 1980s political fiction drama originally written by the journalist-turned-Labour MP Chris Mullin, a staunchly left-wing Labour Prime Minister is hampered and harassed in office by the British establishment: the media, the financial sector, and the security services.

These institutions are all portrayed as being instinctively conservative – a power bloc united in the effort to sabotage a socialist administration.

This tale has been inverted in the present day by a fellow traveller from Fleet Street to Downing Street, Boris Johnson.

The current Prime Minister plays the aggressor, having launched a coup against the institutions of the British state – compromising their authority and integrity to preserve his own power.

Johnson’s coup has been set in motion for several years, though it has been accelerated during the ‘Partygate’ scandal – culminating today in the publication of the Sue Gray report, showing how Downing Street harboured a Friday night binge culture while the nation followed Johnson’s orders and retreated indoors to avoid spreading COVID-19.

The Prime Minister has been indicted in this crime. Gray reiterates the initial conclusions that she released in January, describing a “failure of leadership” in Downing Street, and saying that “the senior leadership at the centre... must bear responsibility for this culture”.

However, rather than take responsibility, the “greased piglet” has attempted to squirm out of his political bind – ploughing a path of destruction through the architecture of the British state.

Indeed, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case appears to be the sacrificial lamb offered to the public to assuage their anger.

There are conflicting reports about whether Case – the most senior civil servant in the country – will resign as a result of his role in the affair, but it is clear that Johnson is attempting to export blame to a state official, dragging down the reputation of the Civil Service in the process.

This has played out on the front pages of the tabloids in recent days, with fevered speculation about the providence of a meeting between Sue Gray and Boris Johnson earlier this month.

Briefings from Downing Street officials initially suggested that Gray had asked for the meeting – during which the Prime Minister reportedly leaned on Gray to not release her findings – with Johnson’s spokesperson later admitting that the summit was indeed requested by Downing Street.

Periodic bombardments from Downing Street, propelled by Johnson’s acolytes in the right-wing press, have been an occupational hazard for civil servants in recent years. The get-back-to-work orders of “overgrown prefect” Jacob Rees-Mogg have followed years of Johnson railing against the Whitehall “blob”, which his former chief aide Dominic Cummings deployed as a catch-all excuse for administrative incompetence.

This war against officialdom is not the first time that the Prime Minister has brawled with the establishment from which he is derived. One of Johnson’s first acts in the job, encouraged by Cummings, was to prorogue Parliament – an unlawful act, which misled the Queen.

SUBSCRIBE TO FEARLESS, INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM FOR AS LITTLE AS £3 A MONTH

‘May Eton Flourish’

This, in many ways, is the Old Etonian spirit. The school is the pulsating nerve-centre of the British establishment, and its status imbues the college and its creations with a sense of exceptionalism – a belief that the institutions of power exist to serve their interests rather than vice versa.

As Musa Okwonga writes in his Eton memoir, One of Them, “I look at the school’s motto, ‘May Eton Flourish’, and I think, it is not right that you flourish, and will continue to flourish, at the expense of so many others.”

And while the security services worked avidly to subvert Mullin’s fictional Prime Minister, Harry Perkins, the current occupant of Downing Street has spooked his spooks.

Reports suggest that the security services expressed concerns about Johnson’s plan to appoint Evgeny Lebedev – the son of a former Russian KGB agent who has in recent days been sanctioned by Canada – to the House of Lords. Under concerted pressure from Johnson, however, these concerns were withdrawn, reports indicate.

Johnson has so far refused to release the contents of the security advice, despite being commanded by Parliament to do so, and Evgeny Lebedev – owner of the Evening Standard and the Independent – sits in the House of Lords under the title ‘Baron Lebedev of Hampton and Siberia’.

As many have observed, Johnson seems to be taking a temporary break from writing newspaper columns in order to be Prime Minister. He is a habitual polemicist, who still considers his boss to be the Daily Telegraph, according to Cummings. Indeed, Johnson appears to have dragged the right-wing press into Downing Street as an agency of power, through which it has succumbed to his cult of immorality.

Perhaps to a greater extent than at any time in recent history, journalists have been forced to deny and distort the truth to serve the partisan interests of their man in power. The cover-up is often worse than the crime, and Johnson’s foot-soldiers in the oligarch-owned press have sullied their reputations even further in order to clean up his mess.

The lies used to absolve Johnson of blame, often having germinated on the front pages of the papers, have been carried to Parliament by the Prime Minister – perpetuating the already pervasive belief that no politician, of any denomination, can be trusted to tell the truth.

The Metropolitan Police, meanwhile, has managed to undermine its own integrity sufficiently even without the help of the Prime Minister.

There may be many legitimate reasons to be 'anti-establishment' in modern British politics. Our constitutional norms, our electoral system, the rules governing the individual conduct of MPs, and much more besides are desperately in need of reform.

But Boris Johnson’s form of anti-establishment politics appears to target the last bastions of respectability and decency in our democracy. He has launched a coup against morality, the well-functioning institutions that diligently keep the wheels of power turning, and the bodies designed to keep us all safe.

And rather than cauterising the wounds of the disillusioned masses, this coup will surely only trigger more popular disenfranchisement.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

The Sue Gray Report: Sue Gray Joins the Police In Giving Boris Johnson a Free Pass

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/05/2022 - 11:44pm in

The civil servant and Metropolitan Police's refusal to investigate a party in the Prime Minister's own flat will spark accusations of an establishment cover-up, reports Adam Bienkov

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

Sue Gray’s report does go some way to expose the sheer scale of law-breaking that took place in Downing Street under Boris Johnson.

Correspondence she unearthed reveals senior officials joked about holding illegal events, while advising each other on how to avoid detection.

At some events staff partied until the early hours, with wine splashed across the walls, a karaoke machine dragged out, officials being sick and even coming to drunken blows.

Low-paid staff working in the building were also mocked by the partygoers with “multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff".

She also suggests that the Prime Minister must ultimately take responsibility for what happened within the walls of his home.

Yet, while her assessment did shine some light on what happened in Downing Street during lockdown, there is one large hole in it which calls into question the legitimacy of her entire report.

'Not Appropriate' to Investigate Prime Minister

Sue Gray’s refusal to examine the so-called 'ABBA party' that took place in Boris Johnson’s own Downing Street flat on 13 November 2020 is an extremely worrying omission.

Defending her decision not to look into the event, which was reportedly organised to celebrate former chief advisor Dominic Cummings' departure from Downing Street, Gray says that she decided that doing so was “not appropriate or proportionate”.

In doing so, she joins the Metropolitan Police, which also decided not to investigate Johnson’s attendance at the event.

From the outside, this seems impossible to justify. Unlike the event held in the Cabinet room to mark Johnson’s birthday, for which he was fined, it seems impossible to argue that a party held in his own flat, with members of other households in attendance, was somehow a 'work event'.

And yet, by refusing to even investigate it, Gray has joined the Met in giving the Prime Minister an entirely free pass.

This free pass was enough for the Prime Minister to wrongly claim in the House of Commons this afternoon that he had been “vindicated” by Sue Gray and to claim that almost all of the law-breaking that had taken place in Downing Street had happened while he was not in attendance.

SUBSCRIBE TO FEARLESS, INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM FOR AS LITTLE AS £3 A MONTH

And while Johnson initially claimed to have been deeply "humbled" by the report, he quickly switched to instead claiming that he had been exonerated – before then calling on the Leader of the Opposition to resign instead.

Johnson's fake contrition is entirely unsurprising. The Prime Minister has at no point during this scandal given any indication that he either understands the public outrage about his actions or that he genuinely regrets them.

But by failing to fully investigate his actions, Sue Gray and the Met have missed what may turn out to have been the last and best opportunity to hold him to account.

And with both the police and Gray failing to offer any explanation for their omissions, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the very institutions charged with holding our Prime Minister to account have instead conspired to let him off.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Groped, Taunted and Followed Home: The Legal Observers of Protests Targeted by Officers for Peacefully Policing the Police

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/05/2022 - 6:00pm in

Josiah Mortimer digs into a shocking new report on the challenges faced by those trying to defend our right to protest

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

Legal observers have described being groped, followed home and spied on by police in a new report on the state of protest oversight in Britain.

The Article 11 Trust – set up to defend protest rights – has published shocking research into the treatment of legal observers by the police. 

While legal observers do not have formal legal status, their role is internationally recognised by the UN Human Rights Committee as necessary for the exercise of the right to peacefully assemble. They are often seen in high vis jackets at protests, handing out ‘Know Your Rights’ cards to activists and providing support to those arrested.

But police monitoring groups fear that they are targeted in the UK by hostile police officers – with legal observers who are females and people of colour at particular risk. 

The report, 'Protecting Protest – Police Treatment of Legal Observers in Britain', draws on the experiences of nearly 40 legal observers in Britain, a significant proportion of them still undertaking the role. They highlighted harassment, violence and discrimination by officers while monitoring police behaviour at protests. 

Several high-profile cases of police mistreatment of these volunteers have emerged over the past two years.

Last March, Greater Manchester Police sparked outrage after a woman was seen stripped down to her underwear and carried away by officers, during a 'Kill the Bill' protest. And following an incident on 1 May last year, three legal observers lodged complaints of assault against Greater Manchester Police, including one allegation of sexual assault where “a male officer grabbed a female legal observer’s chest”. On two occasions that day, an observer witnessed police pushing “two women [observers] very forcefully”. 

Sexist Policing

The Article 11 Trust found that more than half – 56% – of the legal observers interviewed faced gender-based discrimination from the police, ranging from patronising comments to sexual assault.

The vast majority of those interviewed also said that they had been deliberately obstructed in their work by the police, with participants describing being misled, threatened with arrest, or subject to use of force to limit their effectiveness. 

One woman – who stopped doing legal observing before the pandemic – told Byline Times that she was often intimidated by police at protests, in her eyes deliberately.

“At the G8 Summit in Cardiff [in 2014], I was parking my car and I was greeted by police officers. They knew I was going... I’ve been asked to leave places, and then followed. I have seen sexual assaults. You don’t have to grab women by the chests, you can grab them by the shoulders. You don’t have to intimidate them through physical contact.

“It’s the ‘innocent’ little conversations from officers: ‘hi Janie, how are you?’ when I hadn’t said my name. And calling me ‘love’. The Met Police’s intelligence on legal observers is appalling. There’s no guidance, and no training."  

One complainant said: “I am petite in size and find the male officers use their size to intimidate... At an anti-fracking demo, male officers were pressing themselves up against my back as well as female activists. It was disgusting and made me feel sick.” 

Another added: “I’ve witnessed sexualised actions by police, mainly on women – being grabby, lifting items of clothing... I have been followed and filmed by the evidence 'gatherers'."

Another observer interviewed for the report also said that they had been followed home – in their understanding, by a police officer – after observing a protest.

On one occasion "this really big male officer was shoving his body against me and kept saying that I couldn't touch him and to stop touching him – I wasn't," one female legal observer told the report's authors. "But if I pushed back I could have faced being arrested.” She said she was “shaking” after the incident.

Byline Times cannot verify the interviewees’ claims, but the Article 11 Trust says that all the testimonies are from legal observers with decades of collective experience monitoring demonstrations. 

Targeting Minorities

Racialised groups, including those at Black Lives Matter and Palestine solidarity protests, are more harshly policed than others, observers told the report's authors.

In March this year, four Black Protest Legal Support (BPLS) observers – three of whom were non-white – were arrested under Coronavirus regulations at a London demonstration against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The observers condemned the move as “an attack on vital community movements that hold the police to account”.

In a recent essay, two members of Black Protest Legal Support – Patricia Daley and Queenie Djan – explained how “the police’s interaction with black and brown protestors and legal observers alike has been starkly different to their interaction with white protestors”.

They described police repeatedly threatening and mocking black and brown observers for noting officers' badge numbers. 

FUND MORE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES. CLICK HERE TO FUND MORE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

Help to expose the big scandals of our era.

Who Polices the Police?

The report found that the policing of protest across Britain is “inconsistent” and influenced by the opinions and prejudices of senior officers – in other words, whether local police chiefs back the demonstrators or not.

The Article 11 Trust submitted Freedom of Information requests to the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), the College of Policing (CoP) and 17 police forces across the UK for any documentation or policy relating to legal observers. Of the 15 responses it received, Police Scotland was the only force to formally recognise observers’ roles. 

The Tactical Aid Unit within Greater Manchester Police, London's Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defence, Police Scotland and Merseyside Police were identified as particularly hostile towards legal observers and protests more generally. 

Griff Ferris, a volunteer with the monitoring group Black Protest Legal Support, was arrested by the Met Police at a Kill the Bill demonstration in London last April – despite being clearly identified as a legal observer. 

“Under the COVID regulations, there was an exemption for doing work, and that includes voluntary work," he told Byline Times. "We spoke to the police... they said they didn’t care. They were told from ‘higher up’ that legal observers didn’t have an exemption." He was arrested, held overnight, and strip-searched after refusing to give his personal information. 

Police scrutiny group Netpol is warning that, with the passing of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act this year, the protest landscape is set to worsen – and independent observers’ presence is “needed more than ever".

Emmanuelle Andrews, policy and campaigns manager at human rights group Liberty, told Byline Times that the reports of observers' experiences were “extremely concerning”. “Protest is a key way we can have our voices heard – and legal observers play a vital role in protecting the right to protest, ensuring the police act within the law and keeping people safe," she told Byline Times.

“If the police and Government believe that they are respecting protest rights, they should welcome the scrutiny that legal observers bring. Instead of giving the police more powers which are being routinely abused – particularly against women and people of colour – the Government should roll-back the powers of the police to prevent these kinds of abuses taking place.”

A spokesperson for Netpol said: “The National Police Chiefs Council must end the kind of aggressive treatment this report has documented – and properly recognise that the right to monitor the actions of the police is an essential part of protecting human rights.”

The National Police Chiefs Council, the College of Policing and the Home Office did not respond to requests for comment. 

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Police Forces Forced to Pay £5.3 Million in 2,000 Out of Court Settlements

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/05/2022 - 7:50pm in

Sascha Lavin reveals the vast scale of claims made against the police by members of the public – for everything from unlawful arrest to assault

Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been spent on more than 2,000 out-of-court police settlements in two years, the Byline Intelligence Team can reveal. 

Out-of-court settlements have cost police forces at least £3 million in legal fees over the two-year period from January 2020.

A further £2.3 million has been handed out in compensation to victims of unlawful police behaviour, according to data obtained from Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. 

This comes as Home Secretary praised the police this week in a speech to the Police Federation, claiming that “no one does more… to make our country great”. The Government had been hoping to focus its agenda on crime this week, “as ministers prepare to announce a package of additional measures to crack down on crime across the country”.

While these figures are likely to be the tip of the iceberg – 26 police forces responded with relevant information, while 23 police forces failed to share information about legal costs, and 32 police forces refused to respond to the FOI requests for details on settlements – they suggest that there is more than one ‘bad apple’ when it comes to mistreatment by officers. 

After repeated accounts of police failings, often steeped in misogyny and racism, police forces across England and Wales should be facing greater scrutiny – but experts warn that they are escaping accountability by agreeing compensation deals with victims out of court. 

Following each policing scandal – from the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met Police officer to the strip-search of 15-year-old Child Q at school – activists and police leaders have called for greater accountability.

Habib Kadiri, policy and research manager at police monitoring group Stopwatch, says the new data on out-of-court settlements is “indicative of the lack of transparency that has become standard practice” in police dealings.  

‘It Costs Us All’ 

A total of 2,148 out-of-court settlements were agreed by 26 police forces in England and Wales in the two years following January 2020. 

However, the picture of police over-reliance on settlements is incomplete: 17 police forces failed to respond entirely to Byline Intelligence Team’s FOI request including London’s Metropolitan Police, Britain’s largest police force. 

Had the Met shared out-of-court settlement figures, it is likely that the number and amount of pay-outs would be significantly higher. In the 2020/21 financial year, for example, public information shows that the Met settled 323 public liability cases, costing £339,786 in compensation and legal fees. 

The Met paid £250,000 in compensation and legal costs to BBC radio DJ Paul Gambaccini in November 2020, after he was falsely arrested in 2013 as part of the Operation Yewtree investigation into sexual abuse. 

According to analysis of FOI responses, police forces in England and Wales handed out settlements for a range of unlawful police behaviour, from “loss of clothing” to a breach of human rights. 

One-in-five successful compensation claims were the result of false imprisonment or unlawful arrest, and 14% of settlements were reached because of assault or battery at the hands of a police officer. 

In March, Greater Manchester Police handed out £8,000 in compensation, after a police officer encouraged a sexual violence survivor to meet her suspected rapist to “set the record straight”. This case was not included in the data. 

Use of out-of-court settlements also varied throughout police forces: one force only settled five wrongdoing claims, while another paid out 354 compensation agreements in the two-year period.

This week, Priti Patel granted more powers to forces across the country – including lifting restrictions on stop and search use and allowing special constables to use tasers, to “ensure they have the tools power and resources they need to keep us safe”.

Yet, noticeably absent from her plans were greater scrutiny and transparency.

“The stubborn refusal to be held properly accountable and to openly admit failings costs us all, not just monetarily, but also in the emotional damage that victims of police abuse suffer," Habib Kadiri told Byline Times. "Things will only improve with a greater degree of honesty from forces about the conduct of their personnel.”

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BYLINE INTELLIGENCE TEAM

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Priti Patel and the Government’s Cult of Lawlessness

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/05/2022 - 8:09pm in

Rachel Morris reviews the Government’s repeated unlawful behaviour, concentrated in the Home Office

The Home Secretary is being taken to court – a phrase with which the country is becoming all too familiar.

The latest challenge is mounted on behalf of at least 800 Ukrainians facing visa delays through the 'Homes for Ukraine' scheme. A pre-action protocol letter to the Home Office asking it to “sort out the endless muddles and tangles” could be followed by a judicial review of the visa policy.

The members of the two groups bringing the case are would-be sponsors of Ukrainian refugees, who say that there have been “inordinate and unreasonable delays” in visa application processing, putting refugees in grave danger and the hosts under great stress.

The groups will launch online crowdfunding as legal costs may be up to £15,000. If the Home Office ends up fighting a legal case and loses or settles out of court, it will be taxpayers footing the bill.

When citizens can no longer rely on their government to follow the law in formulating policy, they end up paying at both ends. And there are other, less quantifiable, costs when disorder and lawlessness become entrenched in a system meant to regulate law and order.

On 25 April, Priti Patel was forced to retreat from her policy of ‘refugee pushbacks’ in the English Channel mere days before High Court judicial review hearings were to begin. The policy authorised Border Force officials to physically prevent migrant vessels from reaching land and instead redirect them to France by force.

The challenge was brought by several groups claiming that the policy would breach, among other things, the Refugee Convention and international maritime law. They withdrew the claims when Patel U-turned, the Home Office agreeing to pay their costs.

According to documents circulated within the Home Office last year, Patel was warned by the Attorney General’s office that it should expect a legal challenge over the Channel pushback policy, that this could be “reputationally damaging”, and would force the Home Office to disclose potentially embarrassing documents.

Patel instead insisted that the policy had a legal basis. Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said after the U-turn that: “We’re delighted that no more time or money will be wasted on this idea but it’s a shame it took a legal challenge from our charity and others to put an end to it.”

Patel is likely to face further challenges against her controversial plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Civil servants have no right nor power to override a minister, even when they believe a policy is illegal. Strong concerns were expressed about Patel’s partnership with the Government of Rwanda, to fly and hold asylum seekers there, but she issued a rare ministerial direction to overrule civil servants regarding the scheme’s delivery of ‘value for money’.

It is only the second time in 30 years that such an order has been enforced by a minister – issued when there is objection to a policy from a permanent secretary (the most senior civil servant in the department) – the first being to expedite the Windrush compensation scheme prior to legislation.

In February, the Centre for Women’s Justice launched a CrowdJustice campaign to raise funds for legal action against the Home Secretary. This is based on decisions around the Angiolini Inquiry, which is inspecting the police career of Sarah Everard’s rapist and murderer but not the culture of Met policing. The centre is supported by more than 20 national gender violence organisations, which also object to Patel’s refusal to take action on other incidents of police violence against women and girls

The Channel pushback case and other recent challenges had support from the Good Law Project, a not-for-profit campaign organisation using law to protect public interest, which also relies on donations.

Why does it take legal challenges from charities and other third sector groups, with public financial support, to ensure that the Home Secretary behaves lawfully?

Checks and Balances

It is not only Priti Patel’s department. The Good Law Project is in the High Court against the Department of Health and Social Care over multi-million-pound COVID testing contracts awarded secretly to Abingdon Health without normal tendering procedures.

Discovery in the case revealed internal emails showing that Government lawyers deemed the contracts potentially unlawful, as they bypassed procurement procedures, but that ministers pushed ahead regardless. The then Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock urged his team to go “hell for leather”, while civil servants described the subsequent testing programme in emails as “unlegit” and “no way to do business”.

Is there no obligation by Government ministers to approach the state’s finances with probity and a duty of care? Well, yes. It would take a book to outline this in full, but in brief: an accounts officer within each department has such responsibilities, and ministers are required under the Ministerial Code to heed their advice. The comptroller and auditor general operates independently to support parliamentary scrutiny. And relevant select committees can ask questions publicly about how public money is used.

Ultimately, Parliament and the prime minister decide the outcomes of a lack of financial probity under a complex web of codes and systems. And the electorate decides who will comprise that Parliament and prime minister, every few years. If the prime minister stands behind a minister come what may, little change can or will ever occur.

Lest we forget the £370,000 settlement with senior civil servant Sir Philip Rutnam, allegedly forced out of the Home Office for intervening in Patel’s alleged bullying of staff. Or a junior employee at the Department for Work and Pensions bringing a complaint of bullying and harassment against Patel and the department, settled for £25,000 in 2017. Or Boris Johnson driving his own ethics advisor to quit by refusing to sack Patel despite a formal investigation finding she bullied civil servants. Even so, she remains a Cabinet minister – still clinging to the wreckage of one of the ‘great offices of state’.

Judicial review emerged slowly over centuries as a means of allowing government actions to be challenged by citizens, or at least those with sufficient ‘standing’, or centrality to a complaint. It gives us an avenue to assert our fundamental rights, to test the lawfulness of public decisions, and seek remedies for wrongs.

The Government introduced the Judicial Review and Courts Bill in July 2021; it became law on 28 April. The Law Society is concerned that some of its measures could prevent successful claimants and others affected by an unlawful decision from receiving a full remedy, and that important points of law or procedural fairness could remain unaddressed.

We should be concerned that this Government, apparently so bent on breaking existing laws and norms, could yet further attempt to weaken one of the few balances between state and citizen power.

It is a rare bit of good news in the current climate that there remains a bulwark holding back a seeming tide of official mendacity and illegality. But, even so, by the time we take ministers to court – if we can – our time and money has been wasted, lives ruined, trust damaged. We also have to pay a third time too, down the line, to put all of this right.

The cheapest, quickest remedy, which requires no crowdfunding, no privatised justice, may be to see Priti Patel lose her job at long last. What more will it take?

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Pestminster and the Shaming of Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 9:00pm in

With reports that 56 MPs are facing allegations of sexual misconduct, Rachel Morris analyses how a Bullingdon Club mentality has seeped into the corridors of power

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

In 1994, Conservative MP Stephen Milligan was found dead in his home, naked aside from stockings and suspenders, with orange segments in his mouth. Many other scandals of the early 1990s stood in stark contrast to the then Prime Minister John Major’s ‘Back to Basics’ political campaigning.

Affairs, homes for votes, cash for questions: Westminster has always been scandalous; its members prone to the same deadly sins as everyone else – though with greater access to opportunities. The rank hypocrisy of parliamentarians behaving in this manner while passing laws preventing everyone else from doing the same has always been offensive.

But what has happened in Parliament recently is of a different order. As the Government passes increasingly authoritarian laws, the behaviour of its members sinks ever lower.

While the misdeeds of the past mostly harmed those directly involved, current standards of behaviour harm the country and democracy itself. The Commons is not only a moral cesspit but a hostile work environment, especially for women. There are not enough column inches to list all offences by MPs against decency and, in some cases, the breaking of laws written in that very chamber.

Last July, the Commons Standards Committee found that five Conservative MPs had breached the Code of Conduct by attempting to improperly influence judicial proceedings in the trial of former Tory MP Charlie Elphicke, via letters on headed House of Commons notepaper. Elphicke lost his seat and was imprisoned for the sexual assault of two members of his staff. His Dover constituency went to his wife Natalie, one of the five MPs in question.

In December, drug detection wipes found cocaine traces in 11 of 12 parliamentary bathrooms, including one next to the Prime Minister’s office, all accessible only by those with parliamentary passes. This while Boris Johnson cosplayed as a policeman as part of his ‘war on drugs’. Although the Speaker of the Commons referred this matter to police, nothing more has been reported on it.

And this April alone, there have been a series of new scandals:

MP David Warburton was pictured with lines of cocaine, and was alleged to have sexually assaulted staffers who could not complain directly to their tax-funded HR representative as she is also Warburton’s wife. Warburton received an undeclared £150,000 loan from Russian ‘financial advisor’ Roman Joukovski, to whom Warburton gave parliamentary access. He used his parliamentary email to organise meetings for Joukovski. Weeks on, there is no word of a police investigation, nor a by-election. Warburton had the Conservative whip withdrawn.

Imran Ahmad Khan MP was found guilty of molesting a teenage boy. It emerged that he gave a statement under caution in May 2020 yet was allowed to advise the Government on child sexual exploitation and grooming gangs later that year. Tory MP Crispin Blunt offered a passionate defence of Khan, before withdrawing it. Khan's victim contacted the Conservative Party press office to inform it of his abuse in 2019. Khan had the Conservative whip withdrawn.

56 MPs face allegations of sexual misconduct, including three serving Cabinet members and two Labour shadow ministers. These include sexually inappropriate comments and more serious incidents, including one MP said to have bribed a staff member for sexual favours. This is equivalent to 8-9% of Parliament's 650 MPs.

Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner suffered a scurrilous attack by the Mail on Sunday, briefed by someone in the Government, accusing her of using underhand sexual distractions at Prime Minister’s Questions. Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, described the article as “demeaning” and “offensive” and ordered the newspaper’s editor to attend Parliament for discussion. David Dillon refused to do so.

An unidentified Conservative MP was said to have watched pornography on his phone while the House of Commons was in session. At the meeting where this was revealed, female Conservative MPs also reported such incidents as a whip calling, “come on, girls!” as he ushered them to vote, and an MP wearing a skirt being asked, “what do you do for your day job?”

The Bullingdon Mentality

Perhaps none of this is surprising when Parliament has long been nicknamed ‘Pestminster’. An eponymous scandal in 2018 saw a flood of #MeToo sexual harassment accusations. Aside from Charlie Elphicke’s jailing, at least four ministers lost their jobs.

A culture of endemic bullying and harassment in Westminster was confirmed by three independent inquiries, finding a systematic problem buttressed by complaints processes relying on other parliamentarians to apply discipline. Party machinery was known to sit on complaints.

An independent complaints and grievance scheme, training, and helplines were introduced. But, in 2020, when an unnamed Conservative MP was arrested on allegations of rape, violent sexual assault, and coercive control of an aide, union representatives found that action taken “went nowhere near addressing our concerns”.

The Westminster Old Boy’s Club still has a bustling membership. It creates and oversees laws that aim to achieve safe, fair workplaces, amid its own hostile work environment. Commons employees, such as aides and researchers, are represented by trade unions, but if they work in MPs’ offices, their first port of call for complaints is still often the MP.

MPs are not employees of the House – they are paid by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which states: “Obviously there are things MPs are not allowed to do and standards by which they should abide – there is a Code of Conduct and the behaviour of Members is monitored by the Commissioner for Standards.”

As is often the case in British politics, these rules are advisory and they ultimately lie for their enforcement with the Prime Minister – a man who, when running for Parliament in 2005, said, “voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts”.

Research finds that sexist and condescending language impacts gender-based achievement and parity in workplaces, affecting whether women remain in their jobs, aim for leadership roles, or are seen as competent. A known culture of harassment in a workplace will put women off from entering it.

Moreover, the police force which investigates more serious allegations emerging from Parliament itself has an endemic culture of racism and misogyny.

The Pleasure Palace stands in stark contrast to the simple pleasures denied many citizens who can no longer afford them. On the day that news broke about the Conservative MP watching porn in the seat of power, the Trussell Trust announced that its food banks gave out 2.1 million food parcels in the past year – 830,000 to children.

On the same day, the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill went forward for Royal Assent, containing provisions to criminalise the way of life of Gypsies and Travellers and making noisy protests unlawful. The Elections Bill too, introducing voter suppression measures and ending the independence of the Electoral Commission. And the Nationality and Borders Bill, undermining international refugee protection laws and exposing vulnerable people to suffering and danger.

We have become a rogue state. The soul of our democracy has become the Bullingdon Club – the Oxford University society famed for its debauchery. As with ‘Partygate’, there seems to be different rules for the Government and the governed.

Criminology's ‘broken windows theory’ suggests that visible signs of antisocial behaviour, disorder and crime lead to an environment encouraging more serious crime and disorder. If a neighbourhood behaved akin to the Commons, particularly the Tory cul-de-sac, the police would set up a task force.

In 1994, as the then News of the World editor Piers Morgan said: “It strikes me that probably every Tory MP is up to some sexual shenanigans, but we can hardly get them all fired or there will be nobody left to run the country.”

Calling abuse and harassment “shenanigans” demonstrates a lack of seriousness. The suggested solution to widespread degeneracy of firing everyone and starting over is hardly practical. But, 28 years later, it’s beginning to sound reasonable to overhaul every aspect of the way Westminster operates.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

‘Racial Profiling’: Black People Disproportionately Targeted by Transport for London Fixed Penalty Notices

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/04/2022 - 8:37pm in

As the Prime Minister continues to be investigated for COVID law-breaking, Dimitris Dimitriadis explores the penalties heavily issued to minority ethnic groups

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

As a group of MPs is set to investigate Boris Johnson over his ‘Partygate’ lockdown transgressions, new data has led campaigners to question whether COVID rules were fairly enforced on Transport for London (TfL) services, the Byline Intelligence Team can reveal. 

For the first seven months of 2021, at which point restrictions were eased in England, TfL issued some 2,764 fixed penalty notices (FPNs), according to data obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. 

This was part of its attempt to clamp down on what it described as a “selfish minority” of passengers who did not wear a face covering without good reason. 

Of those FPNs – part of emergency legislation introduced at the start of the pandemic – over a quarter (25.5%) were issued to black people, even though only 13% of people in the capital identify as black. 

The disparity has raised concerns among campaigners. 

“Every new piece of data points to racial profiling in the enforcement of COVID regulations,” said Kevin Blowe, a coordinator for Netpol, a police monitoring group. 

This was echoed by Habib Kadiri, policy and research manager at StopWatch UK - which campaigns for fair policing, who said: “The Government was warned of the folly of trying to police their way out of the pandemic when the COVID-19 lockdown period began.”

He added that FPNs were used as “another means to profile and prosecute individuals” and questioned whether officers “were as willing to patrol the Waterloo and City line as their usual so-called hotspots, such as Seven Sisters station” – a much more diverse part of the city.

A spokesperson for TfL acknowledged that “people have valid concerns about rules being enforced fairly on the network” but said that its “enforcement approach was fair and consistent”. 

They added that the disparity was not the result of “discrimination or lack of training” on the part of enforcement officers. 

Last year, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, a cross-party group of MPs, said that FPNs are “muddled, discriminatory and unfair”, warning about the size of the penalties and the criminalisation of those who cannot afford to pay them. 

FPNs for face coverings were issued at £200 – or £100 for those paying within two weeks. But many of those who did not pay, or possibly could not afford to do so, faced prosecution and much heftier bills starting from £660 for those convicted of a first offence.

Of the 4,365 FPNs that were issued by TfL between 9 July 2020 and 16 July 2021, almost 30% (1,276) were “not paid and were subsequently prosecuted successfully”, according to an FOI response

Jun Pang, a policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, a campaign group that challenges injustice, said: “Those travelling on TfL services are likely to have been people who could not work from home, including frontline workers who we know are disproportionately likely to be people of colour.”

Pang also criticised the Government for creating expansive powers to enforce COVID rules, which were applied “inconsistently” and in “discriminatory ways”.

The problems identified by the Human Rights Joint Committee were “even more concerning when you take into account statistics that show that young people, those from certain ethnic minority backgrounds, men, and the most socially deprived are much more likely to be issued with FPNs than those from other groups,” according to its report

“This is why it is so important the imminent COVID-19 Public Inquiry examines the way restrictions were policed,” said Blowe, urging that the policing of the pandemic – currently not part of its terms of reference – be added to its remit. 

Meanwhile, dozens of Downing Street staff have been issued with FPNs – including the Prime Minister and the Chancellor – for breaches of COVID lockdown laws, after the Met Police initially said it did not typically investigate breaches of Coronavirus regulations “long after they are said to have taken place”.

Its investigations into the dozens of events held in Downing Street during the pandemic is still ongoing.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BYLINE INTELLIGENCE TEAM

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

LIMITED TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Talking About My Generation: How the Conservative Party has Punished Young People

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/04/2022 - 8:00pm in

From mental health services to tuition fees, the Government has damaged the welfare and prosperity of the next generation, says Daisy Steinhardt

The Government is decades into its war on young people. Disinterest in providing for the needs of children and young adults is endemic among an establishment that seemingly has zero interest in providing younger generations with financial or institutional support.

The interest rates on student loan debt for those earning under £41,930 is set to rise from 1.5% to 9% from September if the Government chooses not to intervene, new data from the Institute of Fiscal Studies shows. For those earning over that amount, the rates will increase from 4.5% to 12%.

If this alone isn't enough to deter young people from pursuing higher education, there are also new changes to loan repayment schemes for people beginning undergraduate degrees in 2023-24. Under this change, the repayment term after graduation will rise from 30 years to 40. The Treasury is now set to gain an estimated additional £600 million from student loans that would otherwise have expired after 30 years. 

Data from the National Office for Statistics (ONS) shows that the number of suicides among full-time students in England in 2019 was 174, up from 127 in 2017 and 154 in 2018. The dataset states that the ONS is “currently undertaking work to develop a robust method for understanding the risk of suicide among certain kinds of students”. Despite this assurance, a 2021 Freedom of Information request to the ONS asking for 2020 figures on the same dataset was denied on the grounds that “public authorities are not obligated to create information in order to respond to requests”.

Blatant disregard for young people is by no means exclusive to those pursuing higher education.

In 2017, after years of austerity cuts imposed by successive Conservative-led governments, a-third of NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMs) teams faced cuts or closures. As a direct result, the current average waiting time for young people to access CAHMs services is 15 weeks for an initial appointment and 54 to begin treatment. The only alternative to this lengthy waiting time is private mental health treatment, which many cannot afford. 

A report from Parliament's Health and Social Care Committee last December provided recommendations to the Government on the funding of young people’s mental health – including setting up a Cabinet sub-committee to bring together Government departments, local governing bodies and the healthcare system, in order to respond to the diverse nature of mental health care needs in young people.

Of the 25 recommendations, only three have been accepted in full by the Government, one of which is “subject to future funding decisions”. The Government’s official response is littered with examples of actions that have previously been taken to improve access to mental health services for young people – rather than assessing the state of the sector now, and what may be done to improve it.

Law-Breakers

As Maheen Behrana has written in these pages, the Government’s indifference to young people is part of its 'culture war' – the pitting of different groups against one another for cynical political purposes.

Four Nottingham Trent University students made national headlines in October 2020 after being fined £10,000 each for hosting a house party during the Coronavirus lockdown. All four were suspended from the university.

Boris Johnson, meanwhile, attended at least six of 12 events during lockdown, now being investigated by police – most notably his own birthday party at which he was “ambushed by a cake”, according to one of his MPs.

Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are among those to have been issued with fixed penalty notices for breaking lockdown rules, amounting to just £50 each. Both have remained in post in the two highest offices of the land, without the imminent threat of suspension.

A few students being stupid and reckless, meanwhile, face years of debt and public shame – under laws put in place by the same Government ministers who broke them. Few Conservative politicians called for these students, and others in a similar position, to be given a second chance.

SUBSCRIBE TO FEARLESS, INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM FOR AS LITTLE AS £3 A MONTH

The most recent large-scale protests against the Government’s treatment of young people came in 2010 and 2011 when student anger peaked at the Coalition Government’s proposed increase in university tuition fees and cuts to means-based educational support.

The Metropolitan Police’s response of kettling the protestors – encircling them in a huddle for nearly 10 hours at temperatures reaching almost freezing – was reported in the Telegraph as a firm and effective response to a “serious threat to public order”.

Then Prime Minister David Cameron described the protests as “extremely serious” and the actions of the student protestors as “unacceptable”. He too praised the police response. Boris Johnson in his position as Mayor of London stated that the protests were “intolerable” and that all those involved would be “pursued and face the full force of the law”.

The framing of these protests as riots by both the right-wing press and the Government helped to cultivate the national image of young people as violent, immoral and therefore implicitly deserving of the extortionate financial burden placed upon them.

The Government has failed and continues to fail the young people of the UK. It has decided that we are not electorally important and are therefore worthy of demonisation and contempt. The Conservative Party’s record will live long in our memories.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

LIMITED TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

The Families of People Killed by Police Are Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/03/2022 - 8:30pm in

The Families of People Killed by Police Are Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands

‘Almost none of us have got justice. The first was Sarah Everard’, said Marcia Rigg, who is part of a new campaign to secure justice for people killed in police custody

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

This week marks a grim anniversary: one year since the murder of Sarah Everard. The killing by a serving policeman, PC Wayne Couzens, shook the country. But for the families of others that have died at the hands of the police, it was exceptional for another reason: it is one of the few times in England’s history that a policeman has been sentenced for killing a member of the public. 

Christopher Alder was an ex-British Army paratrooper, training to become a computer programmer. He had served in the Falklands War and was commended for his work in Northern Ireland. He served the state, and was killed by it, dying in police custody at Queen’s Gardens Police Station, Hull, in 1998. 

After being assaulted outside a nightclub, he was taken to hospital, where his behaviour became unstable, potentially as a result of his head injury. He was dragged into police custody, unconscious and handcuffed. 

CCTV footage showed officers making monkey noises at the young black man. These officers would later argue – successfully – they were only laughing. Then they realised he wasn’t breathing. 

The post mortem indicated that the head injury alone would not have killed him, and a coroner’s jury in 2000 returned a verdict that Alder was unlawfully killed. Five officers went on trial in 2002. But all were acquitted. 

A 2006 IPCC report found that four of the officers in the custody suite when Alder died were guilty of “unwitting racism” and the “most serious neglect of duty”. Five years later, the Government formally apologised to Alder’s family in the European Court of Human Rights. And yet after all these years, no one has been brought to justice.

FEARLESS, INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM
& INCREDIBLE VALUE

Receive the monthly Byline Times newspaper and support quality, investigative reporting.

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES FOR AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

At least 1,300 stories

Christopher’s story is sadly one of many. Since his death in 1998, more than 1,300 people have died while under the apparent ‘care’ of the police in England and Wales, according to figures compiled by the charity Inquest. 

These were all people, with families, futures and lives. Yet they are at risk of becoming just a set of statistics, as we become immune to their deaths. 

“They’ve fallen by the wayside. We see a pattern. Our families have been dismissed and ignored,” Janet Alder, Christopher’s sister, told Byline Times

The victims are, with depressing predictability, disproportionately young and black. Examples of the officers involved going to court are, it would seem, disproportionately rare compared to the numbers of deaths.

The families of those killed in custody have dedicated years of their lives fighting for justice. Many are traumatised, with their trauma compounded by their treatment at the hands of the state.

Janet, for example, was put under surveillance, with investigators following her at her brother’s inquest. “I was staying in a little hotel,  and the police were there,” she explained. “They had orders to follow me around Hull, using video equipment”.

In 2019, Humberside Police apologised to Janet, a year after two of their officers were cleared of gross misconduct for the “unauthorised surveillance” on her and her barrister. 

Despite this, the Crown Prosecution Service said there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. Unsurprisingly, the decades of injustice have taken their toll.

 “I’ve got children I’ve had to let down. It has affected my life immeasurably,” Janet told Byline Times

Not only was Christopher unlawfully killed, 11 years after his death, the family made a shocking discovery. They had been mourning the wrong body. 

The authorities had buried the wrong body: that of Grace Kamara, a 77-year-old Nigerian woman. She had died a year after Christopher, from natural causes. As Janet wrote in the wake of the George Floyd protests, it was not until 2012, 14 years after his death, that the family could mourn his actual body. Once again, nobody was charged for the ‘mix up’.

Racism exposed, ranks closed

The cases follow a depressing pattern: the Independent Office for Police Conduct investigates. In many cases, it finds wrongdoing. Then, it goes nowhere. They have no power to sack officers so instead, it goes back to the force to police itself. 

It is more reflective of a court martial system than an independent process. The Police Federation defends its officers vigorously, and shorn of the power to strike, the trade off is that sacking an officer is incredibly difficult even when the will is there. “Not many people are willing to take officers on, because they’ve got the Federation on side,” said Janet. 

That same closing of ranks in recent weeks after the ousting of Met Police boss Dame Cressida Dick. Sadiq Khan had declared he had no faith in her plans to reform the force, after the damning Operation Hotton investigation found sickening racist and sexist messages shared by serving officers. 

Nine of the 14 officers investigated kept their jobs, including two who were promoted. The IOPC was clear: this was not a case of a few bad apples. The barrel itself is rotten. 

Cressida Dick and the wider Met had lost the public’s trust. Yet instead of recognising the scale of change needed, the Metropolitan Police Federation hit out at the mayor, saying it had “no faith” in him. 


More Than Half of Met Police Officers Found Guilty of Sexual Misconduct Kept their Jobs
Sascha Lavin

Off the Hook

Families of those who died in police custody were not surprised by the row. 

Marcia Rigg is the sister of Sean, who died in Brixton police station in 2008. Police had applied pressure to his neck and shoulder areas for around eight minutes. Decades later that would be echoed in the police murder of George Floyd, who was choked for nine minutes by law enforcement. George Floyd’s killer went to prison, while three former Minneapolis police officers were found guilty for failing to intervene as they choked Floyd to death. 

All the officers involved in Sean Rigg’s death were cleared of gross misconduct. Marcia has never been afforded a meeting with the Met commissioner over what happened. This month we learnt that half of police employees found guilty of gross misconduct were not dismissed. Of 118 cases where a clear breach of rules was proven by forces’ internal disciplinary panels, just 55 led to the officers being sacked.

Marcia says the IOPC report has “laid out the Met’s dirty washing” for all to see. But there is more foul play yet to come out, not just in London, but across England and Wales.

Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands

The United Friends and Family Campaign is a group of families – including Janet Alder and Marcia Rigg – working together after the death of their loved ones by the state. They are united not just by the deaths, but the fact that none have seen “any accountability whatsoever”.  

Their cases mirror each other: alleged cover-ups, police forces closing ranks, campaigning efforts disrupted and dismissed. 

This year, families failed by the state are set to take matters into their own hands. The UFFC’s People’s Tribunal – launching this October – aims to give families of those who died in police custody a voice. They will show evidence that hasn’t yet been shown in court. “We need transparency, accountability. And a will to do something. The state just stonewalled us all,” Janet says. 

“We intend to put the state on trial. We will be the witness and present the facts on 20 deaths in custody,” Marcia adds. 

The hope is that if people see, for instance, the video of officers making monkey noises about Christopher Alder, the groundswell for institutional, root-and-branch reform could grow. That footage was never shown to the jury. 

“We were a family brought up in care. We have always been at the hands of the state,” Janet said. The state has led them down, repeatedly, and catastrophically. Perhaps this will be the year that starts to change.

 Josiah Mortimer is a journalist, and City Hall Editor for MyLondon. He has a particular interest in the police and social movements.

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Pages