Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Extracted from Perverting the Course of Justice, @InspGadgetBlogs on the number of cops patrolling your town, tonight:

COMPLAINTS

THE first member of the public I dealt with on my return to work after a slice of annual leave was someone who wanted to complain about us.

We get a lot of complaints from disgruntled people who are annoyed with the service we have given them.

When I was a PC, it used to wind me up, hearing that my force was crap all the time. I’d think, No, we’re not… I go to fifteen calls a night and we do really well.

The trouble is that, as a PC, or even a Sergeant, your perspective is limited. You arrive at some drama, you sort out the callers’ troubles and depart, leaving happy customers behind you. What you don’t know is that there are another forty-five people on hold for half an hour, listening to Brahms or the Sugababes and fuming while they wait to speak to someone about their problem.

So – to an extent – I’ve come round to the complainers’ side.

I don’t think the police are all brilliant. We make mistakes, some cops are lazy, others cut corners. We’re human beings.

I also don’t think the public are all moaners, or criminals, or idiots – though I do think too many of them believe what they see on The Bill and Inspector Morse and CSI, where a crime happens, a big team works on nothing else, gets an arrest and the guy is banged up forever, all in forty minutes.

Peverting The Course Of Justice_Cover Art and AI_PTCOJ cover_visual2 (1)You might think that the public are not so daft as to believe that that is what it’s like, but unfortunately lots of them are.

I have spoken to so many people who have said, ‘What’s happening with my case?’

‘What’s your name please, sir?’

‘John Smith. I was robbed. That bloody Jones, again.’

‘Just hold the line would you sir? I’m just going to go and have a look at my cases.’

‘Have a look at your cases? What do you mean?’

‘Well, I’ve got a dozen others ongoing.’

‘A dozen? I thought you were investigating my robbery.’

Why are they so surprised? Where do they get the idea that we sit and do one thing at a time? But if the response we provide is sometimes rubbish, and some of these complaints are quite justified, they’re often aimed at the wrong people.

The bobby who didn’t catch your burglar is run absolutely ragged and doing his level best; the fact that his best isn’t good enough is down to the ACPO ranks and Home Office types who have strewn his path with obstacles.

I don’t even think that everything the Government or the pen-pushers does is bad, mind you; I just think that they are economical with the truth. The people who make the decisions and sign the cheques won’t come clean and admit that, as things are, there are limits to what we can do.

I can only imagine that the reason they don’t do this is because they fear that the public response would be to demand a refocusing of the police away from their beloved targets and initiatives and diversity projects and back to catching criminals. So they fiddle the figures and say everyone else is lying.

Anyway, my post-leave complainant.

The man’s name was Jessop, and he was angry because the night before it had taken us four hours to get round to a criminal damage at his house.

‘It’s just not good enough,’ he said, literally banging the desk. ‘The youths were probably still nearby when I rang. By the time your lads got to the house they’d long gone. What the hell am I paying my taxes for? What the hell am I paying your wages for?’

This one always irritates cops, not least we pay tax, too, whereas a lot of the people who say it to us don’t, being (unlike Mr Jessop) heroin-addicted, layabout burglars.

‘I’m sorry you feel you’ve had a bad service,’ I said. ‘Now, do you want to have a real conversation about it or do you just want to shout at me? You choose.’

He harrumphed for a moment, and then said, ‘Go on.’

‘I’ll have to look into the specifics of the case,’ I said. ‘But I can tell you now that your call was put on a list of other calls and, not being a life-or-death sort of thing, would be dealt with as soon as we had officers available. That might have been within 15 minutes, it might have been within 15 hours.’

‘Well, that’s ridiculous,’ he said.

‘Do you have any idea how many police there are in the country?’ I said.

‘No.’

‘The total police strength is about 140,000,’ I said [this was written some years ago!]. ‘How many of those do you think will be available at any time to come out to you if you call us?’

‘I’m not sure.’

‘If you take out annual leave and rest days, appearances in court, courses, illness, injury, traffic officers, CID, domestic violence and all the other squads, maternity leave, people off with stress, custody officers, front desk, Neighbourhood Teams, licensing officers, armed officers, schools liaison, community liaison, diplomatic protection, PSD, British Transport Police, all the office-bounds and senior ranks, and then you remember that we operate a shift system so we can work around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it’s actually not all that many people. No more than a few thousand. Covering a population of over 50 million in a fairly large geographical area.’

He nodded. ‘OK, I understand that not all 140,000 of you are available.’

‘Locally, across this whole division, it’s a dozen or so. And did you know that as soon as one of those dozen officers arrests someone, that is them off the street for a minimum of four hours, doing all the paperwork and so on?’

‘Really?’

‘Really. Now, any idea how many calls we get every day?’

He shook his head.

‘This force takes 3,000,’ I said. ‘All it takes is one big fight, or a nasty accident, or just two or three separate arrests, and everything else has to go on hold.’

‘I suppose I hadn’t thought all that through,’ he said.

‘I always look at it this way,’ I said. ‘If you break your arm and it’s a Saturday evening, and I take you to casualty, you’re going to have to wait three or four hours to get it seen to. It’s the same with us, except that we have to come to you. Imagine if casualty had to come to you, too. Now how long do you think you’d have to wait? And there are more people on duty at casualty and in the hospital generally on a Saturday night than there are of us.’

He sighed – just a normal, frustrated customer of the police service who was thoroughly fed up with life.

‘It just seems like I pay my tax and I get nothing for it,’ he said.

‘You say that,’ I said, ‘but do you know how much of your council tax actually goes to fund your local plod?’

He didn’t.

‘The average household in Ruralshire pays £1.79 a week to the policing budget,’ I said.

I reached down into a drawer and pulled out a leaflet on which there was a pie chart showing how the cash is divvied up. ‘That tiny little yellow sliver there is the police.’

I reached back into the drawer, and picked out a couple of ballpoint pens, a little plastic helicopter toy someone had left in there and a ruler and a rubber in a set from the Post Office, and pushed them across the table.

‘That is what your £1.79 can buy you, instead of policing, which covers everything from major international terrorist actions, right down to vandalism, serious road accidents, all the custody business, buying our cars and uniforms, training, the whole lot. We spent more than that in petrol just coming out to your criminal damage – eventually.’

He stood there, looking at the plastic helicopter.

I said, ‘What I am not saying, Mr Jessop, is that I am happy about this. I really am not. I am really, really unhappy about it, and I am sincerely sorry that we didn’t get to you while these idiots were there. Me and my officers love nothing more than arresting people like that. It’s why we joined the job. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other demands on our time.

‘You might think some of those demands are silly, but that’s not for me to say. I hope you at least understand now why things happened the way they did.’

‘Thanks Inspector,’ he said. ‘Thanks for your time. I’m not happy, either, but at least I’ve got it off my chest and learned a few things I didn’t know.’

We shook hands, and he left the police station.

Nothing that I told him was top secret or controversial or even hard to discover for oneself but, as I say, no-one at the top seems to explain stuff like this to people.

Taking the time to point out how powerless and annoyed we are about it too can only help.

Apologies to our loyal reader for the lack of posts – we’ve been a bit sidetracked by family stuff.

My brother-in-law, whom I mentioned some time ago when he contracted lymphoma, now has acute myeloid leukaemia. Ironically, this was brought on by the chemotherapy he underwent for the lymphoma; apparently there’s a five per cent chance of this, and he was just unlucky.

It was a real shock – he was in remission from the lymphoma and life was getting back to normal.

He’s been in hospital for a couple of weeks, under going FLAG chemo, which I’m told is about as challenging as it gets. You spend five days having horrible chemicals pumped into you; these take you to the brink of death, and destroy your immune system, so you then spend a further three or four weeks in hospital in semi-isolation.

Typically, he has dealt with it so far pretty much like this (the chemo being Plisson):

However, he is a long way from being out of the woods yet. If the FLAG has worked, and we’ll know very soon, he may be allowed home for a few days, and then he will go through the whole process again just to kill off any vestiges of the leukaemia.

But it can – in fact, I think would – come back sooner or later, so, assuming a match can be found, he will need a bone marrow transplant.

That is in itself extremely dangerous; for about eighteen months, you are at risk from an infection (your immune system is essentially regrowing during that time).

We’ve been up and down the motorway a few times recently, and chatting on the phone to him and my sis, and generally thinking about him a lot, too.

Hence, work has suffered a bit. (Though not as much as his – he is a QC, and was due to prosecute in two murder trials this summer; he can’t now work for at least two years.)

The scary thing is how quick it was.

Here he is in front of Mont Blanc on a short skiing trip we took together in mid-March:

David ski pic

A week later, he was in hospital. Though as this post-FLAG shot of him having a blood transfusion suggests, he’s dealing with it with aplomb (you’d go a long way to find a more determined, upbeat and positive bloke, so if that means anything he’s got a headstart):

David blood transfusionI’m posting this not just to explain the lack of blogging, of course.

You may be able to help him – and if not him, then one of the thousands of others who need a bone marrow transplant now or in the future (and it could be you or one of yours).

To find out if you’re eligible, all you have to do is contact Delete Blood Cancer. They will send out a little swab kit, and you simply swab the insides of your cheeks and post it back to them, free of charge.

If you ARE a match for someone, the process of extracting your bone marrow and giving it to someone and saving their life is NOT painful, and it doesn’t take very long.

Currently, white Brits have a sixty per cent chance of a decent match, I think; black or Asian patients are a lot less fortunate, so any readers from those ethnic groups could really make a difference by getting in touch with DBC.

The Anthony Nolan Trust is another great charity to support.

 

Free Books!

This Friday we’ll be giving away a free copy of our humorous and fictionalised barrister’s memoir MAY IT PLEASE YOUR LORDSHIP to three UK residents drawn at random from our giant electronic hat.

To get into the hat, just retweet or share this post somewhere (and let us know).

We’ll contact the winners on Friday afternoon and send the books out over the weekend.

May It Please Your Lordship - AI Cover

(If you enjoy it, it would be nice if you could review it on Amazon, tweet about it, tell your friends, and otherwise help us get the word out. But there’s no requirement or obligation to do any of that.)

Here’s a free extract. A nervous Toby, not long called to the Bar, is making an early appearance at Snaresbrook Crown Court:

As I made my way to Court Thirteen, I contemplated the prospect of my first jury trial with understandable trepidation. I was hardly prepared for the task ahead, through no fault of my own. I thought about the reviewing lawyer’s clear belief that there would be a plea of guilty. Some review! Some lawyer! And to cap it all, Cantwell as my opponent, with the bit between his teeth. I’d have to be at my sharpest to win the shining hour. But then, the evidence did seem overwhelming.

With five minutes to go, there was no sign of the CPS law clerk, who was supposed to hold my hand and steer me effortlessly through the stormy waters. As I was contemplating my next move, the usher popped her head around the door. Addressing nobody in particular, and in the manner of a fishwife shouting the odds, she bellowed, ‘The case of Pedder will be heard in Court One!’

Bellowing was almost endemic at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

I shuffled into court, with Cantwell barging his way forward and studiously ignoring me, all the time under the watchful gaze of His Honour Judge ‘Bonkers’ Clarke, the Resident Judge.

Snaresbrook was not exactly the jewel in the Crown Court hierarchy, and finding a resident judge to hold sway and bring much-needed gravitas to the post proved almost a bridge too far. However, more by luck than good judgment, word reached the Mandarins in the Lord Chancellor’s department that His Honour Judge Bonkers Clarke, recently separated from his wife following unfounded salacious revelations in the tabloid press, had been advised to look for a change of scene well away from his usual watering hole if he were ever to enjoy his index-linked pension. Such advice from the Lord Chancellor was not to be lightly discarded, so, after a suitable period in retreat, he was duly installed. The fact that he was known by one and all as Bonkers from his earliest days on the Bench made the appointment almost apocryphal.

‘The judge, without knowing how or why,

Made still a blund’ring kind of melody,

Spurred boldly on, and dashed through thick and thin,

Through sense and nonsense, never out nor in.

Free from all meaning, whether good or bad,

And in one word, heroically mad.’

After ten years at the helm, Bonkers modestly accepted the Honorary Recordership of Epping Forest, bestowed upon him by the grateful burghers. He was nothing if not fully committed to his resident status, throwing himself energetically into every aspect of court life. Arriving each morning at the crack of dawn, and sporting an old knitted cardigan, he was regularly to be seen patrolling the corridors, noting down broken light bulbs and unemptied waste bins, bringing his own brand of order out of chaos. He was accompanied, as always, by Max, his faithful black Labrador, who possessed a wet and inquisitive nose as many a court usher would attest. An irresistible combination.

I was about to take my seat when Bonkers addressed me. ‘Now, let me see, Mr… er… Potts,’ he began. ‘I don’t think much of this indictment. How do you justify the count of attempted criminal damage to an automatic door?’

‘I agree, your Honour,’ smarmed Cantwell, rising from his seat.

‘Not yet, Mr Cantwell, you’ll have your turn, I’m sure of it. Who was the idiot who drafted that particular count, Mr Potts?’

I turned to the law clerk, Tracey by name, as I was subsequently to discover. She might as well do something. After all, this was supposed to be a team effort. ‘Who was the idiot who drafted that particular count?’ I whispered. ‘Can you help?’

‘That’ll be our Mr Newman,’ she whispered back, and took out a form, ominously headed, ‘Advocate’s Evaluation’.

So be it, I thought, if you can’t stand and fight, better cut and run. ‘I am instructed that it was our Mr Newman, the reviewing lawyer. If your Honour will rise for five minutes, I can take instructions.’ Tracey was not amused, and made a note to that effect on the form – ‘found wanting under fire’.

‘Bunkum!’ scoffed Bonkers. Clearly he was even less amused. ‘I shall enter a verdict of not guilty on that count.’

Could he do that? I wondered, plunging into my Archbold.

‘You can close that book now, Mr Potts. I am the law in this court!’ There was no answer to that. Then Bonkers paused, peering intently at me over his spectacles. ‘Have we met before?’

I peered back, and a vision of the strange figure on the parapet, bellowing at me as I strolled across the grass outside, loomed large in my mind’s eye. ‘Er… I don’t think so, your Honour. This is my first appearance at Snaresbrook.’

There was a long pause. ‘Very well,’ he said, at last. ‘Let’s hope it’s a memorable one. Now, Mr Cantwell, what’s the defence to the charge of theft? The defendant was caught red-handed.’

Cantwell oiled his way to his feet. ‘The defence will be placed fairly and squarely before the jury in the course of the trial…’

‘Yes, yes, I have no doubt, but what is it?’

‘Your Honour presses me.’

‘I do.’

‘Very well, the defendant will say that whilst on a legitimate shopping expedition in the One-Stop Shop to buy a DVD player, he was suddenly caught short following a particularly powerful vindaloo curry the night before, and, in his understandable anxiety not to disgrace himself, he made a dash to the nearest evacuation point, forgetting he still had the DVD player under his arm. His progress was thwarted by the malfunctioning automatic doors, with the result that, after the inevitable acquittal of this spurious charge, he has engaged my services to sue the store for negligence and the replacement cost of a pair of soiled trousers. Your Honour will be familiar with the case of Palmer and Camley Borough Council?’

In all his years on the Bench, Bonkers thought he’d heard it all, but this was the best by far; he raised his eyes to the ceiling in total disbelief.

‘And what about the confession he made when he was arrested?’ Bonkers looked down at the case papers. ‘“It’s a fair cop, guv.” What does the defendant say about that?’

Cantwell was equal to the task. ‘He didn’t say it, your Honour, but, if he did, the word he used was “shop”, not “cop”.’

‘What? He said “It’s a fair shop, guv”? Is this what you are telling me?’

Bonkers’ eyebrows were now hovering several inches above his head.

‘Your Honour has it in one,’ smarmed Cantwell, totally unfazed by the absurdity of his instructions. ‘But, pausing there, do I detect a certain scepticism about the defence in your Honour’s remarks?’

‘You do indeed, Mr Cantwell. This is a complete waste of public time and money.’

‘Then may I remind your Honour, with the greatest of respect, of course’ – Cantwell was now positively dripping – ‘that the defendant is entitled to a fair trial in front of a jury of his peers, regardless of the apparent merits or otherwise of the defence…’

‘Don’t lecture me on the law, Mr Cantwell. I am perfectly well aware of the defendant’s rights, and as for merits, as you so delicately put it, there are none. That said,’ he continued with a full head of steam, ‘I have no intention whatsoever of wasting my time trying this case.’ He glanced down at his court list. ‘I shall release it back to Court Nine and Mr Recorder Twigg,’ and, so saying, he slammed the file shut and threw it at the court clerk. ‘Don’t let me detain you,’ he glowered. ‘Call on the next case.’

The Afghanistan commemoration service at St Paul’s Cathedral may officially have marked the end of the British campaign, but for the families of the 453 service personnel who died – and for the many badly injured – the pain may never truly end.

Twenty of those dead soldiers are remembered in our book At The Going Down of the Sun (you can read the story of one of them here, and find out more about the other nineteen via the links at the end of that piece).

Some relatives didn’t want to attend, for personal reasons: Lucy Aldridge, whose Rifleman son William was at eighteen the youngest soldier to die, was among them.

Others were prevented from doing so by more prosaic issues: the mother and father of Lance Bombardier Mark Chandler missed the whole thing after they were caught up in London traffic.

Marine Steven Birdsall – a much-loved son, big brother and grandson – was just twenty years old when he was shot by a sniper near Sangin in 2010.

Steven’s boyhood friend, Private Tom Sephton, died on the same tour; he was blown up by an IED aged nineteen. He, too, left behind a shattered family.

Steve and Tom together on a night outSteven and Tom together on a night out, not long before they died

Their mothers and other family members travelled down for the service – you can see a slightly shaky video of a TV news piece with them here.

Jenny Birdsall, Steven’s mum, later told journalists how she had met Prince Charles.

‘We’ll never forget Steven and still have our good and bad days,’ she said. ‘He was only two and a half years out of his training but he loved what he was doing. He was very selfless, brave and fearless. It has been a long and difficult road even getting to the point that we can talk about what has happened so publically. But Prince Charles was wonderful. He was hugely sympathetic. He told me how much Prince Harry had loved his service in Afghanistan and would have gone out there in a heartbeat again if he had been able to. It meant a great deal to us to be able to share Steven’s story with him.’

The book has been something of a hard ‘sell’ – either people don’t want to read about dead soldiers, or they don’t know about it – but we’ll keep plugging away.

To ‘our’ twenty and all of those who died, Rest In Peace.

A while back, we published a book called Generation F by a supported housing worker calling himself Winston Smith.

Not the most original pseudonym, but it reflected his view that working in this environment was like living an Orwellian (or perhaps Kafkan) nightmare, where truth was lies, and lies was truth, and children’s lives were ruined by afterthought, or no thought.

Winston wrote a blog which won the Orwell Prize, and we turned it into a book. It’s a fascinating if chilling read which helps to explain the various and ongoing scandals about the sexual abuse of girls in care, which at least in part seem to happen because the children are allowed to come and go on a whim.

The politicians and lawyers and top police officers and senior council people who have conspired to allow this situation would sure never tolerate it for their own children; why is it okay for the children of poor and uneducated people?

I do urge you to read the book. Here’s an extract:

The first place I find myself at is Tom Parsons House – a large, five-bedroomed place which is home to three young girls, aged fourteen, fifteen and sixteen. I flick through their files as part of the preparation for my first day.

Of the three, one has already had an abortion, all have criminal records and two are currently tagged and are supposedly being monitored by the youth justice system for various offences. Chelsey – an extremely wild fourteen-year-old – is constantly running away from the home for days on end, and I hardly ever see her. Sammie, fifteen, is nearly as bad; sixteen-year-old Rachel, although not averse to a night on the tiles, seems to spend most of her life sitting down, channel-hopping on the TV and gorging on junk food.

Both she and Sammie are grotesquely fat; this is a tragedy for them, with life-altering consequences. But what really baffles me is the ease and regularity of the absconding. After all, there are always three members of staff – and sometimes four – in the house, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I wonder why they don’t just put a stop to this, and say as much to Jenny, the senior support worker…

‘Jenny, I’m just curious,’ I say. ‘Do the staff not notice when these young girls are leaving the premises?’

Generation F AI Cover

‘Well, sometimes they just run off without telling us,’ she says, ‘but often they tell us they are going out and don’t know when they’ll be back.’

‘But why don’t we stop them?’ I say. ‘I mean, why don’t we lock the doors, or something? After all, they’re supposedly in care. They’re only fourteen and fifteen, and very vulnerable. God knows what could happen to them and what they could get up to.’

‘Look, I agree the whole system is mad,’ says Jenny. ‘But as you know we’re not allowed to touch them, physically. We can’t grab them and pull them in to the house. That could be construed as assault and we could get in trouble.’

It seems to me that it’s an odd kind of system that believes it’s better to allow fourteen-year-old girls to roam free about the area for days on end without supervision, rather than grab them by the arms and scruff of the neck and bring them back into a home where they can be properly supervised.

‘Do they usually stay away for long?’ I say.

‘Usually it’s only a couple of nights at a time,’ she says. ‘Sometimes it’s longer, though. Once they were away together for four nights. What happens is the cops find them, or they get fed up and run out of money or places to stay and then they telephone us and ask us for a lift back to the home. It’s a bit of a pain, because it can often be at three or four in the morning, and we have to get up out of bed and drive and collect them.’

‘Really?’ I say. ‘That does sound like a pain.’

‘We have a duty of care towards them, you see.’

They may well end up in a secure juvenile unit, should they continue to abscond and be involved in low-level crime. However, seeing as the youth justice system fails to deal effectively with more serious youth crime, I’d say a tag is as bad as it will get for these two girls, which is a shame because to my mind they need protecting from themselves.

Rachel tears herself away from the telly for a moment. ‘Stop flirting with Winston, you fat fucking slag Jenny,’ she says. ‘He’d never fuck a dog like you.’

PC Bloggs experienced the police end of this issue, and here (in an extract from Diary of an On Call Girl) she talks us through a typical incident:

I am still in custody, waiting for Will to find me, when the radio pipes up once more.

‘Could you attend the Benucci Foundation. Colin Roach has gone missing again.’

The Benucci Foundation is a Care Home, providing twenty-four hour supervision of troubled under-sixteens, and the name of Colin Roach is more familiar to me than my own. He goes for a jaunt two or three times a week, and the staff at the home do little to prevent it.

One of the rules of the twenty–four hour supervision is that it is the police’s responsibility to keep track of the youngsters who live under it. Thus, when a Missing Person is reported, a police officer will be dispatched to the relevant home, where a five-page description and Risk Assessment will be completed. This is actually the most crucial part of the whole process, as without knowing whether the Person is classified as High, Medium or Low Risk we are unable to determine which rank of officer will be fired if they are found dead.

Luckily, we are proficient at finding them alive. Not only do we have the ability to telephone their family members and ask if they’ve seen them, but we’re also good at driving to their favourite haunts or texting them on their mobiles to ask them where they are. These skills take many years to master and should not be attempted by civilians.

Most Missing Persons are regulars. They are usually in care or foster homes, and have poor criminal or behavioural records. They are between thirteen and sixteen, they drink, smoke and do drugs, and they ain’t scared of no Feds.

All of these factors mean that their carer is under a legal responsibility to inform the police when the Person goes Missing, even if Missing just happens to be going down the shop for a Mars bar. No matter: the police delight in spending hours on pointless tasks, so we are more than happy to cruise the streets of Blandmore searching for these youngsters, and, when we find them, it’s always a joy to spend half an hour trying to persuade them to go home without any actual power to make them do so.

Colin is thirteen, and I have located him three times already this year. On each occasion I found him in the same place: back at the Foundation sitting in front of the television.

This time, we are shown in by Carlita, one of the live-in carers. She makes me a cup of tea and apologises for having to call us out.

‘So,’ I say. ‘Why did he go this time?’

‘He went for some fags. We usually let him have one after doing his homework, but he wanted one now. So he just left.’

I look at the front door, a sturdy-looking PVC thing with two bolts. ‘How did he get out?’

‘He opened the door.’

‘Did anyone try to stop him?’

‘We aren’t allowed to do that!’ She looks horrified at the suggestion. ‘If they become violent, we retreat.’

‘But couldn’t you just lock the door?’

‘We don’t lock them in,’ she says. ‘That might make them violent.’

Perhaps I have misunderstood the nature of the Foundation. I ask for a recap. ‘Why are kids here again?’

‘High risk offenders. Most of them have committed rapes or sexual assaults on younger kids. Colin raped a younger boy last year.’

‘And they aren’t in prison because… ?’

‘Well, most of them were also abused as kids,’ Carlita explains. ‘They’re not even sixteen, so it wouldn’t be fair to just chuck them in jail and throw away the key. They’re mixed-up kids.’

‘So let me get this straight: you have a house full of boys who have been victims of sexual assault, living in a house with boys who have committed sexual assaults?’

‘Well, they aren’t allowed in each others’ rooms.’

DiaryOnCallGirl_frontcover

Colin is under a Supervision Order from the court and Carlita shows me the Order. It lays down in no uncertain terms that Colin is to stay indoors at the Benucci Foundation all day, except when escorted to school and back by staff or taken on outings authorised by staff. He is to abide by the rules of the house and is not allowed to be rude or threatening or to assault anyone.

‘So he breaks this Order every time he goes storming out?’ I ask.

She nods. ‘If he does it again he’ll be put in a high security home.’

Will takes out the paperwork. ‘He’s done it… let’s see… thirty times in the last three months.’

Sadly, this is no exaggeration. Colin and others like him really exist, as do their records of going ‘missing’.

She shrugs. ‘Well, like I say. One of these days he’ll be put in high security.’

I shake my head, and go to look for the little ragamuffin. First stop, the park. As we drive into the park our car is surrounded by a gaggle of ten-year-old boys in school uniform and we chat to them for five minutes. On leaving, I look in my mirror and see some parents pull up to collect the kids. I wonder what those parents would say if they knew that a thirteen-year-old child rapist wanders through that park two or three times a week, untroubled by the court order designed to protect their children from him.

After searching for a while, Bloggs has to return to the station to deal with some paperwork concerning a domestic incident call she attended, and a call to the greatest comic character of the 21st century, Blandshire Constabulary ‘Scrutineer’ Enid Pimento.

I discover another message from the Scrutineer and remember that I am due to phone her back about the mystery domestic in my virtual docket.

Will enters in time to hear me say, ‘Hi Enid, it’s PC Bloggs here.’

He tries to hide a grin, puts down my sandwiches and leaves the room again.

‘Ah, PC Bloggs.’ Her tone is that of a woman pulling up a chair for a long chat.

‘I got your message about this Ratchet Path job. You’ll have to jog my memory.’

Enid taps at her keyboard for a minute. ‘Domestic… caller reporting drunken fight between her neighbours. It says here that you attended and classified it as assault.’

I scour my memory. ‘I don’t think I went to that one.’

Enid logs into another few systems as I wait patiently. While I sit there, Will comes back in with Lloyd and Becks in tow.

‘Bloggsy’s on the phone to the Scrutineer.’ He says. ‘Always good for a laugh.’

I glower as they all sit down around me to listen.

‘Here we are,’ says Enid, after a minute or two. ‘You went with PC Mitchum.’

‘Guy…?’ A distant image of a brass dog, a stained glass porch and a pair of torn trousers begins to surface. ‘Ah… yes.’

‘Oh, good,’ says Enid, clearly expecting an admission of guilt.

‘But it wasn’t a domestic,’ I say. ‘I updated the crime report to say that the occupants of the address had no knowledge of any incident.’

‘Then why did it go down as assault?’

‘I have no idea. I certainly didn’t put it down as assault.’

‘So what you are saying is that this is a no-crime.’

‘Well, in the sense that no crime whatsoever has happened, yes.’

‘Can you update the crime report to reflect that?’

I open it up myself. ‘I have, here where it says, ‘Officer has attended and no domestic had taken place.’

There’s a triumphant silence on the end of the phone which lasts about three seconds. ’Ah! That won’t do I’m afraid,’ says Enid. ‘Put in a fuller update explaining exactly what did happen, and why you believe no crime has taken place, and forward the paperwork to me.’

‘There is no paperwork, because no crime took place.’

‘What about the Domestic Risk Assessment?’

‘There isn’t one, because there was no domestic.’

‘So… are you saying that no offences have taken place at all, not even a domestic?’

‘Yes.’ I mean, is it me?

‘Right, well forward the paperwork to me and I will get it sent up to Headquarters for no-criming.’

‘Did you not hear me just say that there is no paperwork?’

Lloyd, Becks and Will are listening avidly, with encouraging grins on their faces.

Enid is stumped. ‘Well, I can’t no-crime it without anything… let’s see, did you get a pocketbook entry signed by the caller, to say that there was no domestic after all?’

‘No, because the caller was anonymous.’

‘So how do we know there was no domestic?’

‘Because the people who were meant to be having one said nothing had happened and were obviously fine.’

‘Well we will need something in writing from them.’

‘Something in writing?’

‘A signature, to confirm that they don’t wish to make a complaint.’

I gasp for breath, for several seconds. ‘Right, fine.’

Once again a conversation with Enid ends in my hanging up the receiver in a manner far too abrupt to be representative of a professional 21st Century Police Officer.

It’s all down to my naïvety, again: I had not realised that part of the police’s job is to knock on people’s doors and get signatures from them to confirm that they have not called the police.

Meanwhile, Colin Roach has been located.

While the sergeant is there, I trick him into signing his name on my Missing Person paperwork; that means it is now he who will be fired if Colin Roach is not found. Even as he realises what he has done, the radio controller interrupts us to inform me that Colin is now back at the Foundation and could I please go and lay eyes on him so the incident log can be closed.

I lay eyes on Colin from about fifty metres away: he is standing on the roof-top outside his bedroom and when he sees me he screams that he will jump. I race out of sight and inform Sergeant Woodcock by telephone that he is about to be fired after all. Fortunately, Colin is coaxed down from the roof by Carlita and a packet of Marlboro Lights, whereupon he kindly informs me that if he ever sees me again he will smack my pretty face in.It is one of the more complimentary threats I have received, so I thank him and record this on the Missing Person report for the officer who will be carrying out the same procedure again on Wednesday.

Carlita apologises once again and I depart with the satisfaction of someone in possession of paperwork that is ready for filing.

 

 

…is now live on the Kindle store.

Currently available as an eBook only, and written by Jack Summer, it’s a compendium of frankly bizarre deaths from around the globe.

It’s named in honour of Ivanka Perko, who survived Hitler’s concentration camps and Stalin’s death squads, but was killed by a banana in Australia.

(She dropped the banana, it scratched her leg, and the cut became infected. Mrs Perko was a tough old lady who noted on her deathbed the strange irony of escaping the Nazi and Communist terrors and dying in so strange and unforeseeable a way.)

There are lots of incredible stories in the book – they’re often sad, sometimes hilarious, always most peculiar (and a great reminder to us all to enjoy life while we have it).

Like the demise of the appropriately-named Louis Dethy, a retired engineer who rigged his home with deadly booby traps designed to kill his own family, but ended up being killed by one of them himself when he forgot about it.

Or that of Sylvester Briddell, Jr., whose friends bet him that he wouldn’t place a pistol containing four bullets into his mouth and pull the trigger…

Or the case of mass drowning in Jordan in 1997. As Jack puts it:

A GROUP OF men were doing something – who knows what – near a well in northern Jordan in October 1997, when one of them dropped his car keys into it.

He jumped in to recover the keys, promptly got into difficulty, and started drowning.

A second man jumped in to help the first man, promptly got into difficulty, and started drowning.

A third man jumped in to help the second man, promptly got into difficulty, and started drowning.

A fourth man jumped in to help the third man, promptly got into difficulty, and started drowning.

A fifth man jumped in to help the fourth man, promptly got into difficulty, and started drowning.

In the end, there were no more men, either to jump in and help, or to get into difficulty, and they all drowned.

Reuters named the dead men as brothers Qassem, Hamdan and Musleh Saleh, all in their twenties, and brothers Rateb and Firas Khalil.

 Death by Banana Cover

OK, so it wasn’t a resounding success at first…

WE all know the story of the Wright brothers – the Americans who flew the world’s first powered aeroplane in 1903.

It’s a fascinating and romantic tale which has spawned books and films and turned the pair into US – indeed world – icons.

Deservedly so – what they achieved was amazing.

There’s just one problem: the real story of flight starts on this side of the Atlantic (and it is told in our book of ludicrous national self-biggage, So THAT’S Why They Call It GREAT Britain.

Sir George Cayley (1773-1857) is the real ‘Father of Aerodynamics’.

In 1849, he launched a glider at Brompton, Yorks – it was the world’s first flight. Wisely, he employed an unnamed ten-year-old boy as his test pilot.

(If Monday Books were building aircraft, then, being terrible cowards, this is the strategy we would employ.)

200px-George_Cayley

Cayley: wise

(Sir George, a Scarborough baronet and MP, was a prodigious inventor who also worked on self-righting lifeboats, caterpillar tracks and seat belts).

John Stringfellow was a tool-maker from Sheffield who moved to Chard in Somerset to work in the lace industry.

Slightly eccentrically – it was 1842, and airliners were many decades away – he dreamed of setting up the world’s first international airline.

With engineer William Henson, he set up the Aerial Transit Company and commissioned brochures which showed aeroplanes carrying passengers on sight-seeing trips over exotic locations like the Pyramids.

You can’t fault them for thinking big, but unsurprisingly they failed to attract any serious financial backers.

The disillusioned Henson emigrated to America, but Stringfellow (1799-1883) continued undeterred, working out optimum wing shapes and materials, and calculating the surface area of wing needed per pound of weight to produce lift.

He built a working aircraft, which had a three-metre wing made from silk with cane struts, featuring a rigid leading edge combined with a looser trailing edge, and a steam engine which powered two propellers.

However, it was so delicate that outdoor flights proved impossible – the silk became heavy with atmospheric moisture and gusts of wind could be disastrous – so early attempts at flight took place inside a large silk mill in Chard.

Finally, in 1848, Stringfellow’s machine took to the air, unmanned. Although it travelled less than 10 metres, this was the world’s first demonstration of powered flight.

Perhaps disheartened after his years of labour for little reward, Stringfellow – the modern-day, straggle-haired lap dance guru Peter of perpetually confused mien is descended from him – put his machine on ice.

A model of his aeroplane is on display at the Science Museum.

The quest for manned flight remained.

In 1899, the British engineer and glider pilot Percy Pilcher (1867-1899) came very close to being a household name and scooping the Wright brothers by several years.

Pilcher had earlier designed and built a glider called Hawk, and had set a gliding distance record of 250 metres near Eynsford in Kent.

Then he set about developing a powered aeroplane, and settled on the idea of a three-winged triplane (multiple wings give extra lift without the huge increase in weight that a single wing of the same total area would need.) Power came from a small internal combustion engine.

He had arranged to demonstrate his triplane to the public on September 30, 1899, at Stanford Hall near Rugby, Warwickshire.

Unfortunately, it was not ready and, so as not to disappoint the crowd, he decided to fly Hawk instead.

Conditions were very blustery, and the glider’s tail snapped off in flight, sending it crashing to the ground, killing Pilcher, then thirty-two, ‘as the result of a rapid and unforeseen reduction in the distance between his homemade wooden glider… and the well-kept lawns’ below.

This was a bit of a downer – for everyone except Orville and Wilbur Wright.

PercyPilcherPilcher: downer

In 2002, BBC’s Horizon commissioned the construction of a replica of his triplane at Cranfield University.

It flew for over a minute and was a better machine than the Wright Brothers’ ‘Flyer’, but today almost no-one remembers him while the Wrights enjoy top spot in the pantheon of flight.

A monument to Pilcher was built on the spot where he crashed; the original Hawk is at the Museum of Flight in East Lothian, and a replica can be seen at Stanford Hall.

Not to downplay the brilliance of the Wright Bros, and the pioneering spirit and outstanding bravery they showed – characteristic of our American cousins – but this does appear to be a resounding win for Britain!

Number One in a series of lots, designed to allow uppity Brits to win petty arguments, at home and abroad. Please feel free to comment – we’re open to correction from outraged furriners (or locals). Do let us know where we’re claiming stuff we shouldn’t, or forgetting stuff we should.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 460 other followers

%d bloggers like this: