Feb 202015

If you are arrested in the UK, surely that means you’ve committed a crime. The stigma of being arrested can negatively impact your career prospects, your family and your social standing. The police only arrest those who are committing a crime, who have broken the law, and need to be stopped. Terrorism laws are there only for people intent on committing terrorist acts.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Suzanne Kelly reports as part of a continuing series.

PoliceLinePicfeatGuilty Until Proven Innocent – If You Step Out Of Line

This year is the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, which was meant to enshrine rights for all. Most of its principles are long since forgotten.

Tony Blair created a raft of legislation when in office, and arguably British citizens lost even more rights. Blair’s mania for media manipulation had many dire consequences, not least the ‘dodgy dossier.’

Not many remember the story of Walter Wolfgang. But we should.

“Walter Wolfgang age 82, was ejected from the hall [Labour Party Conference] after shouting “nonsense” as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw defended Iraq policy. How did New Labour treat a long-standing member who disagreed with the serpentine Straw? The fairly new terrorism laws were used to intimidate Wolfgang.

“Police later used powers under the Terrorism Act to prevent Mr Wolfgang’s re-entry [to the conference], but he was not arrested… Mr Wolfgang, who escaped Nazi Germany in 1937, is a member of the Stop the War Coalition.”

If a pensioner who heckles a speech supporting Blair’s attack on Iraq can be prevented from heckling because he might be a terrorist, how safe are we? Not safe at all is the answer. Can the threat of being arrested hinder legal, legitimate activities? Absolutely.

Arrest and Protest: A Case Study

It is not surprising that more and more people are turning to peaceful protest – we are losing our rights at the same time the 1% have widened the wealth gap, while in some instances avoiding tax, breaking banking laws and doing so with complete impunity. Many people consider the police to be an out-of-control, unilaterally-acting and capricious force. Facebook groups are documenting police brutality.

Just this week the chief constable Stephen House was accused of lying – the stop and search of children (with some 91% of the thousands searched being searched without any contraband found) is indeed continuing despite his assurances to the contrary. If protest is on the increase, perhaps the police should look to their actions as being causal.

This is an account from a peaceful protestor, Donnachadh McCarthy, who attended an Occupy Democracy event in London in early February.

“Just a quick note to say that the police have informed my solicitor that no charges will be laid against me after their aggressive over the top mauling of me at the Occupy Democracy peaceful protest in Tarpaulin Square on Saturday evening.”

“The outrageous accusation that my standing peacefully beside Boris Johnson’s private security corporation guard (AOS), as they were seeking to evict peaceful pro-democracy protesters from Tarpaulin Square, with a cardboard placard shaped like a coffin, with the inscription “UK Democracy RIP – killed by corporate billionaires”, was seeking to “intimidate a court witness and deter them from giving evidence”, never had any substance whatsoever in fact.”

“As I said in my police statement “I gently, resolutely but firmly deny that I did anything to intimidate anyone at the peaceful protest in Parliament Square”.

“Yet about 12 police officers swarmed me, took me to the ground and threw me in a police van and then held me in solitary confinement for 16 hours, whilst they futilely tried to find non-existent evidence.”

“This FOURTH arrest whilst peacefully protesting in Tarpaulin Square over the last 5 months, will not deter me from being there for the next pro-democracy protest by Occupy Democracy on March 7th.”

“This leaves me still facing 6 other trumped up charges, including one trumped up charge of “common assault” for bumping into a private security guard whilst trying to protect a peaceful protester from being attacked by the guards. This trial is on June 18th. Four other charges relate to my standing peacefully with a folded tarpaulin under my arm.”

McCarthy sums it up rather succinctly when he writes:

“The capture of our democracy by The Prostitute State continues to destroy our planet and facilitate a criminal concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1%.”

Journalists Are Not Immune Either – Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney

Award-winning film maker, journalist, documentary maker – and police suspects: Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney’s arrest at the Menie Estate was rightly condemned by the National Union of Journalists. Was the arrest intended to intimidate or stop them? You could be forgiven for thinking so:

“Shortly after the bulldozers moved in to destroy the Menie Estate dunes, we discovered Mr Trump’s workers had cut off the water supply to 86-year-old Molly Forbes – Michael’s elderly mother – for nearly a week, and so my Producer Richard Phinney and I went to interview Mr Trump’s chief greenkeeper who also doubled as head of building works.

“After the interview, Richard and I were both suddenly arrested on the property of another local resident – Susan Munro. We were then driven miles to Aberdeen, banged up in separate prison cells for several hours and stripped of our possessions. DNA, fingerprints and photos were all taken and camera equipment and footage impounded. We were both charged with ‘a breach of the peace’ a criminal offence which you can go to jail for in Scotland.

“The National Union of Journalists was furious and called our arrest ‘a blatant example of police interference stopping bona fide journalists from doing their job.’ The criminal charges were eventually thrown out by the Crown Office. But my arrest was a turning point, in what had become an extraordinary journey. I was now unwittingly part of a deeply disturbing and troubling story. And what had begun as an exercise to purely document what was happening, had now become a feature film – and I was in it.”

The way in which they were treated is virtually without precedent for journalists in the UK – let’s hope it stays that way.

The very broad-brush charge ‘breach of the peace’ can mean almost anything – no one is immune from being taken into custody on this charge in Scotland.

The two were released with a caution – this meant they never got their day in court –which would have allowed their legal team scope to clear their names completely. It also leaves a sword of Damocles over their heads – if they get into any further dealings with the police, this caution is on their record.

An abuse of power? A police intervention into journalism? It seems so.

Protect yourself – from the police

What do you do if you find yourself arrested? What should you do? Who do you call? What are your rights?

Here are some excellent resources:


Some basic principles to keep aware of include:

  • the police must tell you that  are under arrest as soon as is reasonably practicable.
  • “You do not have to say anything. However, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence” – unless it is otherwise impractical to do so.
  • the police should inform the suspect of their rights, which are as follows:
  • to notify someone of their arrest
  • to legal advice and assistance
  • to access the police Codes of Practice.
  • The police should also advise the suspect that their right to legal advice can be exercised at any time during the period of arrest (called ‘detention’).
  • All suspects have the right to receive free legal advice from a solicitor – either over the phone or in person – regardless of their financial status http://www.findlaw.co.uk/law/criminal/your_rights/7975.html

“Making a complaint

There are different courses of action you can take if you feel the police have treated you unfairly and you want to complain:-

  • use the police complaints procedure, which can result in an officer being disciplined, or in exceptional circumstances, prosecuted. This procedure cannot provide you with compensation
  • sue the police for damages. You will need to use a solicitor to do this
  • claim compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
  • ask for help from an MP, MSP or local councillor
  • contact the Procurator Fiscal if you think the police officer has broken the law

take collective action by joining or starting a campaign to monitor and change police practices.”  http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/scotland/law_s/law_legal_system_s/law_police_s/police_powers_scotland.htm

Anyone with mental health issues is meant to have an appropriate responsible adult help them through the arrest procedure.

The state of the wider world today is no reason for UK citizens to surrender more of their privacy, their freedom and their basic rights. It is worthwhile making sure you know what legal protection you are entitled to.

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  10 Responses to “We Need To Talk About The Police No. 6 – Arrest Developments”

  1. Aberdeen Voice is a weekly independent online news and information source. It promotes Citizen Journalism in Aberdeen and the North East. Its focus is to give a voice to the general public in the North East and to promote inclusion in affairs affecting the region.
    What about this article is current or local? Why don’t you report on violent crime down 13% crimes of dishonesty down 8.5% continued encouragement of victims of sexual crimes and domestic abuse with detection rates at 98% for domestic abuse. Try reporting on the good work Scottish police are doing.
    It would be nice to hear something positive on the local area from this author unfortunately I don’t think we will. However Aberdeen is only a very small city in an expansive globe, its not a prison and anyone can leave anytime they want to find their utopia.

    • Without wishing to be disrespectful Jim, I would suggest that the statistics you cite refer to reported crime, rather than actual crime, and, as most people are aware, many crimes simply go unreported, such is the lack of confidence in the police, or are so common that they are hardly considered to be crimes anymore. Furthermore, I would venture that, if you really do believe these statistics to be truly representative of real crime levels, then there is certainly no need for you to go looking for “utopia” as you must already be there.

      I’m not quite sure what you would define as “local” but I would certainly consider the arrest of the named journalists, a few miles from Aberdeen, to be so and fail to understand the lack of a real public outcry at the unwarranted arrest and detention of journalists, whose lawful investigation included the involvement of a First Minister in the nefarious dealings of a foreign billionaire with links to organised crime. That the same ex First Minister went on to oversee the creation of a state Police Force, whose level of accountability is now openly being questioned in Parliament, the routine arming of that Police Force and the shameless appointment of politically sympathetic individuals to lead the quango, to whom the state police are at least notionally accountable, merely adds to my curiosity at the lack of interest, from the mainstream media, in what I consider to be the clearly questionable conduct of our politicians and police.

      There is no doubt that Aberdeen Voice, and the author of this article in particular, do a fine job in providing comment which is not, unlike more widely read local news publications, motivated by political or commercial expediency.

      • So people just arnt reporting breaking, asults, antisocial distubenceses, or car thefts because they have no faith in the police, I wonder how the claim insurance without a crime stopper number. To suggest it’s due to people simply not reporting crime is like suggesting that fires in grampian are not due to the good work that the fire service do in the cummnity educting the public. But people just don’t report fires anymore.
        On the trump story local yes current no 4 years ago and in almost every article she writes about. Walter never arrested escorted from the conference by security not police stopped the following day by police to check his credentials for 15 minutes. An ex liberal party member thrown out for being a radical conspiracy theory isn’t is almost arrested 6 times (how do you almost get aressted) while promoting his latest book.
        In an article named we need to talk about the police we have 3 incidents over a 10 year period , I’d say that’s a good job if other sectors had a record like that they’d be congratulated.

        This is my utopia born here raised here worked all over the world but always return here. Like I said there is no locked gate at the bridge of Dee, if you don’t like Aberdeen feel free to leave because plenty think we’re doing fine.

      • Jim’s raised a few issues I’m happy to comment on – accuracy of the police’s stats (which has been rubbished by the government), arrests (I used 3 case studies; I could have had dozens), and whether or not this is utopia.

        I am happy Jim has found his Utopia; indeed I love Aberdeen city and Shire for many reasons – but certainly not at the expense of losing my critical faculties. There are many things to fight for to stop the many problems we have. For the purpose of the series of articles about the police, we have a national problem with the police. I am far from alone in thinking so.

        In October 2014 a Commons select committee published a report on the appalling quality of police statistical accuracy with the damning title “Caught Red Handed…” Here is an excerpt:-

        “Measurement of crime is based on two main statistical sources: (i) the Crime Survey for
        England and Wales (CSEW, formerly the British Crime Survey) and (ii) Police Recorded
        Crime (PRC). The CSEW and PRC provide strong evidence that the overall volume of
        crime has been falling. However, there is an accumulation of substantial and credible
        evidence indicating that the PRC data do not represent a full and accurate account of crime
        in England and Wales. Of most importance, we have strong evidence that PRC underrecords
        crime, and therefore the rate of decrease in crime may be exaggerated, and this is
        due to lax police compliance with the agreed national standard of victim-focussed crime
        recording. As a result of PASC’s inquiry and the evidence we have exposed, the UK Statistics
        Authority (UKSA) decided in January 2014 to strip PRC data of its designation as National
        Statistics. We conclude that the Home Office, ONS and UKSA have been far too passive in
        the face of concerns raised about PRC; they have repeatedly missed opportunities to ensure
        the integrity and quality of PRC data.

        “The cessation of regular external audit of police force crime recording in 2007 was a
        mistake. We recommend the re-instatement of annual audits of crime recording practices.” http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmpubadm/760/760.pdf

        That a select committee concluded police under report crime is enough vindication for me. I would have included it in the article – but in fact I thought it was well known and accepted that under reporting is the case. I’ve had people come to me with stories about how the police in Aberdeen turned them away from reporting crimes – theft and attempted theft. In the case of the attempted theft, the police said they wouldn’t be interested unless the item was actually stolen. Someone had tried to steal something; they were caught, chased and disappeared. The police had a description, had information on where the person might possibly be: they decided there was no action they needed to take.

        This article only gave three examples; one to show how the Terrorism Act could be raised when clearly no terrorism of any kind was involved. The story of Baxter and Phinney show the police to be, in my opinion and the opinion of many I know, to be influenced by the rich and to interfere with legitimate journalism – in our own back yard. If this isn’t a worry, and the subsequent lack of any proper investigation or censure of the authorities involved, it should be. As to bringing in the beliefs and history of the man arrested where it transpires nothing criminal happened, we should be very worried the police are misusing – in my opinion – law to stifle dissent.

        Back to crime statistics, there is a movement in the police to ask people to solve their own crimes – if you can believe it. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/sep/04/police-telling-victims-solve-crimes-themselves – this is one of the means they have of keeping stats artificially low. That stats are lower than reality is not my opinion; it is a finding of the sub committee.

        Perhaps Utopia is some place that is perfect in every regard where everyone’s rights are respected. If so, as fond as I am of the area, landscape (what’s left of it), and the people, this is not Utopia.

        Jim a question. I write about Trump quite a bit (among dozens of other subjects). Do you also complain to the Press & Journal, which frequently features stories about Trump (always glowing)? Just wondering.

      • Again, with the greatest of respect Jim, if your stock response to any comment you deem to be negative, is to say, and I paraphrase “if you don’t like it why don’t you leave” then I wonder why you continue to read all of the articles penned on Aberdeen Voice.

        I don’t believe there are any “locked gates” here are there?

  2. Well Bruce this paticular contributor consistently writes negative points about Aberdeenshire even when she’s writing a review on a band.why she felt it necessary to comment on the state of icy pavements and criticise the council in here review of altered sky I have no idea. It’s a shame because the reviews on this site are normally informitive but as soon as this writer goes of on a tangent about council, local press or trump in totally unrelated article, you have to ask why stay.

    • and yet here you are, Jim – staying on this article even though you seem not to like/agree with me. It’s as if you feel that adding your comments and contribution might change things to your liking. Perhaps we are not so different, you and I. Have already explained that unlike you, I see huge areas where city govt and institutions such as the local newspapers need to be reformed. If anyone reading this article is wondering what he means, I reviewed a great performance by Altered Sky. The attendance wasn’t as high as I thought it should be, and I wondered if the freezing temperatures and icy pavements kept some people at home (which believe it or not sometimes happens). That is the tangent being referred to. Tally ho!

  3. It was a Wednesday. It was freezing – anyone who hadn’t wound up in casualty from falling over on our icy pavements (note to city council – can’t you do something about this?) were staying in and staying warm. I’m still perplexed as to why icy paths casualty and the council have anything to do with a review of a band. I do believe you don’t even know your doing it.

    • Jim: http://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/news/local/icy-aberdeen-pavements-blamed-for-93-people-attending-a-e-in-one-day-1.798816
      Perhaps now we can stick to comments relating to this article.
      (For anyone who is interested in why a music review dared to delve into Aberdeen’s winter logistics, the band Altered Sky didn’t have as large an audience as they might have. I decided the awful weather might have been a major factor. The review continued: “The band was freezing as well. Furthermore, with a young demographic, perhaps midweek late wasn’t the best time to get a large audience. But audience size never should impact performance, and even if the crowd was smaller than I’d expected, we had a good set from the band.”)

  4. Everyone who lives in Aberdeen knows the pavements were icy, it’s the same every year. I still don’t think it was necessary to include it in a review. No other contributor to this site feels the need to digress from the main topic to have a snide dig at local council for the condition of the route they took to get there. Altered Sky may well have been a group that I would go see unfortunately I was turned off reading the full review when it turned into a political rant.

    Back to the article, in a survey by the Sunday Post 56% of Scots believe that Scottish police should be allowed to continue the practice of stopping and searching people, without needing grounds for suspicion and with verbal consent. In the interest of impartiality 38% felt the service on offer had got worse since the 8 forces merged, while 15% thought there was an improvement 30% no change. There is evidence that the stop and search policy is working on reducing the knife crime that Scotland was plagued with a couple of years ago. There were 903 assaults involving blades in the period 2012-2013, compared with 1,439 the year before, a fall of 37 per cent. The rate is down 57 per cent since 2006-2007, when 2,138 knife attacks were recorded.

    While human rights layers will argue against this policy, who stands up for the law abiding citizens whose life’s are ruined by the knife attacks that still happen. The vast majority of people in this country are more than happy to be searched by police a 5 minute inconvenience, but if they manage to stop one mother from burying a child then it was worth it.
    You refer to the select committee report vindicating you it was on the police force in England and Wales. In Scotland the crime figures are sourced from two sources of crime statistics in, police recorded crime and the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS). I don’t live in England or Wales and read the Aberdeen Voice because it claims to be local.

    Since you want to write about the UK we’ll look at the anti-terrorism law, and Walter Wolfgang he was ejected from the conference and his pass confiscated by security, he tried to re-enter the next day without his pass he was stopped by the police when his name was flagged up and had to wait 15 minutes until the Labour party cleared the situation. What action do you want the police to take? His name was flagged as being evicted this was a party conference for a sitting government the highest security levels were in place for obvious reasons only 20 years earlier the Conservatives had their conference bombed by the IRA. The police followed the laws as set by government it was 15 minutes he wasn’t arrested he wasn’t shipped off to Guantanamo Bay.

    This weekend we see 3 teenage girls groomed by terrorists, to leave their families and travel to a foreign country to fight. Who’s to say that they won’t return strap a bomb on and walk into a school/football stadium or concert? This happens in other countries and its only due to the secret services and policing policy’s in this country that it hasn’t happened here before oh wait it has happened here. There is a real threat to the liberties and safety of the citizens in this country but not from the police or government rather it’s from religious radicals.

    You never questioned my opinion of the publicity seeking Donnachadh McCarthy who was in parliament square to promote his book. Let’s look at why the police have to now have strong presences at, in recent years peaceful protests have been hijacked by anarchists who have a completely different agenda to the march organizers this is not isolated to G8 summits, a protest march for against the changes to local authority pensions was hijacked tuition fee protest was hijacked and the occupy protests were also hijacked. The result is damages have run in to the millions, ultimately this cost is filtered down to the public whose insurance premiums have rocketed and the terror for local citizens going about their daily business. The police were vilified in England for allowing the riots of 2011 to quickly spiral out of control by using a softly softly approach. I guess they can’t do right for doing wrong.

    Anthony Baxter the only local issue in the article in a local news site, I’m confused as to the article in one point it’s stated that the criminal charge was thrown out by the Crown office, but then you state that they were released with a caution. My understanding is that you may be offered a caution as an alternative to prosecution and if you accepted then this would count as a criminal conviction. Unless a conviction is a certainty they should never have accepted the caution and they would have had their day in court. Why did they accept the caution maybe you can ask them if there was an option to have a day in court and prove innocents surly this would of been the route to take.

    I do not believe that my grandparents had any more civil rights than I have today, the fact they lived in much safer times after the WW2 than we do now. The police are there to protect the public and do so to the best of their limited resources in face of some of the most challenging times in history. With a starting salary of 23k who would even want to be a police officer with the risks that comes with the uniform, I take my hat off to every one of them for standing between me and the threats we see daily on TV and read in the press.

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