This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.
Monday, October 27, 2014
I am disgusted that they have shamelessly further exploited young and vulnerable people by wrapping them namelessly into their political campaign. The irony that they feel able to criticise Michael Fallon for using the word 'swamped' (Ukip also accused Fallon of resorting to “intemperate language) whilst doing this, leaves me aghast. And also here is a party that has just joined forces with a Polish MEP (in order to save their EU funding arrangements) whose party has, at the very least, some extraordinarily 'dodgy' views on the Holocaust and violence against women.
And I despair that this viciously, vacuous and vindictive campaign could win them a substantial number of votes. After all, precisely what policies are UKIP promoting in order to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation, not just in Rotherham and Sheffield, but also in other afflicted areas like Oxford and Aylesbury? None is the answer apart from (as they might see it) banning political correctness...
And of course, since UKIP is an irony free zone, they would not be able to see why 'free speech' includes using, if one wishes, politically correct language. Or as one illustrious Guardian letter writer (Allan Jones) put it, after Mike Read withdrew his Calypso from sale, isn't this a question of 'Political madness gone correct'...
But back to South Yorkshire, I much prefer this poster as devised by Michael Abberton
I sincerely hope that good governance prevails and a person worthy of the position is elected to become the Police & Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. Let's see what democratic result emerges...
Friday, October 24, 2014
Recently, I have been doing my little bit engaging with some Kippers on Twitter. But I am reminded of GBS's famous quote "I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it". But for me this is a key question: how much do I (and people like me) attempt to tackle and deconstruct the myths, lies, fatuous arguments and downright hateful things that UKIPpers say & publish? I have been pointed to their list of 'policies' in recent days. You can read them here for yourself.
The list is little more than fantasy politics: cobbled together and populist statements with about as much similarity to a programme for government as the back page of the Daily Star.
Should I / we spend time unpicking the daftness of most of these 'policies'?
For example, last night on BBC Question Time, the UKIP MEP declared that the reason they have a 'policy' against plain paper packaging for cigarette packets is because this would allow more contraband cigarettes into the country! Personally, I would have thought that they would be in favour of plainer packets of fags, as this would provide UKIP with more space on which to compose their policies... (For the record, it is not hard to counterfeit cigarette packaging whatever it looks like... ask a printer!)
UKIPpers don't like detail and they seem to hate specifics. They would rather simplify & reduce everything down to a few tired polemics on Europe, political correctness and the LibLabCon parties all being run by nonces (yup, I had that this morning on Twitter).
But read this article by Rafael Behr: This isn’t about the Tory party. It’s a battle for the soul of British politics - Ukip is waging a visceral culture war in its pursuit of byelection votes. In it he says:
Ukip sells cries of protest to people with deep-rooted problems who feel voiceless. It aggravates grievance to expand its market. This is a different business model to the one the so-called mainstream parties should pursue. They are elected as purveyors of credible solutions. Farage is not just a new entrant in the marketplace for votes where loyalty to the old brands is fading; he is waging a culture war against the politics of practical solutions and workable imperfections.How much should we engage in this culture war? As I have mentioned a couple of times, my blog which deconstructs the UKIP local government manifesto from May this year, has shot to all time number one on this blog. I am not sure why except to wonder whether people are hungry for ammunition against UKIP.
But my weapons against UKIP are based on reason, evidence, research, complexity, logic & analysis. UKIP peddles a different kind of approach which seems to me to be based on emotion, anecdote, polemic and crass simplicity.
I am really not sure what the best way forward is... I just remember how Cabaret ends...
Thursday, October 23, 2014
The South Yorkshire poll could not be happening in more politically controversial circumstances: not only does it follow the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal & subsequent tardy resignation of the former Labour PCC, police conduct matters, long past but still very raw, also feature (Orgreave & Hillsbrough). The four candidates (Conservative, English Democrats, Labour & UKIP) featured on a live webcast a couple of days ago, in a live Star and Sheffield Telegraph Question Time-style debate. (I would say it was more oak, pine & cedar that QT style!)
The election will be a critical test of the PCC governance structure. Given the context, if this by election does not gain at least a 35% turnout (roughly equivalent to an average turnout in a local authority election), then the claims that PCC role is all about popular democracy & local accountability will be simply null and void.
As a (British!) democrat, obviously I hope that the turnout will exceed this minimal threshold and perhaps even match what we saw in Scotland a few weeks ago. I want people to be actively engaged with the future of policing, crime and community safety. (For the record, I also want the NHS to be much more democratically accountable, and far less stitched up by professionals with dubious conflicting commercial interests as I have reported on before. Why isn't it Tory policy to have elected Health Commissioners too?)
Despite the political protestations of the (neutral civil servant?) Chief Executive of the Office for the Police & Crime Commissioner of the Devon & Cornwall in an article in Police Professional a few weeks ago that he has:
worked in both recent governance arrangements – the police authority and the current PCC set-up. It is true that the power in police authorities was spread across the 17 to 21 members. This, in itself, might not be an issue. The issue – and Labour and the Lib Dems seemed determined to repeat this with their emerging proposals – is that police authorities found it impossible to make decisions.
interesting challenge to any politician to see how much the public would lend their support to any of them.Chief Executive Mr White might want to reflect upon how many people vote in other elections which is the critical way in which most citizens show their support...
Let us all reflect on the implications of the South Yorkshire PCC election, eight days from now. It will be fascinating to see who wins and what the turn out is...
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
I listened to a humble, excited and indeed 'frightened' Professor Geoffrey Raisman on BBC Radio 4 talking about how his research had begun in the 1970's. He said he was frightened (I think) because the future is now so pregnant with possibilities for thousands of people, that it is so daunting and scary.
This is of course just one case and replication will be a critical next step. But I cannot express how excited I am at the idea that our bodies can be helped to repair themselves in ways that we never thought possible. If this research can lead to treatments that can help people regain control of their limbs, bodily functions (including breathing) after traumatic injury or strokes: this is truly momentous!
All of which got me thinking: are we using all the technology available to us to build community safety, prevent crime, reduce road fatalities and generally achieve an even more peaceful society? What crime prevention ideas have been bubbling around for 30+ years (in the heads of people like Professor Geoffrey Raisman) that are doggedly being pursued but which have not yet made it, as it were?
And by technology, I don't just mean the machines that go ping or the clever use of biology or chemistry: critical though they are. I also mean the new ways of thinking, the news ways of practising that can really make a difference...
For me, one of the key ideas in this latest news above, is "don't give up": if you think you know of a way that will help humankind, stick at it! It may take you 40 years but if you know it can work...
And it all comes back to leadership: the best leaders in the world listen lots and look for every which way to support innovation in practice. How is your leadership doing?
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Did you know for example that yesterday, UKIP managed to patch together a new European Parliamentary grouping so as to save its funding? You can read the story here: Ukip does deal with far-right, racist Holocaust-denier to save EU funding Funny how that story broke on the same day that Mike Read's single was released...
And if you Google 'UKIP Policies' you get this: What We Stand For, which is about as informative as soggy food label which may contain nuts...
So, I thought I would ask ten questions of UKIP, so that we can shine a little more light on their programme for government should any of them get elected or even hold the balance of power next May...
1) Do you think that free market economics should apply to health & social care, including the application of TTIP (which is likely to mean many US companies bidding to run our NHS)?
2) You say that you will allow for the creation of new grammar schools: how will such decisions be made and who will fund the consequent costs?
3) One of your 'issues' is "No to Political Correctness - it stifles free speech". Do you have a glossary of which words, phrases or practises that would be banned? Also, does free speech include politically correct phrasing?
4) You state that you will "prioritise social housing for people whose parents and grandparents were born locally". How will this impact upon the responsibilities of local government to house at risk homeless people? And is it 'parents and grandparents', or ''parents and/or grandparents' or ''parents or grandparents'? Will there be extra points for great-grandparents too?
5) You say that you will legislate for "binding local and national referenda, at the public’s request, on major issues". What will be the threshold for the 'public's request' and 'major' issues. Who get's to decide on what is 'major', for example?
6) You say that "Immigrants must financially support themselves and their dependents for 5 years" and this means such items as "private health insurance (except emergency medical care), private education and private housing". What about other state funded benefits such as motorway maintenance, policing and the fire service? Would immigrants have to fund their own private versions of these also?
7) If the UK leaves the EU, what will happen to the millions of Brits currently working and living in mainland Europe?
8) You say that there will be "No tax on the minimum wage". Does this include people who have other incomes that take them above the personal tax allowance but decided to earn some more money on top, but at a minimum wage?
9) You say that you will "Scrap HS2, all green taxes and wind turbine subsidies" while developing "shale gas to reduce energy bills and free us from dependence on foreign oil and gas". Please can you confirm that shale gas/oil will not be subsidised in any way?
10) You say that you wish to "remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights": which Human Rights currently covered by the European Convention do you not agree with?
I look forward to the answers...
PS UKIP promised a document outlining more detailed policies... when is this going to be published?
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
At one point the film features a stirring and touching rendition of 'Bread & Roses', sung by Bronwen Lewis (a contestant on the Voice a couple of years ago). The film is all about the power of solidarity. This song punctuates the film with a (musical) note that the struggle for fairness and equality is not just about bread. It is about roses too.
Here are the words to the song (taken from this Wikipedia site):
As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,For they are women's children, and we mother them again.Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women deadGo crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for roses, too!
As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.The rising of the women means the rising of the race.No more the drudge and idler -- ten that toil where one reposes,But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!
(the words are by James Oppenheim)The original inspiration for the poem/lyrics came from a speech by Rose Schneiderman who was a notable United States union leader, socialist, and feminist of the first part of the twentieth century. She is quoted as saying "The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too".
It is difficult to contain all of my thoughts and feelings arising from both the movie and this song into a (relatively) short blog post. I could write reams. So here are just a few thoughts:
- I feel enormously proud and humble to be part of a worldwide movement that simply believes in people as humans, and not just as commercial units to add to a financial spreadsheet.
- Art and beauty are as important as basic needs: we must have bread but we must have roses too...
- There is nothing that cannot be achieved when people come together in true solidarity and open friendship.
- While there will probably always be hate and prejudice, this will always be dwarfed by our capacity to reach out, find common cause and nurture love.
- There are people who are intent upon building a world based on division and subtraction: but I believe there are many more of us who want a world based on multiplication and addition. (This is the Right and Left Wing Maths of Politics)
- There is no hierarchy of equalities: creating a sustainable, fair and ambitious world rests on everyone's talents & creativity being honoured and developed. Only then will all people be able to dream and have the resources to achieve those dreams.
- The people united will never be defeated
- Or to quote another movie, everything will be alright in the end. And if it's not alright, it's not the end. The march goes on.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Now, it is most interesting, as far as this blog is concerned, that both of these men are architects of the Police & Crime Commissioner based governance system. The other main people (culprits?) are Dan Hannan MEP and Nick Herbert MP. (I imagine the whips will be seeking them out in coming days too.)
So this got me wondering what the UKIP party's policy is on police & crime governance. It is difficult to 'nail down' UKIP policy when it seems so changeable of course. (What happened to the 'wag tax' as it was dubbed on Friday?)
So I went first to the official UKIP website. Given that they have just had their conference, I expected this to be a good source of guidance. They appear to have 'issues' rather than 'policies'. They have one section entitled: Safeguard Against Crime, which has the following 'issues':
- No cuts to front line policing.
- Make sentences mean what they say.
- No votes for prisoners - that’s what losing your liberty means.
- Prevent foreign criminals entering the UK - by re-introducing border controls that the EU forced us to abandon.
- Scrap the European Arrest Warrant, which sends British citizens to foreign jails without evidence, just to answer questions - replace it with a proper extradition system.
- Remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.
And so we are left with making sentences mean what they say. I have never read a full custodial sentence delivered by a judge but I would hazard a guess they contain all the words necessary to either state explicitly or implicitly clearly reference the precise legal implications of the sentence. In other words, they already mean what they say. So frankly I have no idea what this 'issue' statement means other than to trigger (without actually saying such) thoughts as 'life should mean life' etc. Indeed this is typical of UKIP statements, they often hint rather than state what they mean on the basis that keeping things vague leaves them plenty of room for manoeuvre.
So, in terms of policy on policing, there isn't much. So I thought I would check out the latest UKIP candidate for the forthcoming PCC by election in South Yorkshire. He has been named as UKIP councillor Jack Clarkson. He is a former Lib Dem councillor and was a police officer from 1976 to 2006. He is now on record for saying "Only UKIP can guarantee that political correctness will not get in the way of investigating crimes and only UKIP can promise one law for all".
So exactly how will this guarantee and promise work? I hope someone asks him this at a hustings sometime soon.
He also states that it is his "commitment to the people of South Yorkshire that [he] will give them back a police force they can trust, a force that has a more visible presence, with more boots on the ground and more community policing that will safeguard our communities". All stirring stuff and a plan which deserves to be scrutinised for its practicality within the current levels of funding. From where will these 'more boots' come from?
It will be interesting to see what background is dug out about Jack Clarkson and to hear more of his plans and policies. Will he receive the campaign support of the two Conservative architects of the post for which he is seeking election, I wonder?
But meanwhile some more background on him (from LinkedIn):
- Jack retired from SYP at the rank of Inspector after completing 30 Year’s service.
- Soon thereafter he became the Rotherham Branch manager for 'Victim Support' assisting and caring for victims of crime.
- Jack's area of of expertise surrounds community cohesion, engagement and safety.
- Jack is now self employed working for companies and private individuals relating to confidential and sensitive security issues (listed in part as: May 2011 to Present - Bespoke investigations on behalf of clients - Business and Private, ranging from Professional witness service to tracing and tracking.)
On January the 10th 2013 Jack Clarkson decided that he would represent the UK Independence party as Town Councillor for Stocksbridge, (as announced by UKIP). This timing is somewhat intriguing as he had been already announced as running mate to the UKIP candidate for the original PCC elections in November 2012. He stood as Lib Dem in May 2012 Sheffield City Council elections. He stood and won as a UKIP candidate in May 2014.
I watch this space and look forward to understanding more about UKIP's approach to policing and its governance...
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
“There will be across-the-board cuts on most, if not all, types of policing.” Mr Stansfeld said the prospect of losing so many officers meant it might not be possible to “keep a lid on” crime in larger towns in his area, including Slough and Reading.The timing of this is intriguing. Perhaps it is a shot across the bow of the government and a way for Mr Stansfeld to assert the importance and indeed independence of PCCs. In a week where the Labour Party conference is underway and Yvette Cooper has announced that a future Labour government will axe PCCs, I am left wondering just who Mr Stansfeld hopes will hear his words?
Thames Valley of course polices both constituencies of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary... It is curious though that only in July was the Chief Constable reported as saying that "she needed to cut 77 officer jobs by March, as part of £38m budget cuts over the next three years".
I will be watching this space...
UPDATE 1711 | 230914: After some space watching and a helpful tweet from @MartinPetchey, the MK Citizen has published this story "Police job cuts: Chief constable denies claims". Huh? So what exactly is going on? There appears to be a significant difference of opinion between the Chief Constable and the PCC... Perhaps they would like to explain further?
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Here are some gems:
Mr Stansfeld said a fall in crime proved PCCs had been a success, but said media coverage often painted them in a bad light. He said: “The vast majority have been a considerable success.”Yes, you read that correctly: the fall in crime proved PCCs had been a success...! Now to be fair to Mr Stansfeld, the news story does not contain a direct quote on this and perhaps the journalist will need to say exactly what Mr Stansfeld claimed but... it does not look good!
He also asserts, this time with a direct quote given, that the vast majority have been a success without providing any evidence to back up that claim. On what basis have they been a success? As readers know, I believe there have been some successes and I praise the PCCs who are making a difference but "vast majority"... hmm.
He also goes onto say
“What I find ironic is that the profile of PCCs is only raised when something goes wrong.”Here is a web definition of 'irony':
- the expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.("‘Don't go overboard with the gratitude,’ he rejoined with heavy irony")- a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result. ("the irony is that I thought he could help me"- a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character's words or actions is clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.As it happens I think that it is tragically perhaps but clearly inevitable and often wryly amusing that the profile of PCCs is only raised when something goes wrong... And PCCs are probably an example of latter day Greek tragedy in that many of them (and I can think of one or two...) do not know the full significance of their actions and words even though it is bloomin' obvious to the rest of us!
In this sense, Mr Stansfeld is on the money: PCCs are the epitome of irony, perhaps even quintessentially so...
Monday, September 15, 2014
Working with the Police: The role of parents in investigating child sexual exploitation
I have not read it in detail but it seeks to offer some helpful ways forward whereby concerned parents (and 'concerned' is probably an understatement!) can assist in the bringing to justice the adults involved in exploiting their children.
For your information: Who are Pace?
Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (Pace) works alongside parents and carers of children who are sexually exploited, or are at risk of being sexually exploited, by perpetrators external to the family. At our heart is a network of affected parents, whose expertise is central to our mission. Individual parents’ experiences are referred to throughout the booklet in distinctive handwritten type. You can read more about Pace and how we can help on pages 48–49I will write more about this subject in later blogs. But for the time being...
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Well, now I have had my fill. And it has nothing to do with tax. But it has everything to do with honesty. For this reason (and please hold me to this), I will no longer be spending any more money with Amazon.
What happened? I ordered two DVDs for myself the other day (Sunshine on Leith and One Chance) and they were delivered yesterday, through my letterbox at 3.37pm says the tracking website. Except the package was not delivered and despite two long chats with Amazon staff, the driver/deliverer 'cannot' be located to say where they actually did deliver the package.
All that Amazon want to do, is send me another package. I told them that this would a) not restore my trust in them b) not resolve the issue in the long term. In other words it is a cost of failure that ultimately I will be paying for. Moreover, in effect, it rewards the lying by the delivery company that a package was delivered through my door when it was not. Amazon have told me that their transport department will have a conversation with the contractor but they cannot send me a copy of the report of actions arising from that meeting. Note they said 'cannot'. I corrected their grammar and said it should be 'will not'.
So goodbye Amazon. I am off elsewhere to spend my money on DVDs and the like. You have shown yourselves up to be an inefficient, opaque and dishonesty rewarding company that I can no longer have confidence in.
UPDATE: 110914 | 0806:
Last night I received a comment from an anonymous source who said: How does that reward the dishonesty of the delivery company? I imagine enough bad reports againest the particular driver/company and Amazon will stop using them.
It seems I am not alone in my criticism of 'Amazon Logistics'. You can read an extensive forum discussion of similar problems to the above. I have just added my contribution:
Good to know I am not the only one. Have just written this email to their CEO (thanks for the address Y.A.Chang)
Dear Mr NorthUPDATE: 150914 | 1443:
I understand you are the CEO of Amazon.
See below transcript as to why I will never do business with you again. Essentially you have hired inaccessible, unreliable and mendacious contractors to deliver the articles that customers order. Your processes are opaque and without accountability. Your customer service operators say `cannot' when they actually mean `will not'. In sum: I no longer have confidence or trust in your business.
Just received this reply back from Mr North's office:
Dear Mr Harvey,
My name is Brian Motherway and I work within Amazon.co.uk Executive Customer Relations.
I am contacting you on behalf of the office of the Amazon.co.uk Ltd Managing Director, Mr Christopher North. After reviewing your correspondence, Mr North has requested that I respond to your e-mail.
Rest assured however, Christopher takes e-mails like yours very seriously and is aware of the issue and our response both to you as well as internally to the various relevant departments.
Firstly, please accept my sincere apologies for the unfortunate issues you have experienced with the delivery of your order. I am sorry to hear of the poor service that you have received from us and in particular, the delivery service from Amazon Logistics. Thank you for taking the time to inform us of this matter.
Please know that it is very important to us that our customers receive their orders as expected and we understand the disappointment and inconvenience caused by these events.
I can assure you that I have informed senior management in our Transportation Department of your experience. This matter will in turn be highlighted to senior management in Amazon Logistics to ensure that this is fully investigated. We truly value this kind of feedback, as it helps us continue to improve our website and provide a better service to our customers. Your correspondence will be used in reviewing the service provided by Amazon Logistics.
Thank you for taking the time to write to us and for bringing this to our attention. We hope that you will allow us an opportunity to serve you in the future.
Executive Customer Relations
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
When PCC governance is reformed, as it surely will be, Mr Wright's case study will be cited on many occasions.
And then this morning, I got engaged in a short twitter debate with the PCC for Staffordshire, Matthew Ellis. It began with me gently nudging him about this story where he is reported to have stated that "Two-thirds of police and crime commissioners are hopeless". I told him I thought the accepted figure was only a third!
But here are the last few posts in our dialogue (mixed threads so a couple of posts missing):
- @CllrJonSHarvey: @MatthewEllis I thought "accepted" fraction was 1/3, but no worries. I think difference is PCC's who think themselves managers not leaders
- @MatthewEllis @CllrJonSHarvey Agree! Get balance right aim for added value & instill new anbition & thinking seems to work. Public engagement up up up!
- @MatthewEllis: @CllrJonSHarvey Subjective isn't it. Depends where bar lies. Perhaps between the two! Point is role can work. We've had bad PMs Cllrs MPs?
- @CllrJonSHarvey: @MatthewEllis And PMs, cllrs & MPs are all herd beasts. PCCs are more or less isolated given their singular power. Different category
- @MatthewEllis: @CllrJonSHarvey Fair point. I support some form of recall or reserve Home Sec powers to remove exceptionally. Agree greater check n balance
- @CllrJonSHarvey: @MatthewEllis specifics? What extra check & balance powers would you give to PCP?
- @MatthewEllis: @CllrJonSHarvey Firstly more resource & much higher public profile. Parl Select committees more powerful since profiles raised & enhanced
It is my impression that Mr Ellis is one of the better PCCs. I happen to think that he has grasped and understood that his role is primarily one of leadership rather than (micro) management of the Chief Constable (as some PCCs seem to be doing) and/or glad-handing lots of people at shows and festivals.
Nonetheless, as I said to him in another tweet, if it takes a superlative person to make a role work, that is not a good and solid basis for that governance role. And given the vagaries of how candidates are selected and elected (and Mr Wright at least had the grace to admit in his time with the HASC yesterday, that he was elected on the strength of his party ticket, rather than as a particular person), then the PCC role will continue to have a fair number of people who are less than superlative.
And now to turn to his last tweet: despite the HASC's glaring scrutiny of some of the decisions taken around the Rotherham scandal, they are ultimately without executive power. Yes, the HASC has developed a high profile and is well resourced (reference Mr Ellis' tweet) but they have as much authority to remove Mr Wright (or any of the others in Rotherham involved in the horrendous state of affairs) as my cat.
Indeed, PCPs already have the potential to develop the kind of influence of which Mr Ellis speaks. But how many have done so?
In the end, the problem is one of singular power invested in one person who is only up for election every four years.
Any suggestion that a PCC should be removable by (say) the Home Secretary or even a Police & Crime Panel is in direct conflict with the argument put forward for PCCs in the first place: singular power elected by and accountable to local people through the ballot box.
The writing is on the wall for PCCs (and Mr Wright has added his own scribbled message). Defenders of this governance role may think it can be tweaked and revised to make it work. However, I honestly believe that PCCs will be a one term experiment that will consigned to the history books within a matter of months...
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
The current and former Chief Constables have just left the room after what may be called, with understatement, a roasting. Med Hughes, the Chief until 2011 looked deeply reflective. While there will be many who will pour scorn, incredulity and indeed hate upon him, I am very concerned about him.
Emphatically, I am not going to pass judgement upon Mr Hughes since I am not privy to all the facts and I have no idea about what he did or did not do in his role as Chief Constable about this matter. But it concerns me (and I am sure a lot less than it concerns Mr Hughes) that he appears to have known so little as to what was happening on his patch.
How can a Chief Constable be so (seemingly / allegedly) out of touch? Or is this inevitable in an organisation of the size he was head of? Are all CEOs that out of touch? Or was (is?) the culture of SYP so 'compliant' that people will hide & finagle data so much that little truth gets through to the managerial echelons of the organisation? Did numbers become more important than people? In how many other organisations has this become so? (In how many other Government policies has this become so...?)
I hope the announced inquiry gets to the bottom of all this. The inquiry must, of course, be about holding people to account. It MUST also be about getting to the root cause of how and why action was not taken. This is likely to be a systemic problem and unlikely to be just about a few people being in dereliction of their duty.
Saturday, September 6, 2014
I submitted this letter last weekend, before a number of arrests were made in Aylesbury, Buckingham and nearby. I mention this fact as the germane content of the letter is coincidental with emerging events locally (Eight men charged with child sexual exploitation)
Nobody will have failed to have been horrified by the stories of child sexual exploitation (CSE) emerging from Rotherham. Last week you reported that Cllr Angela McPherson, the Bucks County Council Cabinet member for children’s services, said that “No council can ever say …that everything is watertight but we are really confident that we have robust [CSE] procedures in place”. I would like to debate this assertion a little and ask the councillor some questions.
Reference Keith Levett’s letter last week, I have spent some more ‘inordinate amount of effort’ reading through the latest Rotherham report in order to extract any learning points that we might usefully apply to our own County. (You can follow my live tweeting of my reading of the report by following #LTRR)
(And just for the record: Mr Levett & I clearly agree on the need to hold the top level political leadership to account for failings in care of vulnerable children. That is what my ‘tedious’ letter was trying to say!)
But to return to CSE, here are some significant findings from the Rotherham report that I think need to be taken on considered in the context of our County.
The Rotherham report highlights the work of a youth worker based service called ‘Risky Business’ which successfully built trusting relationships with some very damaged and scared young women & girls. Indeed I would go so far as to suggest that without this voluntary organisation (funded by the public purse), many of the horrific crimes in Rotherham would have gone unnoticed and unreported. Question number one to Cllr McPherson is: does the County Council fund outreach youth work sufficiently to enable intimidated young women to speak up, many of whom distrust the standard statutory services?
There is much evidence to suggest that there has been significant under reporting of CSE, particularly from the British-Asian communities in Rotherham. Asian girls, fearing personal and family stigma appear to be much less inclined to come forward with their concerns. The report challenges Rotherham not just to speak with the elder males of the local Asian communities but also younger women and girls. Question number two: does the County Council have excellent channels of communication with all members of the local Asian communities, not just a few older men?
I would also argue that the inquiry into Rotherham exposed a focus on massaging the figures to present a positive appearance that everything was OK. This was often done to the detriment of a real & honest focus on the people at risk. There are several instances of where senior managers and politicians were found to be in denial of the evidence that was being presented to them by frontline staff. Question number three: how confident is the Cabinet member that she is privy to the unvarnished experience and concerns of frontline social workers, youth workers and teachers?
Many of the victims of CSE in Rotherham were girls being looked after by the Council. (This was, I believe, a feature of the crimes that were committed down the road in Oxford as well.) It seems that being ‘in care’ in fact led to some of the girls being at greater risk from harm. This risk was multiplied when the girls were placed out of the area away from their wider family & social networks, leaving them vulnerable to the attentions of attentive, but predatory, older men. Buckinghamshire has a high proportion of looked after children being placed out of county. Question number four: what plans and arrangements are in place to bring more looked after children back to the county and provide adequate support to all looked-after children to help ensure that they are not at risk?
There is much more, but I would not wish this letter to go on too much either, no matter how important is the subject. I would end with a quote from the report:
“The combined effect of changes to local authority funding in England has been a dramatic reduction in resources available to Rotherham and neighbouring Councils. By 2016, Rotherham will have lost 33% of its spending power in real terms compared to 2010/11. The comparison for the whole of England is a reduction of 20%, and for a Council like Buckinghamshire, only 4.5% reduction.”
Be thankful that you live in Bucks and not Rotherham which (perhaps you can deduce why…) appears to be subject to cuts seven times worse that what is happening to this county.
Friday, September 5, 2014
The argument seems to be this: many (quite possibly most, although I do not have the accurate figures) of the perpetrators of CSE in Rotherham and elsewhere are of British/Pakistani heritage or have a background that is Muslim. 'Therefore', since this proportion is so high (compared the overall population), this is evidence of a pervasive culture of child sexual abuse within the religion of Islam - and therefore its followers. Similarly, since Labour have run Rotherham over many years, CSE is the 'fault' of the Labour Party.
It is at times like this that I wish logic was a compulsory element of the national curriculum (alongside maths, english, science and, I wish, sex/relationships education).
When I carefully state that extrapolating from a few members of a wider group to 'prove' the whole group is the same, is just not logical, I am shouted at. Evidently when I dare to suggest that other parts of the country experiencing CSE and which are not controlled by a Labour council suggests that the problem is more complex, I am accused of changing the subject. Clearly I am in denial when I believe that vast numbers / majority of families of Muslim and/or British/Pakistani heritage love and care for their children as much as anyone else.
What is it with all this hate that people switch off the logical circuits in their brains?
Just as we have to understand where CSE comes from so that we can develop effective strategies to reduce its incidence, we also have to understand why some people are so prone to hate others. Both CSE and hate are tearing people and our communities apart!
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
I hesitate to add any more actions to the 15 recommended ones made at the end of the report: since I have only read the report rather than created it out of a thousand conversations had and documents read.
I do hope that councillors and professional staff involved in child safeguarding and protection from all councils read the report and reflect on whether any of it conclusions might apply to their own organisation.
My overwhelming impression from reading the report is here was a council that was defiantly in denial of the evidence that was being brought forward. Here also was a council that seemed more focused on the numbers than on the young women and girls behind those numbers. And here was a council where potent scrutiny was mostly absent. Moreover, here was a senior leadership that was not truly listening to its front line staff and where the channels of communication with the communities were decidedly incomplete.
So what next? Here are three provocative ideas that might help future 'Rotherhams' (and Oxfords, etc etc) from happening:
- Abandon first past the post electoral (FPTP) systems for local government (like Scotland has already done) in favour of more proportional ones. FPTP is designed to create large majorities in the council chamber when far greater political diversity exists amongst the electorate. This will help ensure better scrutiny & decision making in the future.
- Protect whistleblowers and independent researchers even more: with legislation if needs be and throughout the public services and commercial organisations.
- End the daft performance management culture that plucks targets from the air and attempts to turn the world into one big spreadsheet. I am not a number! Nor were/are all the girls & young women of Rotherham and beyond.
(*If there is anyone with much more Twitter knowledge that I have who can turn these tweets into a story in the right order... I would be most grateful!)
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Commentary on this state of affairs is ballooning, including blog posts from my colleagues Bernard Rix and Sam Chapman. On Sam's blog, I have added this comment:
Whilst I have lots of sympathies with the points you make Sam, it is my understanding that the whole dire CSE business in Rotherham was well covered by the press before the election of PCCs and Mr Wright’s role as Chair of the relevant committee was also known. (Here is one blog post about the matter for example)
Despite this information being in the public domain, he ~was~ elected by the people – so he has their mandate.
Whilst I am happy to be corrected, I do not think this week’s report has revealed anything substantially more about his role in the whole business.
So on this basis, he (like all other PCCs) will account to his electorate in 2016, although now presumably as an independent candidate (he resigned from the Labour Party earlier this evening).
We all know how toothless the PCPs are – so they will huff and puff at their next meeting but it will make no difference. And as I have been told by many a supporter of PCC based governance, the ballot box every four years is the ultimate accountability… It is what PCCs were created for.
PPS: I have decided to live tweet my reading of the Independent Report into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham. You can follow this at #LTRR
UPDATE 1557 | 280814: Clairvoyance? And with reference to "should there not be a similar accountability for those who designed this flawed model of governance in the first place?" above, it would appear that Douglas Carswell has resigned from the Conservative Party and as MP for Clacton, to stand again as a candidate for UKIP. Perhaps he read what I wrote?(!)
Naturally, Mr Carswell and I disagree on many issues, but I do respect his decision to stand again and not just to switch parties.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
This proved to be controversial. For example this article poses the question: Why is it easier to invent anti-rape nail polish than find a way to stop rapists?
I posted a comment (along with 600+ others) which I republish here:
I would contend that the former is infinitely more simple that the latter and hence it will be always easier to invent.
This is not to say that that far more creative, political and economic energy should not be put into tackling rape: of course it should. And of course a nail polish is not the answer except in so far as it might help just one woman somewhere clock that her drink is dangerous (and perhaps many more women too).
And of course, no victims should be blamed. But to suggest that all precautionary measures taken to reduce one's chances of becoming a victim (of any crime including rape) are equivalent to victim blaming is, in my opinion, dangerously simplistic.
Would the author or other commenters condemn Narendra Modi for committing to having more toilets in rural areas and the schools of India as being party to victim blaming by seeking to ensure that fewer women and girls are vulnerable to attack? Of course it is not the whole solution! But it might help...?
Clearly there is debate to be had about what constitutes putting oneself at risk and everyone should be safe enough to drink, wear and go whatever they choose. And evidently also, far more needs to be done to hold rapists to account.
But I think criticising an earnest attempt to add a technological defence against some means of attack with nothing other than well worn platitudes seems to me to be tad unfair. Where is the ingenuity or invention in that?
So, can we have debate about what societal, policy and legal changes need to be implemented to reduce the incidence of rape? My manifesto would include making sex and relationship education in schools compulsory and as important as maths or English. And I would start this early in Primary schools.
I am sure there is more. What would the author of this article put in her manifesto? What would you add?
UPDATE 270814 | 1727: Here are the replies to my comment on the Guardian site
jonwilde > JonSHarvey
Joe1178 > JonSHarvey
I would agree that such precautionary measures are in a sense to be welcomed. As you say, temporary defenses have their place while more entrenched cultural attitudes are addressed.
But there is a danger of a mindset further developing which, while perhaps not blaming victims exactly, accepts the inevitability of routine sexual assault as a fact of life and thus places responsibility on women.
I couldn't agree more that education is hugely important.
In fact, I'm not really disagreeing with much of your comment, just saying that we have to be careful not to give the wrong message.
OrkoStrikes > JonSHarvey
Couldn't agree more.
toveheights > JonSHarvey
"But to suggest that all precautionary measures taken to reduce one's chances of becoming a victim (of any crime including rape) are equivalent to victim blaming is, in my opinion, dangerously simplistic."
You are completely incorrect in this assertion. The psychological impact on a woman who has to consider while preparing for an evening out that she might be raped, instantly changes her perception of a pleasant evening out so that it becomes an act of risk taking. That she has to put on nail polish 'as a precaution' immediately puts her in the position of regarding herself as a potential victim- why would she do it if she didn't think it was likely that she would be attacked? Later while sharing a drink she has to consider if her drink has been contaminated, so she puts her finger in her drink to test it. At this point she has to divorce herself from the normal ambiance of socializing to consider whether someone is about to rape her.To expect young women to do this is to lock them in the tightest bonds psychologically and restrict their freedom to an unacceptable extent.
More young men are stabbed/attacked than any other group. I therefore propose that all men aged between 16 and 24 between the hours of 6pm and 3am should be required to wear a huge blow up suit of at least 30 cm depth that will inhibit the affects of a knife attack. They can wear this deflated, most of the time but should inflate it at the moment they think they will be attacked.
JonSHarvey > toveheights
I take your point about the psychological impact of taking preventative action to reduce ones chances of being subjected to crime: it does alter one's enjoyment of just 'being'.
But this is something that all of us live with to a greater or lesser extent dependent in part upon gender, but also many other factors. True, I do not go out contemplating I might be raped but I do worry about being subjected to road rage (it has happened to me) or being randomly assaulted in the street by a drunk person (also happened to me). These thoughts are the back of my mind, so I take action that I think reduces my chance of such events happening again. Clearly they are not the same as rape but I would contend that they are comparable.
Your suggestion that young men should wear inflatable suits though creative, is an interesting but unreal comparison, I feel.
And frankly I do not have any idea as to how big a problem date rape drugs are. How many cases have there been of where such chemicals have been used? I do not know. Do you?
My impression (and I am happy to be corrected) is that 'fear' of such drugs is far greater than the actual incidence. The way I see it, is that nail varnish (not necessarily applied in advance - but kept 'just in case') could tackle some of this fear and have the opposite effect that you contend.
In other words could the nail varnish make women feel less like potential victims rather than more - in the way that rape alarms do (I assume)? Perhaps some research is needed.
One test will be as to whether this product is bought or not.
Another possibility is that the existence of such a product might make the would-be date-rape-drug-rapists less inclined to use the drugs on the basis that they might be found out. Fear of detection (and the perception of the likelihood of such detection) is a big factor in deciding whether to commit a crime or not.
But I do not know.
But let's keep the dialogue going on what ALL the solutions might be. What would be in your manifesto?
toveheights > JonSHarvey
The 'inflatable suits was deliberately 'absurdist'. It mirrored my view that it is absurd to expect young women to wear the nail polish described- because it would be as inhibiting psychologically as such a suit would be physically.
Women are encouraged always to be aware of the possibility of rape- I suspect you became aware of physical attack after each occurred and consequently moderated your life- as we all would.
As far as 'a manifesto is concerned' it is never lost on me which gender [statistically] is more likely to rape, kill and harm. I don't have any particular incite regarding why men behave as they do in such numbers. Do you?
Not_a_shirker > Joe1178
But there is a danger of a mindset
It's a LOT less dangerous than the mindset that nobody should ever, ever, ever, EVER, ever take precautions, because it's always the rapists fault.
Which, to quote the wonderful post above, is dangerously simplistic.
JonSHarvey > toveheights
I do not think that anyone, including the people who have invented the nail polish, are 'expecting' women to wear it. I guess, if they have done their business planning and market research well enough, that they are hoping women will wish to wear / have it in sufficient numbers to make it a viable business. Time will tell.
I certainly do not 'expect' any women to wear it. Nor do I hope women will. I am glad that such a product exists so that women can choose to do so, and now have this possibility available to them. I presume you are in favour of women having a wider choice of options to be and feel safe - what ever those options are?
I agree, women/girls are warned of the possibility of rape / unwanted sex from a very young age in whole variety of ways from the media, literature, movies, parental messages etc etc. Again I assume you are in favour of women being aware of this risk. Although I would hope we would agree that warnings that inflate risk to unrealistic, disproportionate and disabling levels of fear are not to be encouraged.
And as a boy, I was made well aware of the risk of violence and harm coming to me from an early age as well. Much of my 'preventative' behaviour is based on theory not experience, thankfully. The incidents I mentioned of course raised my awareness but they are not the exclusive cause of my preventative behaviour as you might be suggesting.
My 'incite' (an interesting typo....) into why 'men' behave in such numbers is as limited as my insight into why people do a whole range of things that I cannot easily relate to such as shooting beautiful wild animals or following a football team for your entire life. (Neither of which I do, not have any desire to.)
But I don't think insight, as such, is what is required. I would contend that diligent social research, bold & creative policy initiatives, examining the female and male influences (or absence thereof) on small children (especially boys) when they are growing up from 0 - 10, understanding the impact of popular culture on what is seen as 'acceptable' etc etc are all places I would go.
Where would you go?
Or do you think it is only for men - due to their 'particular' insight - to be the only gender to come forward with the solutions?
Not_a_shirker > toveheights
Nobody "expects" young women to wear this nail polish.
Joe1178 > Not_a_shirker
Which is why I said that such precautionary measures are to be welcomed.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
What do you think of this idea? Is it enforceable (how well do the French police enforce their law)? Would it make a difference to safety and consequent accidents?
Answers below.... thanks.
You need to read this article! It is clear that Mr Hannan believes that the fault with PCCs is nothing to do with his pure invention (you need to read his & Douglas Carswell's book: The Plan), but everything to do with the PCCs who "have had next to no impact", the officials who "were bent on their forgettable acronym", the "involvement of political parties" and timing (first November then August). Oh, and Ann Barnes whom he gracefully describes as "hapless, blustering, utterly lacking in self-awareness, the real-life David Brent".
Not me guv... is essentially the real title of the piece.
Oddly perhaps, I have a bit more faith in the British public who are, I believe, choosing not to engage with this democratic mirage because they have recognised this form of governance to be what it really is: risky, ineffectual and inappropriate.
There are some damn fine PCCs who are making their mark and raising issues that had hitherto been left somewhere in the 'to do' list. I commend those PCCs who are struggling with the weight of their role and still managing to influence the future of policing & criminal justice. In this blog post from a few months past, I sought to be balanced in my criticism of the role.
But, the writing must surely now be on the wall for PCCs: people are voting with their feet. And unlike Mr Hannan, I do not see the choice being only between the PCC based model of governance and a return to a police authority type model. There are many other ways to have both democratic accountability and a more solid form of governance that rests less on a single individual.
We have to start now properly debating what model of governance should replace PCCs.