Monday, March 02, 2015

Man claims he was assaulted by British police when companion was arrested for drink-driving

The boyfriend of EastEnders star Gillian Taylforth has claimed his head 'exploded like an egg' when he was pushed into a police van during her drink-driving arrest. Dave Fairbairn was a passenger in the actress' car when police detained her on a night out last month, prompting a clash with officers which led to him receiving a penalty for public disorder.

Now Mr Fairbairn, 59, is said to have appealed to the Independent Police Complaints Commission claiming he was assaulted.

He told Lewis Panther of the Sunday People: 'The copper who kept telling me to stop swearing pushed my head hard. And all I could see is a girder come towards me. 'My head just exploded like an egg. It went everywhere. Because it was a white floor you could see how soaked it was. I was covered.

'If I had seen someone covered in that much blood it would have been straight to hospital... They took me straight to a police cell.'

Photographs of him leaving a police station later appeared to show a trickle of dried blood on his forehead, with smears around his nose and right eye.

The pair were stopped at 1.25am on a Saturday morning, five miles from her £900,000 home in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire.

Mr Fairbairn said officers knew Ms Taylforth's name as soon as they tapped on the window of her car, which he said she was moving a few metres to avoid being clamped.

As she was arrested he insisted he swore just once - saying 'for f***'s sake' at the general situation and not at any individual officer.

But he riled police by filming his girlfriend's arrest on his phone, Mr Fairbairn claimed.

The former stockbroker - who was jailed for 15 years in 2003 over one of Britain's biggest ecstasy-smuggling plots - was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence and taken to a police station. He was released after Hertfordshire Police served him with a fixed penalty notice, which he said he is appealing.

His girlfriend, who has made a surprise return to EastEnders as Kathy Beale after a nine-year break, was also arrested and was charged with drink driving. She appeared before Stevenage Magistrates' Court on Monday and was granted unconditional bail ahead of a full hearing in May.

A Hertfordshire police spokesman said earlier: 'The 59-year-old was arrested at 1.25am on February 7 in Fore Street, Hertford. She has been charged with drink driving.'

At the time of the court case, it was the biggest drugs raid in history after police found 839,500 ecstasy tablets worth an estimated £7.5million.

He is already suing a different police force over a similar argument in 2013 when he was accused of drink driving on the M62 in Merseyside, he told the Sunday People.

His solicitor could not be reached for comment.

A Hertfordshire Police spokesman said: 'We can confirm that a complaint was received, via the Independent Police Complaints Commission, on February 24, and is being assessed by the Beds, Cambs and Herts Professional Standards Unit.'

Original report here

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Gitmo Comes to Chicago

Though the war on drugs is far from over, recreational marijuana is now legal in three US states. This week, Alaska joined Washington state and Colorado in dialing back the conflict has been a staggering human rights violation, and fuel for the US’s increasingly militarized police. (To say nothing of its part in real wars throughout Latin America.)

Though the fight hasn’t stopped, public opinion has substantially shifted in recent years. Since 2012, a majority of US citizens have supported legalizing marijuana. Though it behooves us not to get ahead of ourselves in celebrating this victory of sanity, it is also time to turn attention to the victims of police and prisons in America. They are the ones who are likely to still be suffering even after some of our more foolish laws change.

This week, investigative reporter Spencer Ackerman wrote a Guardian piece about what sounds a lot like a black site for political dissenters and other unsavory folks. This place is in Chicago, and no, it’s not quite Abu Ghraib, but the eerie parallels with war on terror excesses are clear and deeply distressing.

The place is called Homan Square. Reportedly, lawyers are not allowed, and arrests are basically off books, meaning suspects disappear into a blackhole of bureaucracy for however long they’re held. If you can’t find your client, but they were taken away by police, that’s where they are likely to be. Suspects are denied lawyers for 12-24 hours. Kids as young as 15 have been taken there. One death has been reported, and numerous beatings. Ackerman relates the story of a NATO protester who was shackled for 17 hours, and not permitted to call a lawyer. Other attorneys claim similar stories of lost clients, and being barred from seeing them at Homan Square. MRAPs are reportedly parked outside the building.

This sounds terrifying — especially paired with, say, the Chicago police commander who tortured 100 suspects, and got away with it for decades, before finally serving four years in prison.

But is this unique? The proliferation of cheap cameras in everyone’s hands has given us a front row look at police brutality. Now, this hasn’t always translated into police accountability, as in the cases of Eric Garner, Kelly Thomas, and others who died by law enforcement hand. But cameras have begun to tell us what police are doing. We can see it instead of using subjective eyewitnesses.

When people tolerated the drug war-propelled explosion in the prison population, they didn’t see what they were accepting. Drug users and sellers were "others" who could be punished without that many qualms. The war on drugs was like any other war where casualties were tolerated and expected. Only in the last few years, when the 2.3 million people in prison figure has become common, meme-worthy knowledge, has the US’s prison population started to feel shameful to the public. Sometimes, even to the very people who helped put those people there.

American citizens still have a fair number of rights most of the time. But when they don’t, they don’t. And when you’re arrested, it is starting to look like you have to depend on the relative goodness of the arresting officer, not on your constitutional rights. The tie with the war on terror is clear. Once Gitmo is tolerated, Homan Square is not far behind. And vice versa. Both the wars on terror and drugs have fed off of each other. They are siblings, and sometimes they are identical twins.

There is still a strong trust in law enforcement in this country. Fifty-three percent of people had "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of trust in law enforcement, according to a Gallup poll from last year. Police come in third, under the military and small businesses. Pushing at police, and suggesting criminal punishment is still too hard for most media– to say nothing of juries or prosecutors.

And yet, people remain confident that powers of war and occupation will stay in their place, far away from Americans. (The right sort of Americans.) Two former Justice Department officials are disturbed by Ackerman’s article, and intend to look into it. (Never mind the Obama administration’s killing powers. They’re very troubled by this.) Conservatives are horrified by certain abuses, liberals by others, but both sides are willing to sell their souls for the price of enemies being abused and oppressed. And nobody, really, is against war and police running amok. That would be like being against small businesses!

Homan Square is what noble war-making really looks like. It’s just small, shadowy power tripping and abuse of smalltime criminals and activists. Gitmo and Abu Ghraib came home, along with all those surplus MRAPs outside. It’s just the baby version of its sibling, and it may not be as new or as novel as we think, but Homan Square should still make each of us feel less safe. It should also confirm that we have no clue what law enforcement is doing when we’re not watching them.

Original report here

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

British mother dragged to court for accidentally hurting a youngster while trying to protect her son from a gang of youths walks free after arguing 'I'm a mum, that's my job'

It appears that the prosecutors listened to only one side of the story

When Samantha Firth-Corner saw her teenage son surrounded by a gang of five youths, she did not hesitate to step in.

But her attempt to protect her child from a ‘horrible beating’ left her facing prosecution for assault.

She spent eight months awaiting trial, only to be found not guilty after telling a jury she was defending her son and saying: ‘I am a mum – that’s my job.’

Now the 43-year-old has spoken of her ordeal, describing it as ‘like a nightmare’. Speaking at the family’s neat semi on a quiet estate, she said: ‘It has been a horrible time. For eight months I’ve dealt with the very real possibility that I could go to jail, something that I’d have considered unthinkable. I’m so glad that common sense has eventually prevailed.’

But she ended up being arrested herself after accidentally injuring a teenage boy in the melee.

The 15-year-old, who admitted to drinking eight cans of cider that night, was hit in the face with a stone, chipping two of his front teeth. Mrs Firth-Corner was charged with assault causing actual bodily harm, an offence which can carry a prison sentence of five years.

She spent eight months awaiting trial and was acquitted at the end of a three-day hearing at Teesside Crown Court.

After the case, nine of the 12 jurors were so emotional they approached her outside court and wished her well, one of them even offering her a hug.

Mrs Firth-Corner, a tutor with the Unite trade union, has campaigned successfully to save her threatened local library and allotments in the historic Yorkshire Dales market town of Bedale.

She had never been in trouble with the law before. Speaking of her acquittal, she said: ‘My thoughts right now are "least said, soonest mended" and I’d like to put the whole thing behind me and get my life back to where it was before all this happened.

‘I wish the prosecution had never been brought, I’m not sure why it was.’ Her friends have also questioned why the mother of three was brought to trial.

One said: ‘It’s madness that Samantha found herself in court. She has been terrified of what might happen to her and had convinced herself she was going to prison. Even the police seemed to be on her side but the Crown Prosecution Service decided to take the case to trial.’

After being acquitted, Mrs Firth-Corner sobbed and thanked the jury as she left the dock, then hugged her partner in the public gallery.

She is 5ft 5in tall, while the teenager is close to 6ft, the jury heard during the trial. She told the court: ‘I just wanted to stop them attacking. I wanted to protect my son. I’m a mum, that’s my job.’

The prosecution case was that Mrs Firth-Corner and her son had gone to the house looking for trouble last May, and she attacked the teenager after he asked: ‘What’s your problem?’

Original report here

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Friday, February 27, 2015

No one will ever be convicted of Jon Benet Ramsey's murder, says lead detective

The former Colorado police chief who led the investigation into the murder of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey has admitted that officers botched the initial handling of the crime scene.

Mark Beckner, former chief of the Boulder Police Department, gave his most extensive comments on the case to date in an 'Ask Me Anything' session on Reddit on Saturday. But he has since said that he had no idea he was speaking on a public forum, and that he regretted his 'naivete'.

'I talked to the organizer, and my impression was that this was a members-only type group that talked about unsolved mysteries all around the world,' Beckner, 59, told the Daily Camera.

Ramsey was found dead in the basement of her family's home on December 26, 1996, hours after her mother, Patsy Ramsey, called 911 to say her daughter was missing and a ransom note demanding $118,000 had been found.

Although no one has ever been charged, suspicion has long fallen on her parents, Patsy and John, but there was not enough evidence to bring charges against them and they were ultimately cleared.

On the Reddit forum, Beckner, who joined the investigation nine months after JonBenet's death, said on the day JonBenet's body was found, police should have separated the couple to get full statements from them.

The case was initially mishandled due to a 'perfect storm type scenario', he wrote.

'It was the Christmas holiday and we were short staffed, we faced a situation as I said earlier that no one in the country had ever seen before or since, and there was confusion at the scene as people were arriving before we had enough personnel on the scene,' he wrote online.

'I wish we would have done a much better job of securing and controlling the crime scene on day one. We also should have separated John and Patsy and gotten full statements from them that day.

'Letting them go was a big mistake, as they soon lawyered up and we did not get to formally interview them again until May of 1997, five months after their daughter was murdered.'


On the botched case: 'It was the Christmas holiday and we were short staffed, we faced a situation as I said earlier that no one in the country had ever seen before or since, and there was confusion at the scene as people were arriving before we had enough personnel on the scene.'

On the Ramseys: 'We also should have separated John and Patsy and gotten full statements from them that day. Letting them go was a big mistake... The officers also noticed the how distant John and Patsy seemed to be toward each other.'

On her brother, Burke: 'After a short initial interview that day... Burke was only interviewed one more time and that was by a social services worker. We of course had many other questions we wanted to ask him as the investigation wore on, but were never given an opportunity to interview him again.'

On a possible intruder: 'Most investigators do not believe there was a legitimate point of entry. It is unknown how an intruder may have gotten in.'

On a motive: 'Neither the PD or the FBI believe this was ever a kidnapping. It was a murder that someone tried to stage as a kidnapping.'

On prior sexual abuse: 'Evidence was found that would indicate she was sexually assaulted some time prior to the day of her death.'

On the singularity of the case: 'The FBI told us they'd never seen a 2.5 page ransom note... Ours was and to my knowledge still is the only case in history where a body was found in the same house as a ransom note demanding money.'

On who he thinks is responsible: 'I have avoided saying who I believe is responsible and let the facts speak for themselves. There are several viable theories.'

No one has ever been prosecuted in the case, and Ramsey said he doubt anyone ever would be.

Court documents released in 2013 showed that a grand jury recommended indictments against the Ramseys, contrary to the long-held perception that the secret panel ended their work in 1999 without deciding to charge anyone.

The documents revealed that the parents had been indicted for felony child abuse resulting in death and accessory to the crimes of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death - but that then-District Attorney Alex Hunter had refused to sign the indictments.

At the time, Hunter didn't mention an indictment, saying only that there wasn't enough evidence to warrant charges against the Ramseys, who had long maintained their innocence.

On the forum, Beckner touched upon the trouble his department had experienced with the Boulder District Attorney's office under Hunter.

'DA involvement in this case was inappropriate,' he said. 'They interfered in the investigation by being roadblocks to getting things done.'

Patsy passed away from cancer in 2006, and two years later, former District Attorney Mary Lacy cleared the Ramseys of any role in their daughter's death, based on DNA evidence that pointed to the involvement of a third party.

Beckner would not say who he believed might be responsible for the killing - 'there are several viable theories' - but he did say that investigators did not believe there was a 'legitimate point of entry' for an intruder to get into the house that night.

He said that the girl was hit hard across the head and then, after it was clear that she had not died, she was strangled between 45 minutes and two hours later, based on her brain swelling.

'The rest of the scene we believe was staged, including the vaginal trauma, to make it look like a kidnapping/assault gone bad,' he said.

He added that they came across evidence that would indicate the girl had suffered prior sexual abuse.

After an apparent sexual abuse the night of the murder, the killer then dressed her - which caused one Redditor to note: 'I guess there wasn't a time problem for the killer'.

Beckner added: 'The killer also took the time to find a pad and sharpie pen, write a 2.5 page ransom note, fashion a garrote and choke her with it, then wrap her in a blanket with one of her favorite nightgowns and place her in a storage room in the basement. He/she/they then neatly put the pad and pen away and escaped without leaving much evidence.'

He added that the FBI told the police they had never known of a 2.5-page note and had never had a case where the body was found in the same place as the ransom note.

When police turned up at the home, they found Mrs Ramsey's tone with them 'very strange'.

'The officers also noticed the how distant John and Patsy seemed to be toward each other,' he said.

Beckner, who was named police chief of Boulder in 1998 before retiring in April last year, is now teaching several law enforcement classes online through Norwich University in Vermont, and said he would consider writing an autobiography about his career.

Despite his misgivings about speaking out on Reddit, he said he believed he had spoken honestly and fairly to readers, the Daily Camera reported.

'I think the only thing I would emphasize is that the unknown DNA (from JonBenet's clothing) is very important,' he told the newspaper. 'And I'm not involved any more, but that has got to be the focus of the investigation. In my opinion, at this point, that's your suspect.'

Current Boulder police Chief Greg Testa told the Daily Camera that he did not know Beckner was going to discuss the case online.

'I learned about it by seeing it posted online,' Testa said. 'I didn't read it line for line, but Mark understands the nature of that investigation, and certainly wouldn't do anything to compromise it.'

He added that the investigation remains open and whenever they receive new tips in the case, they are investigated.

Original report here

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Eric Holder: Patron saint of trigger-happy cops

Attorney General Eric Holder received a tidal wave of laudatory media coverage for his visit to Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath of a local white policeman’s killing an 18-year-old black man. Holder assured the people of Missouri, "Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent."

But Holder’s own record belies his lofty promise. As the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from 1993 to 1997, Holder was in charge of policing the local police. When police violence spiraled out of control, he did little or nothing to protect D.C. residents from rampaging lawmen.

The number of killings by D.C. police quadrupled between 1989 and 1995, when 16 civilians died owing to police gunfire. D.C. police shot and killed people at a higher rate than any other major city police department, as a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post investigation revealed in late 1998. But Holder had no problem with D.C.’s quick-trigger force: "I can’t honestly say I saw anything that was excessive." He never noticed that the D.C. police department failed to count almost half the people killed by its officers between 1994 and 1997.

Even when police-review boards ruled that shootings were unjustified or found contradictions in officers’ testimony, police were not prosecuted. In one case an officer shot a suspect four times in the back when he was unarmed and lying on the ground. But Holder’s office never bothered interviewing the shooter.

Holder is now being portrayed as a champion of minorities victimized by police, but this attribute was undetectable in the 1990s. The Post noted that "none of the police shootings of civilians has occurred in the more affluent areas west of Rock Creek Park." Because most victims of the police were from the lower-income parts of the city, their plight went largely unnoticed.

Holder is now trumpeting the need for openness, but in the 1990s he acceded to pervasive secrecy on lawmen’s killings. The Post noted, "The extent and pattern of police shootings have been obscured from public view. Police officials investigate incidents in secret, producing reports that become public only when a judge intercedes."

Shortly after Holder became U.S. attorney, a local judge slammed the D.C. government for its "deliberate indifference" to police-brutality complaints. In 1995 the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which supposedly investigated alleged police abuses, was shut down because it was overwhelmed by a backlog of accusations from aggrieved citizens. Despite the collapse of the system’s safeguards, Holder’s office remained asleep at the switch. Even D.C.’s assistant police chief Terrance Gainer admitted, "We shoot too often, and we shoot too much when we do shoot."

Some of the most abusive cases involved police shooting unarmed drivers — a practice that is severely discouraged because of the high risk of collateral damage. Holder told the Post, "I do kind of remember more than a few in cars. I don’t know if that’s typical of what you find in police shootings outside D.C." Actually, D.C. police were more than 20 times as likely to shoot at cars as were New York City police and "more than 50 officers over five years had shot at unarmed drivers in cars," the Post noted.

When he visited Missouri, Holder made a heavily trumpeted visit to the parents of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old killed by a Ferguson policeman. But did Holder ever bother visiting the families of young people unjustifiably slain by the D.C. police? I called the Justice Department press office asking that question but never heard back. Press clips from the 1990s do not include any reports of Holder’s meeting with parents of children unjustifiably slain by the D.C. police.

At 9 a.m. on May 15, 1995, a D.C. policeman pursued a car that he claimed he had seen moving recklessly on Florida Avenue NW. The policeman walked up to the vehicle and shot 16-year-old Kedemah Dorsey in the chest. The car began pulling away, and the policeman hopped alongside and shot the boy again in the back, killing him. Lawyer Doug Sparks, sitting in a nearby car, told the Post, "It was basically at point-blank range. I thought it was some kind of drug shooting." The policeman claimed that he fired because Dorsey, who was scheduled to start his shift at Burger King later that morning, was trying to run him down. Attorney Michael Morganstern, who sued the District government and collected $150,000 for the family, commented, "It’s somewhat difficult to use the car as a weapon when it is wedged in rush-hour traffic and the officer is standing to the side of it, not in front of it." A police department investigation concluded that the shooting was unjustified, but Holder’s office refused to file charges against the policeman.

Banning guns, ignoring shooters

Holder was feckless even when a policeman confessed to lying about killing an unarmed teenager. After Roosevelt Askew killed a 19-year-old motorist during a 1994 traffic stop, he claimed he fired because the driver was trying to run over another policeman. But that story soon collapsed. In early 1995, Askew admitted to Holder’s office that he had lied and then claimed he shot the teenager accidentally. No charges were filed against Askew until a year and a half after his confession. The case lingered on the back burner until after Holder moved on to become deputy attorney general under Janet Reno. The U.S. attorney’s office eventually signed off on a deal that let Askew plead guilty merely to filing a false police report; he received two years probation and a $5,000 fine. Federal judge Harold Greene was appalled at the wrist slap: "This is a bizarre situation. Everybody, including the government and the probation office, suggests that probation is the appropriate remedy. Although I am not entirely satisfied we have the full story, I’m going to go along."

The Post series sparked an uproar that resulted in the Justice Department Civil Rights Division’s investigating D.C. police shootings from the prior five years. And whom did Attorney General Janet Reno put in charge of that effort? Eric Holder. His office denied that any conflict of interest existed, instead insisting that Holder’s "oversight of the review signifies the importance of this endeavor to the Department of Justice." But a 1999 Post article observed, "A closer look at the role of Holder and the U.S. attorney’s office shows the difficulty that arises when law enforcement investigates itself." Holder’s review of D.C. police shootings was careful not to uncover anything that might impede Holder’s political career.

Perhaps Holder did not notice the 1990s’ surge in police killings because he was fixated on banning private guns. He lobbied the D.C. City Council to impose mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted of possessing a gun and spurred D.C. police to carry out "the most comprehensive gun seizure program in the country" (bankrolled by the Justice Department). In a speech on Martin Luther King Day in 1995, Holder declared that schools should preach an anti-gun message every single day. He also proclaimed that "we" need to "really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way."

But Holder has devoted much of his career to brainwashing people to believe that it is safe to trust government at all levels with vast power. In the Clinton administration he worked to expand asset forfeiture and to whitewash an FBI assault that left 80 people dead at Waco. Moreover, Holder championed Barack Obama’s prerogative to kill individuals on his own authority — the ultimate in absolute power.

Holder resigned in September, a month after his Ferguson publicity tour. The controversy around the Ferguson shooting spurred hope for reforms that might curtail perennial police abuses. But it would be naive to expect any new law to make federal, state, or local agencies honest and transparent on their use of deadly force. Nor is there any reason to expect the Justice Department to recognize that the Bill of Rights should trump politicians’ powerlust

Original report here

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rogue Australian cop admits unlawful assault, dangerous driving and making a false report

But prosecutors want only a slap on the wrist for him. Getting a cop into jail is always mightily resisted

A ROGUE police officer who slammed his patrol car into a motorist, roughed him up, falsely imprisoned him and then lied about it in official reports should only be fined, according to the OPP.

The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today heard award-winning police officer Kieran John Atkin, 32, had a "brain snap" when he rammed his patrol car into the car of Hillside motorist Anthony Vittori in August 2013.

Former senior constable Atkin — who joined Victoria Police in 2003 — was initially charged with perjury, perverting the course of justice and assault, but today pleaded guilty to reduced charges of unlawful assault, dangerous driving and making a false report.

Atkin and his partner Brennan Roberts began following Mr Vittori when they noticed him driving an unregistered vehicle and followed him home.

Vittori accidentally backed into the patrol car outside of his home, then tried to drive in to his driveway when Atkin drove the patrol car into the right rear side of the car, spinning it around and destroying a post box.

Vittori was then roughed up and falsely arrested for conduct endangering life, spending about five hours in the police lockup.

"Atkin’s false version of events has resulted in the man’s false imprisonment for a number of hours," said magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg.

The incident was filmed on Atkin’s own dash-cam, and the footage was seized after internal affairs investigators raided his office.

Atkin — who was awarded the Tynan Eyre Medal for highest achievement at the Police Academy, resigned from the force last November and has since been stacking supermarket shelves.

He plans to move to Byron Bay.

Mr Rozencwajg said he was "extremely surprised" the Office of Public Prosecutions was seeking only a fine and conviction given the serious nature of the offending.

Mr Rozencwajg also criticised police for taking so long to lay charges.

Atkin will be sentenced next week.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

British cops and BBC are savaged over Sir Cliff raid: Singer's privacy violated by secret deal to film swoop on his house over sex assault allegations, says report

Sir Cliff Richard had his privacy violated after a secret deal between police and the BBC to film a raid on his house, a report says.

The horrified pop star was left ‘unnecessarily distressed’ after learning police had swooped on his £3.5million home in Berkshire over a sex assault allegation dating from 1985 only when he saw it on TV while in Portugal.

Images were beamed live around the world last August from a camera filming from a helicopter.

Now a previously unpublished report says the deal between the BBC and the police should never have been done – suggesting Sir Cliff should not have been publicly humiliated in this way.

It brands senior officials at South Yorkshire Police incompetent and calls the BBC dishonest for its explanation of how it came to know about the raid.

After a BBC reporter approached the force, police chiefs allowed a reporting team including a camera crew to show officers searching the star’s home.

The coverage caused a major row, and the findings by independent investigator and former chief constable Andy Trotter will reignite the controversy.

Sir Cliff has not been arrested or charged. But many viewers said the BBC coverage made the 74-year-old singer look guilty.

The damning report – released to the Daily Mail under the Freedom of Information Act – concludes:

* Police were wrong to confirm details of a ‘highly sensitive and confidential’ investigation to the BBC.

* They should not have held a secret meeting between a senior detective and a reporter to agree an exclusive deal.

* The force breached Sir Cliff’s privacy by effectively confirming his identity as the suspect in the inquiry to other media.

* Mr Trotter says: ‘People have seen a search of Sir Cliff Richard’s apartment unfold on television with details of a serious allegation put into the public domain prior to him being interviewed by the police.

The search and the nature of the allegation... certainly interfered with his privacy and may well have caused unnecessary distress.’

He concludes that had the force refused to co-operate, the BBC would probably never have run the story.

Although the BBC reporter, Dan Johnson, was not interviewed, Mr Trotter decided the corporation had not been fully open about how it came to hear about the allegation against Sir Cliff.

The BBC claim – that Mr Johnson had persuaded South Yorkshire Police to agree the deal when all he knew was the name of the celebrity suspect – was ‘not one I believe to be credible’, Mr Trotter said.

Evidence supported the police account that Mr Johnson had detailed knowledge and ‘knew as much’ as police did when he made contact.

The BBC has never revealed the source of the original information.

Sir Cliff has called the allegation that he sexually assaulted a boy under the age of 16 in 1985 ‘completely false’. He was interviewed by police under caution and, more than six months on, inquiries are on-going.

Mr Trotter was asked to investigate police handling of the raid by police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright.

Analysis reveals the BBC journalist contacted the force’s communications director Carrie Goodwin on July 14 after an alleged leak from Operation Yewtree, the inquiry into abuse claims involving Jimmy Savile.

A meeting was held the next day with Mr Johnson and Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, who agreed to tell him the date and location of the raid in exchange for him holding the story until that day to protect the investigation. The chief constable was also informed of the agreement.

Mr Trotter said Miss Goodwin should not have arranged the meeting with Mr Fenwick, not have confirmed any information about the inquiry to the BBC reporter and not have agreed to notify him of the search. Mr Fenwick should have refused to meet or disclose any details to the BBC.

And Chief Constable David Crompton ‘could have rescinded the agreement’.

A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: ‘While we believe our actions in relation to dealing with the media were within policy and were well intended, they were ultimately flawed and we regret the additional anxiety which was caused to Sir Cliff Richard.’

The BBC was not directly involved in Mr Trotter’s review. A spokesman said: ‘The home affairs committee has already endorsed the way the BBC handled this story. We have nothing further to add.’

A spokesman for Sir Cliff said he would not comment.

Original report here

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Outrage as 'arrogant' traffic cop issues driver with a speeding ticket - even though he admits he 'estimated' car was over the limit and refuses to show the radar gun

Footage of a driver arguing with a policeman over a speeding ticket has gone viral after the man claims the officer wrongly pulled him over because a radar of speedometer wasn't used.

Truck driver Chris Smith filmed the police officer issuing him a speeding fine near the Coonabarabran area in NSW and uploaded the video to his Facebook page on Saturday.

The officer, who identified himself as Steven when he flashed his name badge, told Mr Smith the fine was based on his 'estimation' and he hadn't used a radar.

Mr Smith repeatedly argues that he wasn't speeding, but the officer continues to write him a ticket.

'I want to know how you can book me when I wasn't speeding?' the driver says.

The officer replies 'my estimations' before saying there was another police vehicle on the opposite side the road who agreed the driver was speeding.

'You're a senior constable, for guessing speed?' Mr Smith said.

'Estimating speed,' the officer responds.

'So obviously you're some sort of computer,' the driver argues.

The police officer hits back: 'Expert. I'm an expert at estimating speed'.

When he asks to check the speed radar, the officer says it wasn't used.

'I didn't check you on the radar. I think you need to realise everything is based on my estimations. All a radar does is back up my estimations,' the officer says.

A clearly frustrated Mr Smith suggests the estimation was wrong because the officer's sunglasses put him off, but the policeman just laughs it off.

'This absolutely ridiculous. I will take it to court because I can't get booked for not speeding. I know I can't get booked for you guessing a speed,' Mr Smith said. 'I wasn't speeding.'

The officer tells the driver it's 'my word versus yours then'.

It is understood police can issue speeding fines using radars in police cars or speed cameras, a speedometer and from an estimate of speed.

A NSW Police spokesperson said the driver was issued an infringement notice for exceeding the speed limit by more than 10km per hour.

'All highway patrol operatives are considered subject matter experts in the eyes of the court in terms of estimating speed,' they said.

'This is included as a part of the training received by potential highway patrol officers. Any LIDAR or radar check that is done has to be reinforced with a valid speed estimation.'

Mr Smith now faces a $254 fine and loss of three demerit points, police said.

Original report here

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Naked female prisoner 'humiliated'

[Wisconsin] Corrections officials forced a female inmate to perform naked jumping jacks last year because they believed - wrongly - she had hidden a bottle of urine in her vagina so she could falsify a drug test.

The plan was developed and put into action by Captain Alfredo Garcia based on the accusation of another inmate, according to internal investigation documents released under the open records law. An officer and sergeant said Garcia told them to conduct a strip search of the inmate and order her to jump up and down while naked in hopes of dislodging the bottle they thought she might be hiding.

Another officer said she heard Garcia give the order, as well. But Garcia maintained the staff at the Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center near Union Grove, Wiconsin, had misunderstood him.

He said he told staff to make the inmate "squat and cough and spring up real quick like a jumping jack and go back down to squat. I never told her to jump up and down."

"I think there was a breakdown in communication if they had her do jumping jacks. I guess they did," Garcia told investigators. "I don't recall [the inmate] having been out of breath from doing jumping jacks."

Garcia was later disciplined for not following procedures and neglecting his duties, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Joy Staab said. She did not provide specifics about the discipline that was imposed, but said it was "commensurate with the actions of the employee."

In response to the incident, staff members were trained on what to do if they believed they were given an order that violated work rules, Staab said.

Garcia, who has been with the Department of Corrections for about 30 years, did not respond to a request for an interview.

Garcia put together the plan in April 2014 after another inmate alleged the woman was using drugs and had hidden a small shampoo bottle of someone else's urine in her vagina in case an unexpected drug test were conducted. The 25-year-old inmate he targeted is incarcerated for drug-related convictions and officers said her eyes were dilated the night of the strip-search.

Sargeant Donna Elliott and Officer Tracy Robertson told investigators Garcia ordered them to take the inmate to a shower stall, have her take off her clothes and go through a routine strip-search.

They were then to have the inmate jump up and down while naked and to remain naked while she squatted and urinated into a cup. Ordinarily, inmates are allowed to put on their undergarments or other clothes before urinating.

The inmate was to hold the cup with one hand and keep her other hand on her head, in an apparent attempt to prevent her from interfering with the urine sample.

Before he had officers conduct the search, Garcia asked women on staff about how strong a vagina is and whether a woman could hold a bottle inside her body. He told investigators his staff had not raised any concerns about the procedure.

"If they would have said this would not work, we would not have done it," he said. "That's why I got female input. One person said [it] may be able to work, but [was] not sure how strong the vagina is."

But at least among themselves, officers had reservations, the records show.

"I told Sargeant Elliott that I wasn't going to do that because I didn't think we could do that," Robertson told investigators. "It's humiliating for the inmate."

Robertson consulted Sargeant Yesica Cruz and told her she didn't think the plan was in keeping with department policy. Cruz agreed and said health workers should be brought in to conduct a body cavity search if the inmate was suspected of hiding something, according to the records.

"[Robertson] said, 'Can you believe Garcia told me to have this inmate jump up and down, butt naked during a strip search,' " Cruz told investigators. "Officer Robertson asked, 'Can he do that? Isn't that humiliating?' Officer Robertson said that she did not feel comfortable doing this."

Robertson and Elliott carried out the standard strip-search Garcia had ordered while he monitored the situation from a control room. Garcia could hear what was going on but did not have a direct line of view of the inmate, according to the investigators' interviews.

After the strip search was conducted, Elliott mouthed "Should I do it?" to Robertson and Robertson told her no, according to the records.

"After that, Sargeant Elliot glanced toward the (control room) where Captain Garcia was and we could see his silhouette inside," Robertson said. "Sgt. Elliott then said to (the inmate), 'This isn't me, but per the captain, he wants you to jump up and down.' "

They didn't find a bottle and afterward they made the inmate urinate in a cup. Corrections officials considered the results questionable, so they did another test with a mouth swab. Garcia performed the swab but initially got inconclusive results. He did a second mouth swab, which came back negative.

An investigation was launched days later, after the inmate complained about her treatment. After the incident she said she had bad dreams and felt "trapped in my mind."

"I understand (their suspicions), and I respect that they're doing their job, but that's my body," she told investigators. "If you thought you needed a search warrant for me, bring me to the hospital and let me do that. You didn't need to do that."

Larry Dupuis, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, said inmates have fewer privacy rights than others, but that the treatment of the inmate seemed "extreme." There would have been other ways to check whether the inmate was using drugs, Dupuis said after the Journal Sentinel described the incident to him.

"The approach this captain took seems really boneheaded," he said, "if not abusive."

Original report here

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Innocent Man: Scott Molen's Bittersweet Victory

"I’m trying not to hate, but rather to enjoy the beauty we can see in life," observes Scott Molen. That worthy sentiment is all the more remarkable coming from someone whose life has been permanently disfigured by the State’s proprietary brand of ugliness.

In June 2007, Scott was convicted in Ada County, Idaho of "lewd and lascivious conduct" with his step-granddaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The case presented against Scott consisted of the uncorroborated, self-contradictory testimony of the young accuser. The prosecution quite thoughtfully kept their presentation otherwise uncluttered by evidence.

During voir dire, assistant prosecutor Josh Taylor explained to the jury that "you’ll hear testimony from a small child. There won’t be any DNA evidence or other types of evidence of that sort." So zealous was the prosecution to avoid confusing the jury that they suppressed – until half-way through the trial -- the results of a detailed medical examination that found no physical symptoms of sexual assault.

While austere in providing proof, the prosecution was very generous in defining the offense for which Scott was on trial. He was formally charged with sexual assault – in essence, the rape of a child – but the lead prosecutor, assistant Attorney General Justin D. Whatcott, was permitted by the trial judge to redefine the offense as "lewd and lascivious conduct," which had a much lower threshold: Rather than physically violating the child, the defendant was accused of improperly "touching" her. This approach allowed the prosecution the luxury of barraging the jury with lurid claims it was not required to prove.

The prosecution was well aware of the fact that it was riding a very weak case.

Theresa Gardunia, the original prosecutor in the case, "told me I could plead guilty to one count of injury to a child, with one year in jail," Scott recalled to me. "I was also promised that I wouldn’t be a registered sex offender. But I didn’t do what they accused me of doing. I would never do such a thing to a child. I had made a lot of mistakes, and I had been in trouble with the law. I didn’t try to hide it. But I was not going to volunteer to serve time for something I would never do."

Most people convicted of crimes maintain their innocence. Few, however, can cite concurring testimony provided by the foreman of the jury that convicted them.

"When you boil the whole thing down and look at it," jury foreman Ken McKay admitted to a private investigator roughly a year after Scott was sent to prison, "there wasn't a single shred of evidence." Four members of the jury, McKay recalled, were "dug in" on behalf of Scott’s innocence. Several others "had decided that he was guilty pretty early on and there was really no reasoning with them about that."

An engineer by training – his professional credo was "In God we trust, everybody else bring your data," the jury foreman told the investigator – McKay maintained that he had been skeptical about "fantastic charges" made by the prosecution. For instance, the jury was told that "there was a pair of [girl's] undergarments that had a blood stain in them." His misgivings grew when that critical piece of evidence, although being prominently referred to in the prosecution’s case, was "never produced."

This was not an oversight, nor the product of mere incompetence. It was a "Brady violation" – deliberate prosecutorial misconduct intended to conceal exculpatory evidence. This much-discussed but never-seen piece of evidence was supposedly discovered at a time when the alleged victim was living with her mother and an abusive boyfriend in Phoenix, roughly 1,000 miles away from Scott. Furthermore, the mother claimed to have found it several months before she sent the girl back to visit the alleged molester a second time....

More here

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Romeo Phillion can sue police for $14m over wrongful conviction

Supreme Court of Canada clears the way for Phillion to seek compensation for three decades in prison for a killing he didn’t commit

The Supreme Court of Canada has cleared the way for a wrongfully convicted man to sue police and the Crown over his three decades of imprisonment.

The court has refused to hear an appeal that was seeking to block Romeo Phillion’s multimillion-dollar lawsuit for negligence and prosecutorial wrongdoing.

Phillion’s suit was originally barred by a lower court, but was reinstated by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Now in his mid-70s, Phillion was convicted of second-degree murder in 1972 in the death of Ottawa firefighter Leopold Roy based on a confession he recanted almost immediately.

The federal government ultimately referred the case to the Ontario Court of Appeal, which quashed his conviction and ordered a new trial in 2009.

The Crown then withdrew the charge, arguing too much time had passed.

In quashing the conviction, the appeal court found that police had initially verified an alibi showing Phillion’s innocence but never told the defence about it, apparently because investigators subsequently found it to be untrue.

Phillion sued for $14 million, alleging negligence and wrongdoing by prosecutors and two Ottawa police officers.

In April last year, an Ontario Superior Court justice decided the suit would be an abuse of process because the appeal court had rejected suggestions of wrongdoing by police or the Crown and that too much time had passed to try Phillion’s claim now.

However, the appeal court then ruled Phillion should at least have a chance to put his case to a jury.

"It would further bring the administration of justice into disrepute to grant a stay in these circumstances and deprive the appellant of any opportunity to seek financial redress for his conviction when he did not have the opportunity to present a full defence at his trial," the court said.

Phillion was the longest-serving inmate in Canada to have a murder conviction thrown out.

Original report here

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Paedophile British police sergeant who committed 'most horrendous' sex attacks has his sentence increased to 20 years

A paedophile police sergeant who committed a series the 'most horrendous' sex attacks against his victim for more than a decade has had his jail sentence increased to 20 years.

Disgraced former Cambridgeshire Police officer Nick Lidstone, 56, was jailed for more than 14 years at Norwich Crown Court last December after admitting to a string of offences.

But Attorney General Jeremy Wright claimed the sentence was 'unduly lenient'. And today, judges at the Court of Appeal in London ruled that five-and-a-half years should be added to sentence.

Lindstone from Barrington, Cambridgeshire, admitted a series of rapes and child sex attacks relating to one victim last November.

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, reported the years of abuse, which culminated in being raped as an adult, early last year.

Announcing the decision today, Lady Justice Macur, sitting with Mr Justice Green and Judge Keith Cutler, said: 'This offender's status in society as a serving police officer was a position which he abused.'

He had committed 'what can only be described as the most horrendous sexual offending', she said.

Lidstone, who was dismissed from his role at the force's headquarters after 30 years of service, was placed on the sex offenders' register for life.

Original report here

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chinese man gets big payout over wrongful conviction

A Chinese man who was freed after six years on death row following a wrongful murder conviction has been paid $189,000 in compensation, state media has said, amid anger at the flawed legal system.

Nian Bin, a former food-stall owner who was convicted of poisoning two children and condemned to death in 2008, was finally freed after a court quashed his conviction last August.

A court awarded him 1.14 million yuan for loss of personal freedom and mental suffering, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

His case went through multiple appeals, with lawyers arguing that the evidence against him was insufficient and saying police had tortured him to obtain a confession.

Nian applied in December for 15 million yuan in compensation from the government at a court in the eastern province of Fujian which had upheld his death sentence three times, the China Daily reported at the time.

He also requested the court make a public apology through the media, it added.

Acquittals in China's Communist-controlled court system are extremely rare -- 99.93 percent of defendants in criminal cases were found guilty last year, according to official statistics.

The use of force to extract confessions remains widespread in the country and defendants often do not have an effective defence in criminal trials, leading to regular miscarriages of justice.

China has occasionally exonerated wrongfully executed convicts after others came forward to confess their crimes, or in some cases because the supposed murder victim was later found alive.

The Communist Party is attempting to allay public anger over injustices by lessening the influence of local officials over some court cases, and reversing verdicts in some high-profile cases.

Original report here

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

British cop slammed arrested man's head into desk in custody suite - leaving him with stitches and a £13,000 pay-out

This is the shocking moment a police officer slammed a handcuffed man's head onto a custody suite desk, leaving him needing stitches in an attack that led to a £13,000 damages pay-out.

Mark Cheesman was taken to Birkenhead police station in Merseyside, after he was arrested in 2010, accused of running in between traffic.

CCTV footage taken from the station's custody suite shows that as Mr Cheesman protested his innocence, he was grabbed by constable Gregory Hawkswell.

His head was forced onto the desk, leaving him bleeding from wound on his chin and requiring stitches.

The footage emerged as Merseyside Police agreed to pay £13,200 in damages to Mr Cheesman, from Tranmere, Merseyside.

Mr Cheesman was 23 in 2010 when he was arrested outside the Beach bar, in Birkenhead, and accused of running in between traffic, which he denied. He was handcuffed by Pc Hawkswell and arrested.

The footage, from the police station cameras, shows Mr Cheesman taken to the custody desk to be checked in by the custody sergeant.

He was told to stop swearing after protesting that he had 'done nothing f****** wrong'.

Handcuffed Mr Cheesman is seen to turn away from the custody sergeant to briefly look at Pc Hawkswell, and at that point, the officer grabs him and forces his head on to the desk.

Mr Cheesman was later taken to hospital for stitches before being handed a fixed penalty notice the following day.

Pc Hawkswell was charged with assault but found not guilty by a jury in criminal proceedings in 2011. He claimed he had feared for his safety. [From a handcuffed man?]

In defence documents the officer said: 'At the custody desk, Cheesman refused to face the custody sergeant, preferring to face myself instead, which I believed to be a threat. I attempted to lead Cheesman back to face the sergeant, at which point he became tense and attempted to rear at me.

'I applied force to the handcuffs and forced him down towards the desk in order to regain control of him. 'I believe that, as a result, Cheesman suffered a cut to his chin from a fixed sign on the custody desk.'

Mr Cheesman's law firm, Bootle-based James Murray Solicitors, said the video showed that PC Hawkswell's account 'clearly was not plausible'.

'Mr Cheesman was in handcuffs, he was a young man of exemplary good character, had done nothing wrong and the video shows that,' said Mr Cheeman's lawyer, Lee Massingham.

Mr Cheesman claimed false imprisonment, trespass to person, personal injury, aggravated and exemplary damages.

Merseyside Police settled the claim for £13,200, plus costs, just weeks before a civil trial was due to start at Liverpool county court. The force has not accepted liability.

Mr Massingham said: 'Viewing the footage of the incident that took place in the custody suite was very distressing for both Mr Cheesman and his family. 'It is absolutely paramount the public are made aware that they do not have to accept such treatment by police officers.

'Mr Cheesman is a man of good character and was not only subjected to a serious assault by an acting police officer but was also unlawfully arrested.

'It is disappointing that it took so long for the matter to resolve favourably for Mr Cheesman, but it is hoped that he can now move on with his life.'

A force spokesman said: 'Merseyside Police considered this civil action and it was examined by the force's legal team. 'The force can confirm that it sought appropriate advice and that a settlement amount was negotiated before trial.

'Merseyside Police remains absolutely committed to the highest integrity and the professional standards of its officers at all times.' [Except where Pc Hawkswell is involved?]

Original report here

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