Friday, August 31, 2007

Minneapolis police thugs

Here are the salient facts of this case:

I was leaving MSP airport by bicycle after a flight from California. I was legally operating my bicycle completely in accord with MN statutes and MAC airport ordinances. I was following all posted signs. There were NO signs at that time prohibiting bicycles. I was rudely accosted by an officer in a passing squad car, came to a stop, and was immediately threatened with mace and taser if I didn't get off the bike and up on the curb. I did not understand the reason for this outrage.
I calmly yet firmly protested the threats, and said that I was happy to abide by all laws that applied, but asked what I had done wrong and why the process was so immediately belligerent. Officer Wingate said 'You can't ride here'.

I asked where that was posted. Officer Wingate made a vague gesture in the direction of the Lindbergh terminal and angrily said 'back there'. I asked for specifics of where it was and what the sign said, and tried to explain that I had been to the airport many times and had never seen such a sign. Officer Wingate became more angry at this questioning of his authority, and burst out 'I'm *telling* you you can't ride here'. I never raised my voice, used profanity or made threatening gestures yet I was threatened again: 'I'm going to mace you, I'm going to tase you!'.

I told Officer Wingate that he was being rude to me, and as I said that, I read his name clearly aloud off his shirt and asked to speak with his supervisor. At this, he took a step back and changed his tone for the better. He asked if I worked at the airport. I answered 'no' and explained that I had just come in on a NW flight from California. He asked where I was going. I said I was on my way to St Paul to see my family. He asked how I planned to get there. I explained my planned route out of the airport that completely avoids the highway, using the service roads, connecting to Post Road and then the bike trails in Fort Snelling State Park. Officer Wingate said, 'Well, I see you've done your homework. *Just this once* I'll let you ride out along here', referring to the one-way service road that parallels the main airport egress, but traveling against the marked flow of traffic, and that connects to Post Road, Fort Snelling, and so forth.

I replied 'OK, that's fine, but what do I do the next time I come to the airport, because I don't want to go through this again?'
The notion that I was even thinking of ever operating my bicycle again at the airport brought back Officer Wingate's anger in full force. He vehemently replied, 'NO, you're going to *WALK* your bike to Post Road'. I asked what had changed all of a sudden. The one way service road is rarely traveled, a walking cyclist is twice the width of a riding one and with more limited control and you would be on the road 10 times longer. I stated that I saw no problem with doing what he had just said, as there was no traffic at all on the road. Officer Wingate then blurted, 'NO, you're going to *walk your bike back to the terminal and take public transportation*'.

This last order was clearly not in the interests of my safety, but was delivered in a vindictive and punitive way. I would have become a pedestrian (illegal), double the width of a normal cyclist, walking back against 2 to 3 lanes of oncoming traffic on the main airport egress road with no sidewalks, blind walled curves allowing no margin of safe retreat from the road, and regular posts and pillars along the small curb that is there. I stated what was obvious: 'that's ridiculous, that would put me at risk'. Officer Wingate then ordered me to 'get on my knees'.

I replied that that was absurd, that there was no basis for that as I wasn't doing anything threatening to him. I stated again, 'You are being rude to me and I want to speak to your supervisor'. Officer Wingate then said, 'Look, you're wasting our time. We were on a call to the Humphrey Terminal for a runaway teenage girl, and we would have been there by now.' I completely agreed that it was a waste of time for everybody. I noted that I was not being cited for any violation, nor told any statute that I had violated. I explained that I would follow the first and most reasonable, safety-wise, of the conflicting orders given to me, and then said 'I'm going to wish you both a good evening, and hope the rest of it goes better than this has gone.' I then got on my bike and began to leave.

I was instantly and with absolutely no verbal warning whatsoever attacked from behind and thrown to the ground. I received wounds to chin and arm. The impact put a new casing crack on my helmet. My glasses were thrown off by the impact and bounced several feet away. The bicycle continued to roll forwards a few feet, coming to a stop in the center of the road. (A gold van would later have to stop, because the bike was crumpled in the middle of the one lane road.) Officer Wingate then came up behind me and jerked me up into a standing position. I then heard him yell an order to Officer Bryant- 'Shoot him!'. Officer Bryant then shot me with the taser. I fell uncontrolled to the pavement for the second time, experiencing the full force of a weapon that can only be considered barbaric. (There are many documented deaths by taser. For this reason police departments do not consider it a 'non' lethal weapon, but a 'less' lethal weapon. It was developed to be used in lieu of a gun, as a weapon of last resort when a person is seriously threatened. Needless to say, I did not give permission for this to be used on me as part of the exercise, nor was I asked in advance if I had any medical history that could have led to my death. Only after the fact, in the hospital, was I asked my medical history.)

As I lay still on the pavement, Officer Wingate walked over to my glasses and smashed them into the ground with his boot. I was handcuffed, body searched and baggage searched. Reinforcements were called in, a total of (4) squad cars and a paramedic unit.

Officer Wingate said, 'Well, you wanted to speak to my supervisor, here he is'. I then asked Sergeant Karsnia 'What in the world is going on here?' He also wanted to know from me what had happened but said 'first, I'd like to speak to my officer, and then I'll get back to you'. He had a private conversation with Officer Wingate, came back, asked what had happened but immediately interrupted me and said 'Look, I'll do the talking here because you tried to take a swing at my officer'. At this point the collusion was clear. I then had no reason to believe that the brutality was over. As I stood on Outbound Rd next to the squad car, handcuffed, I called out 'Help!' to all passing traffic, hoping to draw attention to the situation, and in hope of a witness. No cars would stop. When ironically asked to 'calm down' I explained to Sergeant Karsnia that I wanted a third party present, as I no longer had reason to trust the police. At no time did I physically resist arrest.

After being taken to the hospital, I was again in the squad car. At this point Officer Wingate was calm. I asked him if he *really* thought that I was going to take a swing at him. I think this caught him off-guard, and he replied, a bit hesitatingly and somewhat sheepishly, that in police work any gesture has to be interpreted as potentially aggressive. In demonstration he put his fist to his chest, and said 'you never know when someone could put their hand like this, and then suddenly strike out'.

My California driver's license passed with flying colors- I have no criminal record, and no recent moving violations. The Minnesota test also passed with no violations or adverse history of any kind. I was put in Hennepin County jail, and on the entry form the box was checked that I should be detained WITHOUT bail, because I was 'likely to commit another crime'.

I was thus held without charges and without bail. The admission process was intentionally made to take over 8 hours, so I could legally be held through the long weekend to an arraignment on Monday. Everything was taken from me. I could only make collect calls to numbers I had remembered. It was impossible with this arrangement to even leave a message on a message machine.

Police photographs were made that night of a series of 'NO PED XING' signs and a lone 'AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY' sign that is buried in the transit hub, and not even visible from the road. That is the photo 'evidence' against me.

24 hours later I was released on a negotiated $2000 bail, reduced from an intermediate $10,000. (note- Vikings player Travis Taylor in an incident earlier this year, was released in 45 minutes on a $50 bail.)

Sergeant Karsnia had by now reviewed the CCTV video evidence and made a margin note ordering the video evidence from 5 cameras burned to disc. My personal request for video evidence was never answered by Airport Police. There are over 800 CCTV cameras at MSP Airport. The system was substantially upgraded after 9-11. Police are now claiming through the prosecution that I didn't show up on any camera.

I was kept in limbo for one month, then finally charged with (6) counts, including a Gross Misdemeanor of Obstructing Legal Process 'with force or violence or threat thereof'. (see the CASE SUMMARY link for details on all the counts).

Four months later, new signs prohibiting bicycles are installed by police without the knowledge of the Metropolitan Airports Council.

I think the underlying circumstance of the incident is clear. I later learned that the threatening officer, Officer Wingate, had taken his oath of office less than 3 years previously. The squad car driver, Officer Bryant, had taken his oath of office less than 3 weeks before. To begin with, Officer Wingate probably doesn't like cyclists. He was also likely showing off to the younger recruit, using me as ready educational fodder, demonstrating how immediate threats of violence can quickly force the compliance of a suspicious person. He became angry when I legally questioned the legitimacy of it all. Is this what his education taught him? Is this courtesy, respect and professionalism? Hubris and unchecked authority are a volatile combination, and should have no place in a peace officer who has taken an oath to 'serve and protect'.

An altogether illegitimate police stop cannot trump our Constitutional Rights. If this is not the case, then any officer for any whim whatsoever could blurt out (4) warnings to anybody's grandmother that they 'will be tased', and then do it if they don't like being disagreed with. It would be hard to imagine a clearer definition of a police state.

At the very least MSP Airport Police are in violation of the U.S. Constitution Bill of Rights Amendments IV and VIII, Metropolitan Airport Council Ordinance 58, discrimination and profiling of a cyclist, flagrant violation of the MN police policy manual's stated force continuum policy, collusion and embroidery of police narratives to support a Complaint against an innocent person supported by spurious and irrelevant evidence, posting of new signs without due notification of the appropriate authorities and the likely destruction of key CCTV video evidence that would make the truth of what happened clear to all.

I remain committed to the peaceful and lawful resolution of these issues. For whatever reason I am truly glad to have no anger over the matter, but this is fully replaced by a heightened concern for everybody of what the precedent could be from the outcome of this case. On one level this is a personal case for me, and an important test of cycling civil rights, but at an even deeper and more profound level it is about the Constitutional Rights of all of us and whether we will allow them to be trod upon.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Who pays when someone is falsely accused?

Eric Allen Warren shouldn't have to pay to have his 'factual innocence' declared

Eric Allen Warren spent 53 days in the Sacramento jail for crimes he insists he did not commit. Now prosecutors who initially charged Warren say they have "substantial doubts" about his guilt as well. All charges have been dropped, but his life may never be the same. Warren's story raises two questions about the criminal justice system. How reliable are eyewitness identifications? What remedies are available for those falsely accused?

Warren's lawyer says police picked up his client because of a telephone tip. Five witnesses identified him as the perpetrator in a string of violent Natomas area burglaries and sexual assaults. Police say they would have been derelict not to arrest him. Warren, a 20-year-old college student who had never been in trouble with the law, was charged with nine crimes, including assault with a gun, attempted robbery and sexual battery.

Weeks after he was jailed, the case against him began to fall apart. A crime similar to the one in the series for which Warren was charged occurred while he was locked up, an indication that the real criminal was still at large. And the five eyewitness identifications turned out to be less solid than they originally seemed.

That's all too common in criminal cases. After surveying studies from across the country, the California Commission for the Fair Administration of Justice has concluded that misidentification by eyewitnesses is the leading cause of wrongful convictions. When a case involves an accused person and witness of different races, instances of mistaken identification increase exponentially. Eric Warren is African American. The witnesses who identified him in both photo and live lineups were Asian and white.

The commission has made several recommendations to improve the accuracy and reliability of witness identifications. Among them, photo spreads and lineups should be presented to only one witness at a time and the witnesses ought to be separated to avoid influencing each other. All witnesses should be told that a suspect may or may not be in a photo spread or lineup and should be told that an identification or failure to make an identification won't end the investigation. The procedures recommended don't just protect innocent suspects, they protect the public, too. Prosecutors now believe that the Natomas burglar continued his crime spree while Warren was in jail.

If a mistake was made, what is the remedy for Warren? His family is out thousands of dollars in legal bills. Warren is out of jail, but he's not free from the effects of what appears to have been a false accusation. For example, if asked on a job application, "Have you ever been arrested?" must he answer "yes" -- a devastating admission for any job-seeker and particularly so for a young African American man? A declaration of "factual innocence" would officially expunge Warren's arrest record. But such a declaration requires Warren to petition the court himself, incurring yet more legal costs. That's unfair.

If a mistake, no matter how innocent, was made by witnesses, by police or by prosecutors, the system owes Warren an apology. A declaration of "factual innocence" is the one meaningful apology available to him. He should not have to pay for it.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Canadian court finally acquits man of 1959 murder

The youngest Canadian to ever face a death sentence was acquitted of the rape and murder of a 12-year-old classmate - 48 years after he was convicted and sentenced to hang at the age of 14. Steven Truscott fell victim to a "miscarriage of justice" nearly half a century ago, Ontario's highest court said on Tuesday.

Truscott, now 62, has long insisted his innocence. "I never in my wildest dreams expected in my lifetime for this to come true," Truscott told reporters. "What we've known for years and years, now other people will know."

His death sentence was commuted three months after his conviction, and he served 10 years in prison. His case helped lead to the abolishment of Canada's death penalty in 1976. Truscott was convicted of raping and murdering Lynne Harper on September 30, 1959, some three months after her body was found in a wooded area in southwestern Ontario. Truscott said he gave Harper a ride on his bicycle and saw his schoolmate get into a passing car on a rural highway. The prosecution successfully argued in 1959 that Harper never made it to the highway because Truscott veered down a path and he raped and strangled the girl.

Last year, the Appeals Court heard new evidence that the original autopsy conclusions allowed for a time of death much later, perhaps a day later, when Truscott was in school. "The conviction, placed in the light of the fresh evidence, constitutes a miscarriage of justice and must be quashed," reads the unanimous judgment from the Ontario Court of Appeal. The judgment, which means Truscott is no longer a convicted murderer, falls short of his lawyers' request that the court not only acquit their client but find him innocent as well.

Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant said he will not appeal and has asked a judge to advise on compensation. "On behalf of the government, I am truly sorry," Bryant said. Truscott said he felt the apology was not sincere because the government knew the evidence in recent years yet fought against an appeal. After his release in 1969, Truscott lived quietly under an assumed name and raised a family.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Welsh police persistently corrupt

Hard to find an honest cop in Wales. Crooked cops not disciplined. Fresh crookedness instead

The complaints body that ordered South Wales Police to discipline two officers involved in reinvestigating the force’s most notorious miscarriage of justice was unaware its instructions have not yet been complied with, we can reveal. Saturday’s Western Mail told the story of Lynn Powell, a former police officer working on the reinvestigation of the Lynette White murder case who was wrongly accused of making fraudulent expense claims from the South Wales force.

Three men were wrongly convicted of murdering Cardiff prostitute Miss White, 20, in 1988. Their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal because of serious irregularities in the original police inquiry. The Lynette White reinvestigation was launched four years ago after advances in DNA technology led to the conviction of the real killer, Jeffrey Gafoor. A number of witnesses at the trial in 1990 of three men convicted of murdering Lynette made statements saying they had been pressured by police officers to implicate the original defendants.

Now two of the police officers responsible for reinvestigating the case are themselves to be disciplined for conduct that could have led to the wrongful conviction of Lynn Powell for fraud. John Penhale and Gavin Lewis gave incorrect statements suggesting that Ms Powell, an agency employee working as an intelligence officer on the inquiry, had added false information to claim forms after they had signed them. Forensic tests proved that was not so, and it was established beyond any doubt that overpayments to Ms Powell were the result of an administrative error by her employer.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is supervising the reinvestigation of the Lynette White case, said in a report, “The irony, of course, is that Ms Powell was part of a team investigating the most serious miscarriage of justice in South Wales Police and, as the investigating officer does admit, a further grave miscarriage of justice may well have taken place.”

South Wales Police confirmed to the Western Mail last week that although the IPCC report instructing the force to give written warnings to the two officers had been completed in early March this year, the warnings had not yet been issued. Asked whether the IPCC was aware of this, both South Wales Police and the IPCC said the body had not been informed. A spokeswoman for the IPCC confirmed there was an expectation that the officers would be disciplined, although there was no formal requirement in the process for the force to report back.

Ms Powell said, “It was my understanding that the Lynette White inquiry is an open and transparent investigation. It has been my experience, during the course of my complaint, that it is anything but. I doubt very much that the original defendants were kept informed that two of the men responsible for seeing that they were given justice, were themselves being investigated for similar misdemeanours to those alleged within the 1988 inquiry. “It makes me wonder, if I had not approached the Western Mail, whether this would ever have come to light, or when, in fact, the officers would ever have been disciplined.

“I have been a great admirer of [South Wales Police chief constable] Barbara Wilding and have tried to send correspondence regarding this matter to her. I would like to meet with her as I am sure she would be disturbed to know what some of her officers have done in the name of her police service. “I am aware that once the officers are disciplined, there will be a duty to inform the Crown Prosecution Service, which will decide whether charges should be brought in the Lynette White reinvestigation.”

South Wales Police issued a statement saying, “We acknowledge the delay [in issuing the written warnings] but this matter has generated a considerable amount of work and correspondence on the subject continues to this day.”

It is understood that Mr Penhale, who is now a temporary detective superintendent on attachment to the policing standards division of the Home Office, will receive his written warning on his return from holiday. Mr Lewis – a detective sergeant – will be disciplined on his return from a career break as a ski instructor. Commissioner Ian Bynoe of the IPCC said, “We’ve learned nothing to suggest South Wales Police don’t fully accept the IPCC’s decisions and it is for them to implement these.”

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Monday, August 27, 2007

BOOK REVIEW of The Conviction of the Innocent

From Australia

Imagine the horror of being jailed for a crime you didn't commit. During his 52 years as a barrister, 26 of them as Queen's Counsel, Chester Porter saw it happen too many times.

In our common-law system the accused does not have to prove innocence because it is assumed and it is this "keystone to liberty", Porter says, which is often jeopardised. It happens when a trial becomes "inquisitorial" rather than "adversarial", and especially when a government cannot bring itself to admit a wrongful conviction for fear of losing face. Such was the case in Britain, he says, during IRA trials and it happened spectacularly to Lindy Chamberlain, who was also guilty in the mob's mind because she was a Seventh Day Adventist.

Porter refers to Chamberlain's case often. It was a turning point, he says, because the forensic evidence was handled so badly that it soiled for some time the notion of scientific analysis being called upon in a courtroom. During the subsequent Royal Commission, however, it became evident that experts can be wrong at the tops of their voices and, worse, compound each others' errors during cross-examination.

Porter argues the innocent will only truly be able to hold their own against the prosecution's resources when top-grade forensic labs are equally available to the Crown and defence (this is still not the case in NSW). Porter says it more than once: "Money spent on forensic laboratories will yield far greater dividends than money spent on prisons."

It often appears the odds are stacked against the accused. The practice of verballing, where a targeted suspect is conned into a confession or has one invented for him, has been largely stamped out by video-audio interview records, Porter says, but it flourished in a time when judges trusted the police. Times have changed, however, and the police, in Porter's view, have improved markedly: his book is a warning, not an indictment.

Porter gives us much troubling reading in his accounts of wrongful accusation in cases involving child death and child sexual assault, especially where those accused face evidence from fanatical doctors: it's awful to read how many times erroneous medical evidence has been key in wrongful convictions.

The system's biggest flaw, Porter says, in terms of convicting innocent people is a surprisingly human: can anyone tell the difference between a nervous demeanour and a guilty one? Witnesses are human and imperfect. So is the accused and when that person is shaking with nerves, well, what message is being sent out? In the case of rape, Porter says: "If a verdict is reached by using the inestimable advantage of observation of demeanour, it is 50 per cent likely to be wrong."

Porter's motivation in writing The Conviction of the Innocent is to strengthen the system, not to attack it. He believes Australia probably has the best criminal-justice system in the world. But the object must be to achieve justice, not win a case. His book is a healthy reminder of how difficult the job is, which is illustrated well by his statement that "most people would agree it is better to acquit a guilty man than convict an innocent man." I had to think about that one.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pro-Lifer Violently Assaulted Outside Illinois Abortion Clinic, Police Indifferent

Politicized police

A peaceful pro-life witness was violently assaulted outside an abortion site on Tuesday. Police responded late to his 911 after he was beaten by an unknown visitor to the clinic.

Early on Tuesday morning August 21, three Rockford pro-lifers-Ken Plez, Pat Brady and Kevin Rilott-were praying quietly in front of the Northern Illinois Women's Center (abortuary) for an end to abortion. A large white truck pulled into the clinic parking lot, and without setting foot on the clinic property, Rilott approached and tried to talk to the people inside.

In a detailed account of the event Rilott described how the pro-choice man got out of his truck and approached him, saying, "You shouldn't be here, you're upsetting my wife." He then began to hit Rilott in the chest, ribs, and stomach. Rilott did not strike back at the man, but managed to call 911. As he was being beaten, he begged for immediate police assistance.

He told his pro-abortion attacker that the police were on the way, but the man said he didn't care. The assaulter also said that "after he bonded out" he would come back and get him. After breaking Rilott's sign, the man then went into the abortion clinic.

Meanwhile, ten minutes had passed and there was still no sign of the police. Rilott called again and said, "We just had an assault and the guy who did it is still here." Finally, after a conservative estimate of 20 minutes, a squad car arrived. It was driving within the speed limit without any sirens or lights flashing. By this time, Rilott said, the attacker had already entered the building, talked with the owner Wayne Webster and then driven away.

When the police arrived, the pro-life witnesses asked an officer to get footage of the event from the clinic surveillance cameras. The officer chuckled, "you know he'll say he doesn't have one." The officer inquired inside the clinic, but Webster said he'd forgotten to start his video camera that morning. Webster claimed, however, that he saw Rilott attack the man with his sign.

Rilott asked the officer if "I attacked the guy why did I call 911 three times asking for help" and "why did the guy go in to the safety of the clinic then decide to run away before the police got there?" The officer didn't say anything (To read the full account of the assault:

President of Stephenson County Right to Life Eric Nelson, who has worked with Rilott in the past, told that Rilott is a peaceful man of integrity and honesty. He said, "Kevin is probably one of the finest people I know. He is a very generous and forgiving man. He's a very peaceful person. I don't know too many people like Kevin-very saintly. He teaches religion at a Catholic school in Rockford, and he also heads up many pro-life activities in Rockford."

Referring to the assault on Tuesday, Nelson continued, "Where you or I might get really angry, Kevin was very cool and collected and just let the guy vent on him. That's why I'm even more angry. You get such a gentle person and this happens."

Rilott also reported that after the incident Wayne Webster, the abortion mill owner, went outside to walk his dogs. He and the assaulter (who returned) mocked the pro-lifers who were still there, saying that the police "won't do anything".

Rilott is not as worried about his assault as he is about the poor response of the Rockford Police. "Their response time was frightening," he told He also said that he is definitely going to press charges against his attacker. In addition, "just for the safety of our people," he said, pro-lifers could be forced to take action against the police. He said, "It's really right now depending on their response. If they show that they care that will be enough."

He also said in his report, "The Rockford pro-life community is a peaceful, prayerful group of people who obey the law. If Mr. Webster sees that a pro-lifer is assaulted and nothing is done about it, it could be very dangerous for the good Christian people who legally and peacefully pray and work for the end of abortion."

Patricia Banbridge, Director of the Respect Life office for the diocese of Rockford, who contacted the Deputy Chief of Police and is still waiting to hear back, told, "If this had happened to a pro-abortion person down there, it would have been taken care of in no time and would have been all over the media.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Evil British "social workers"

Record numbers of young children are being taken from their parents and adopted - sometimes unjustly - to meet government targets, it is claimed today. Each year some 1,300 babies under a month old are placed in care before adoption, compared with 500 when the Government came to power, BBC Radio 4’s Face the Facts claims today. The programme is told that there are now more than 100 cases of possible miscarriages of justice in which children have been forcibly or unjustly adopted. It says that the number of parents in England who have lost their children, despite insufficient evidence that they were causing them harm, has reached record levels.

One reason, according to social workers, is that they are under pressure to meet government adoption targets – in line with ministers’ policy for more children in care to be adopted. At the same time, it is claimed, parents are not always given a proper chance to challenge adoptions because of the short time limit for appeals and the secrecy of the family courts. Lawyers say that hearings in private fuel parents’ sense of injustice and can in some cases breed bad practice, preventing them from properly defending themselves.

Sarah Harman, a family law solicitor, said: “Secrecy breeds bad practice, it breeds suspicion. It feeds parents’ sense of injustice when they have their children removed that they’re not able to talk about it. They’re not able to air their grievances. Children have been removed from their families unjustly. There’s no two ways about that.”

A social work manager with 25 years’ experience in child protection added that parents had little chance of getting a hearing and overturning a decision made by the authorities. The manager told the BBC: “People will find that their children have been removed and freed for adoption without them having had a proper chance to defend themselves and their families and their children.”

MPs have also spoken out against the unfair adoption system and are campaigning for a public inquiry. John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat member for Birmingham Yardley, who is also chairman of the Justice for Families group, said: “We are seeing perhaps three to four new cases being referred to us every day.”

The programme hears from one mother who claims she was actually giving birth when the authorities arrived to remove her baby, and from a father who had his two sons unjustly adopted. He later received a written apology from the local authority but, because his children had already been adopted, he will never get them back.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families denied that there was a target for taking children from their birth parents to meet overall adoption targets. A spokesman said that government policy had always been that children should live with their parents wherever possible and, if necessary, families should be given extra support to stay together.

He said that there had been a national target to increase the number of “looked-after children” being adopted and to place children for adoption more quickly. But he added that this was only if they had already been assessed as suitable for adoption and after it had been decided that adoption was in the child’s best interests.

Local authorities might set themselves targets to place children for adoption more quickly after that course had been decided on, he said. He added: “It is for a court to decide whether or not to make a placement or an adoption order on the basis of the welfare of the child.”

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Britain: All in the Family

Post below taken from Gates of Vienna

Here’s the latest from British jurisprudence: a convicted murderer can’t be deported if it would cause him to be separated from his family.

No, it’s not a comedy sketch. This is the ongoing reality-TV sitcom that is the modern British judicial system, as reported by the Grauniad:

The widow of the London headteacher Philip Lawrence said she was “devastated and demoralised” by the decision not to deport her husband’s killer. Learco Chindamo is to stay in Britain after immigration judges allowed his appeal against deportation, it emerged yesterday.

Chindamo, 26, who came to Britain from Italy with his family at the age of five, is serving a life sentence for stabbing Lawrence to death outside his school in Maida Vale in north London, in 1995. His 12-year minimum prison term is due to end next year.

Lawrence, 48, was killed as he tried to defend a 13-year-old pupil who was being attacked by Chindamo and several other boys outside St George’s Roman Catholic comprehensive.

OK, a “life” sentence in Britain really means twelve years. We already knew that.

But this kid will finish his dozen next year, when he’s twenty-seven years old, meaning that he was fifteen when he whacked his principal.


And who’s in this family that must be kept together at all costs?

His mother is a Filipina and his father an Italian mafia gangster who served time in prison for throwing acid into a woman’s face, but both are now in Britain. Judges at the immigration and appeals tribunal ruled that sending him back to Italy would breach Chindamo’s right to a family life. The home secretary can order the deportation of prisoners to another EU country only if they pose “a fundamental threat to the interests of society”.

Well, it’s clear that no one poses a fundamental threat to British society, except of course for racist children who object to all-Urdu classrooms. Oh, and those especially vicious criminals who insult the gender identity of a policeman’s horse.

But I digress…

Chindamo, who it is believed was told of the ruling at the weekend, was said to be “pleased” because his “family and life were in the UK”. In a statement he said he hoped the decision would not “cause grief” to Lawrence’s widow or to the rest of his family and expressed his deepest sympathy.

Frances Lawrence, the headteacher’s widow, said in a statement: “I am devastated, demoralised. I’m unutterably depressed that the Human Rights Act has failed to encompass the rights of my family to lead a safe, secure and happy life.

“I feel that I have always been a staunch advocate of the Human Rights Act but there is a missing term in it. It must encompass some responsibility.

“This isn’t just about me and my family. I am not solely thinking of me. I may be a mother but I am a human being as well. I feel I can’t fight any more. I feel I can’t survive this.”

Well, I think she’ll just have to suck it up. Stiff upper lip, old gel!

The Home Office said last night it was disappointed that the courts had not upheld the decision to deport Chindamo. Home Office minister Tony McNulty said the government would appeal “robustly” against the decision, arguing that Chindamo had forfeited his rights because of the crime he committed.

“We think, given the nature of this crime, actually the individual has forfeited his right to remain in the UK and should be deported as we asked for in the first place. I think the core principle must be absolute: that foreign nationals living in this country have rights but there are incumbent responsibilities that come along with them.”

Name one. Go on, I dare you!

Downing Street tried to calm the growing political furore over knife crime, saying crime overall had fallen and that the punishments for carrying a knife were now much tougher.

Are you reassured?

If twelve years is what you get for cold-blooded murder, what’s a “tough” penalty for carrying a knife likely to be?

The Home Office strongly criticised crime figures quoted at the weekend showing that robberies at knifepoint had doubled in three years. A spokesman said the analysis by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies was misleading and the conclusion flawed. “The figures are based on a crude extrapolation of British Crime Survey figures. The BCS does not show a statistically significant increase in the use of knives in violent incidents,” the spokesman said.

My own personal suspicion is that these British crime statistics and official Swedish unemployment figures all come from the same source: a little private Westminster accounting firm called Bendit, Specius and Bogus.

Their motto? “Books Cooked While You Wait!”

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Secretive official child abuse in Britain again

For a brief time this week, until it was taken down, there was an extraordinary posting on YouTube. It was a covert recording, made by a 34-year-old mother, of her meeting with the social worker who wants to take her next baby into care.

Had it been staged, critics would have called it a caricature. A robotic official orders the sobbing mother to stay in the hospital until his colleagues come to remove her new baby. He refuses her desperate pleas to be monitored with the baby at home. He explains in the tones of a traffic warden the inconvenience of delivering her breast milk. He then lets drop an astonishing admission: that Calderdale Council is pursuing a court order despite there being “no immediate risk to your child from yourselves”. Will he say that in court? We will not know, of course, for the court will sit in secret.

Such a chilling drama plays to our deepest fears of state tyranny. There is something wrong with the system. But posting a conversation on YouTube, out of context, is not the way to right it. The council argues that Vanessa Brookes’s recording falls foul of the Data Protection Act. Her supporters say that she is a victim of social services and justified in publishing what is essentially her own data. But we do not know whether she is a victim. Who is abusing whom here?

Mrs Brookes’s case is not straightforward. She is partially sighted and has suffered bouts of depression. Two of her children have already been adopted. That does not prove that she is an unfit mother ? mistakes can be made ? but it does explain the council’s interest. Equally, I am told that she and her husband have never been accused of harming any child. But this dribble of incomplete facts is fundamentally unenlightening. All it does is illustrate the torturous trade-offs that the system has to make, and our inability to judge those trade-offs because it is illegal to read family court papers.

How should we treat someone like Mrs Brookes, who has troubles enough to worry social services but has not apparently yet harmed a child? She is one of a growing group of people who are categorised as capable of “emotional abuse”. You can see why the category exists. Ill-treatment comes in many forms, not just cigarette burns. But in that nebulous phrase lurks the potential for great injustice.

“Emotional abuse” has no strict definition in British law. Yet it now accounts for an astounding 21 per cent of all children registered as needing protection, up from 14 per cent in 1997. Last year 6,700 children were put on the child protection register for emotional abuse, compared with only 2,600 for sexual abuse and 5,100 for physical abuse. Both of the latter two categories have been falling steadily. Meanwhile emotional abuse and “neglect” ? which replaced the old notion of “grave concern” in 1989 ? have been rising. Both are catch-alls. But emotional abuse is especially vague. It covers children who have not been injured, have not complained, and do not come under “emotional neglect”.

The Department of Health defines emotional abuse as “persistent emotional ill-treatment . . . [which] may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or inadequate . . . and may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being placed on children . . . Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill-treatment of a child, though it may occur alone”.

Local authorities have printed their own, wildly differing, interpretations. In Enfield emotional abuse includes “swearing”, “conditional love” or “discriminatory remarks”. In Nottingham, it is “an ingrained pattern of interaction . . . which it is essential to observe and understand over time”. Under that definition, a baby could never be removed at birth. Nottingham also states that emotional abuse should rarely be a cause for removing a child. Meanwhile the NSPCC, the charity that has never knowingly undersold a statistic, states in its briefing on emotional abuse that “18 per cent of children experience humiliation and/or attacks on self-esteem”. Should we put them all in care, then?

“You’ll know it when you see it ? except that you can’t see it” is no way to make law. Abuse literature repeatedly states how often parent and child are unaware of the damage done by their relationship patterns. How do we weigh that damage against the trauma of the conveyor belt of foster care? In most such situations, isn’t removing a child utterly disproportionate?

Just imagine that some social services departments were crusaders, seeing evil parents everywhere but unable to prove conventional abuse. It is plausible that the number of vague allegations would rise, backed by psychiatrists of a similar mindset who are prepared to enter a “maybe”. How else can one explain a 50 per cent rise in emotional abuse cases in ten years? How many of those cases are utterly marginal?

Next, imagine that the rise in these cases had left social workers even more overstretched. They would have less time to monitor children at home and to keep families together. They would also have less time for the hard-core cases. No system can ever protect every child. But the toddler on Haringey’s at-risk register who was found dead last week with fractured ribs, a broken back and two missing fingernails was surely more deserving of removal than those at risk of low self-esteem.

So many cases are gut-wrenchingly complex. We need social workers to be properly accountable. We need the family courts to be open. Mrs Brookes is clearly not perfect, but she deserves to have clear grounds for the removal of her child. Right now, it looks as though around 6,000 people stand accused of abuse, or potential abuse, that no lawyer can even define. That is an appalling vista that we must not continue to hide from public view

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why pay $250 for being innocent of any crime?

Post below taken from Riehl World. See the original for links

I blogged on this back in July when it first made some news:

Messrs Mashburn and Cornelison are pupils at Patton Middle School. They were arrested in February after being observed in the vestibule, swatting girls on the butt. Butt-swatting had apparently become a form of greeting at the school - like "a handshake we do," as one female student put it. On "Slap Butt Fridays," boys and girls would hail each other with a cheery application of manual friction to the posterior, akin to a Masonic greeting.

The charges have been dropped, but not without a caveat. I don't quite understand why, if the girls asked for the charges to be dropped, they were each due $250? If they were violated in some way, there should be charges. If they were not, there shouldn't be. But simply putting a price on it? Was this a vocational school by any chance? ; )

The News-Register newspaper of McMinnville reported that a "civil compromise" reached by prosecutors and the defense called for both boys to apologize, to pay each of the four girls $250 and to complete a "boundaries education" program.

Four girls listed as victims by the prosecutors had asked the judge to drop the charges against Cory Mashburn and Ryan Cornelison. Yamhill County Judge John Collins did so on Monday, saying it was in the "interest of justice."

A number of young girls were in the courtroom during the hearing. They included at least some of the four who asked that the charges be dropped, attorneys said. During the brief hearing, the two boys faced the girls and apologized. "I never intended to hurt you in any way," Mashburn said. Cornelison told the girls: "I hope we can still be friends."

They were originally charged with felony and misdemeanor sex abuse charges in February. Amid growing public opposition to sending the boys to prison and putting them on a sex offenders' registry, prosecutors dropped the felony sex abuse charges and added misdemeanor harassment charges, then later dropped all sex abuse charges, leaving only the harassment counts.

The judge dismissed the final charges following negotiations between prosecutors and the defense, and discussions with the four girls about whether they wanted the case dismissed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Drug warrior crimes kill, incarcerate innocent

Late last month, the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the death of the Kathryn Johnston, the 92-year-old Atlanta woman killed by police during a November 2006 drug raid on her home. Johnston died when she mistook a team of narcotics officers for criminal intruders. When the police broke down her door, she met them with an old pistol. They opened fire, and killed her.

A subsequent investigation revealed that the entire chain of events up to and shortly after Johnston's death were beset with lies, planted evidence, and cover-up on the part of the narcotics cops. They fabricated an imaginary informant to get the search warrant for Ms. Johnston's home. They planted evidence on a convicted felon, arrested him, then let him off in exchange for his tip-which he made up from whole cloth-that they'd find drugs in Ms. Johnston's house.

When they realized their mistake, they then tried to portray an innocent old woman as a drug dealer. They planted marijuana in Ms. Johnston's basement while she lay handcuffed and bleeding on the floor. More investigation revealed that this kind of behavior wasn't aberrant, but common among narcotics officers in the Atlanta Police Department. Police Chief Richard Pennington eventually dismissed or reassigned the entire narcotics division of the APD.

What came out at the hearings investigating Kathryn Johnston's death was even more disturbing. In one eye-popping exchange, two congressmen-one Democrat and one Republican-confronted Wayne Murphy, the assistant director of the FBI Directorate of Intelligence about the way the FBI uses drug informants. Rep. Dan Lundgren, R-Calif., and Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., told Murphy they were troubled by reports that the FBI had looked the other way while some of its drug informants participated in violent crimes, and that the agency then failed to notify local authorities, leaving many of those crimes unsolved. Lundgren and Delahunt said they were also troubled by reports that in order to protect the identity of its informants, the FBI had withheld exculpatory evidence from criminal trials, resulting in innocent people going to prison.

This is worth repeating. The FBI has determined that in some cases, it's better to let innocent people be assaulted, murdered, or wrongly sent to prison than to halt a drug investigation involving one of its confidential informants.

Could Murphy assure the U.S. Congress, Delahunt and Lundgren asked, that the FBI has since instituted policies to ensure that kind of thing never happens again? Murphy hemmed and hawed, but ultimately said that he could not make any such assurance. That in itself should have been huge news.

Shortly after the Johnston hearings concluded, another informant scandal emerged. Jarrell Bray, a longtime informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration's Cleveland field office, admitted that with the cooperation of DEA agent Lee Lucas, he had repeatedly lied in court to secure the convictions of innocent people. Bray said he and Lucas fabricated evidence, falsely accused people who had done nothing wrong, then concocted bogus testimony to secure their convictions. Bray's admission could result in dozens of overturned convictions.

There's nothing new about any of this. The problems with the use and abuse of drug informants have been known for years. Policymakers have just decided it's more important to keep up a brave front in the drug war than admit to the shortcomings. Bogus testimony from drug informants has led to wrongful arrest and/or incarceration of innocent people in Dallas, Texas; Hearne, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; and Church Point, La.; to list just a handful of the more egregious examples.

In fact, more than 12 years ago, the National Law Journal ran a three-part series on the issue of drug informants. The magazine reviewed more than a thousand search warrants in four cities. It found widespread abuse with respect to the use of informants, and issued an urgent warning that "there is little or no oversight of the informant system," and that as a result, "the nation's system of justice is in danger." Not much has changed.

The article was spurred by the case of Donald Carlson, a San Diego businessman who was nearly killed in 1992 after an informant's faulty tip led police to raid his home. Like Kathryn Johnston, Carlson thought the police were criminal intruders, and fired at them in defense of his home as they broke down his door. He was shot several times in the back, and spent six weeks in intensive care. As in Atlanta, a subsequent investigation revealed severe deficiencies in the use of informants for drug crimes. The informant in Carlson's case was later convicted on 25 counts of lying to federal law enforcement officials.

In fact, Johnston and Carlson aren't the only ones. Bad informants have led to mistaken drug raids all over the country. Many of these raids have resulted in the deaths of innocent people, including Harlem's Alberta Spruill, Denver's Ismael Mena, Houston's Pedro Navarro, and Albuquerque's Ralph Garrison.

Dave Doddridge is a 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and a former narcotics officer. He's now a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of current and former cops who have come out against the drug war. Doddridge says what happened in Atlanta isn't at all uncommon, and shouldn't be mistaken for a few rogue police officers acting out of line. "There's tremendous pressure to 'climb the ladder' after you make a drug bust," he says, referring to the practice of getting one drug offender to give up information on his suppliers and superiors. "You want to get up that ladder before word hits the street, and the guys you're after know that you're on to them. That leads to the temptation to take shortcuts," he says. "What happened in Atlanta goes on all over the country."

These sorts of police tactics would be morally dubious if they were being used to fight terrorism, or to ensure national security. But they grow more absurd-and more intolerable-when you consider the ultimate end, here. None of this deception, corruption, and abuse is being employed to catch sleeper Al-Qaeda cells, or to catch murderers or serial killers or pedophiles. It's being used to stop people from getting high.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Australia: Only the worst get chance at DNA acquittal

AUSTRALIA'S only DNA evidence review body has begun taking applications from convicts seeking to prove their innocence, but only the worst of the worst can apply. The NSW DNA Review Panel, launched quietly in June, has received at least three applications from notorious criminals. Two applicants, whose identities have not been divulged, have had their forms sent back because of insufficient information. The third is Wayne "Shorty" Jamieson, who was convicted of the 1988 rape and murder of Janine Balding, 20. His 2003 application for DNA testing caused such an uproar that the panel's predecessor, the Innocence Panel, was abandoned in 2003.

While DNA technology has existed for 20 years and has helped convict thousands of criminals, Australia has been reluctant to use it to free the innocent. The 2001 quashing of Queensland man Frank Button's conviction for rape remains the only acquittal based on fresh DNA evidence.

While the new review panel may begin to redress the balance, its critics say it will be limited by its narrow guidelines. Only prisoners serving sentences of more than 20 years can apply, a rule described as irrational by the NSW Bar Association. Mr Button would have been ineligible because he was serving just seven years. Those who have completed their sentence will also not be able to apply.

The NSW Bar Association said the DNA Review Panel's powers were insufficient. "It's a toothless tiger," association president Michael Slattery QC said. "It doesn't have inherent powers to investigate whether biological materials exist. It doesn't have real teeth to find biological material and make sure it's preserved, which should be an important part of its function."

An inquiry into the previous Innocence Panel found that police continued to destroy evidence despite a commissioner's instruction that biological material be kept. Of the 13 prisoners who tried to have DNA exhibits tested via that panel, DNA exhibits were found for only one prisoner -- Jamieson. Jamieson was the only one of a gang of street kids convicted of anally raping Janine Balding. But when her rectal swabs were tested in 2003, the semen of two other unnamed males was found, not Jamieson's, and not that of another man, also known as "Shorty", who has been nominated by Balding's other killers as their actual accomplice.

When news broke that another exhibit was being sent to Britain for testing, Balding's mother reacted angrily and the Innocence Panel was shut down by then police minister John Watkins, who said: "The Balding family has simply suffered long enough. I can't stand by and let other families suffer this too."

Victims' rights representative on the DNA Review Panel, Howard Brown, said it was not a matter of the victims controlling the process, but being protected and notified. "If you have lived your life for 20 years in the belief that a particular person has killed and raped your daughter and someone decides that for the last 20 years you've been living under a misapprehension and we're going to start a process -- without telling you anything about it -- that might see that person released, as far as we are concerned, that victim has a right to know that that process is commencing." Speaking before any applications had been received, Mr Brown said the public had to expect the worst offenders, such as backpacker killer Ivan Milat, to apply. Milat claims DNA evidence would clear him. Testing of semen taken from one of his victims was botched and no reading was made.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Police negligence imprisons the wrong man in Australia

POLICE working on the Leanne Holland murder case in 1991 ignored a vital lead: a blood-stained man acting strangely not far from where her body was dumped. The person who saw the man was never interviewed, and no attempt was made to find him. A note on the crime investigation log two days later said the information was "no longer relevant", as Graham Stafford had been arrested for the schoolgirl's murder.

Stafford was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the brutal sex slaying of his then-girlfriend's 12-year-old sister at Goodna in Ipswich. Police zeroed in on Stafford almost from Day One of the investigation because they believed he was the last person to see her alive. But other suspects have since emerged. Stafford, now 44, strenuously denied murdering Leanne. He was released from jail last year, four months short of the minimum 15-year term he was supposed to serve.

His legal team is about to present a petition containing new evidence to Queensland Governor Quentin Bryce seeking a pardon. Stafford's battle to clear his name will feature in two episodes of the ABC's Australian Story, starting tomorrow night. A new Sunday Mail examination of the 1991 police crime investigation log reveals what might have been a key clue to the murder mystery, which was inexplicably dismissed.

Leanne's battered body was dumped in bushland off busy Redbank Plains Rd on the morning of September 25, 1991. Police received information from an Ipswich computer store worker, who said that between 2pm and 3pm that day a man came into the shop and asked for $15. "He is said to have bloodstains on his hands and on his trousers and acted in a peculiar manner," the crime investigation log said. A detective sergeant directed that the witness be interviewed and a statement taken in relation to the incident. But that never happened. A log entry on September 28 dismissed the lead. Stafford, who had lived in the Holland family home, was arrested that day and charged with murder.

The spot where Leanne's body was found was about halfway between her home and the store where the blood-covered man was seen. Earlier investigations by The Sunday Mail and former Queensland policeman-turned-private eye Graeme Crowley, who wrote the 2005 book Who Killed Leanne?, found other leads that were ignored by police. These included sightings of Leanne alive the day after police claimed Stafford murdered her, and a vehicle other than Stafford's near where the body was dumped. Australian Story producer Caitlin Shea said Mr Crowley was among their interviewees.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A handy loophole for corruption in California

The Sacramento County district attorney said Thursday that a California Highway Patrol lieutenant who steered no-bid state contracts to a company owned by his daughter and son-in-law won't face criminal conflict-of-interest charges because he did not financially benefit.

District Attorney Jan Scully announced the decision not to file criminal charges against Lt. Gregory Williams of Rancho Cordova in an afternoon statement. In a five-page letter to Assistant CHP Chief Fritz Eberly of the CHP's Office of Internal Affairs, Scully wrote: "After a careful examination of all facts and applying the applicable law, we have concluded there is no reasonable likelihood of successfully prosecuting Lt. Gregory Williams for criminal misconduct." The evidence does not show that Lt. Williams had any prohibited financial interest in any of the contracts at issue," Scully added.

The decision, which comes after the District Attorney's Office spent months reviewing the findings of a CHP criminal probe launched last November, overturned the Highway Patrol's recommendation that criminal charges be filed against Williams for conflict of interest.

Scully said California criminal conflict-of-interest laws prohibit a government employee from influencing any state contract in which the employee has a "financial interest." The statute includes spouses and children, but only if they are financial dependents. It does not include the financial interest of "an independent, adult child." Williams' adult daughter, Krystal Miner, no longer lives at home, the district attorney found. She has long denied any wrongdoing on the part of herself or her father.

Messages left with Williams' Sacramento attorney, Christopher Wing, were not returned. Williams was put on administrative leave by the CHP in late November.

Fran Clader, a CHP spokeswoman, thanked Scully's office for reviewing the case. Clader said the CHP's own internal administrative investigation into Williams' conduct continues and that Williams remains on paid administrative leave. Asked when the internal probe would be finished, Clader replied: "When it's completed." Clader would not say whether e-mails deleted from Williams' CHP computer -- a discovery officers made after the criminal probe began -- were ever recovered.

The CHP started scrutinizing Williams last fall after The Bee raised questions about his role in awarding $600,000 in CHP deals to purchase license plate scanning systems. One deal for more than $101,116 was awarded to Miner Fabricating, which acted as a California distributor for the maker of the systems, PIPS Technology Inc. of Nashville. A second $500,000 deal awarded directly to PIPS, which also bought metal brackets from Miner Fabricating to mount the scan system cameras on CHP cars, was subsequently canceled by state officials. PIPS Technology has since been sold to a new owner.

Scully said the CHP probe found no evidence that Williams had any ownership or business interest in Miner Fabricating or that he received income from Miner Fabricating or any other company involved with the license plate scanning program. Miner is operated by his daughter and son-in-law. "Under these facts, there is no criminal violation," Scully wrote, noting that she reviewed only the criminal aspects of the case, not any potential violations of state or CHP regulations or procedures.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Australia: Being innocent can still cost you heaps

Queensland's Chief Justice has outlined new plans to overhaul the system of awarding costs in court matters. Justice Paul De Jersey told delegates at the central Queensland law conference in Yeppoon that it has been a long-running problem. He says the changes will streamline the process.

"The practice of the court has become undesirable," he said. "A very restrictive approach is taken to the assessment of costs and in the end result, the winning party who should have a full recovery or an almost full recovery of costs is out of pocket."

The Australian Council for Civil Liberties (ACCL) has backed the plans. ACCL president Terry O'Gorman says it is a serious problem because many people have to mortgage their homes to defend themselves. "Di Fingleton, the Chief Magistrate who was a very serious example of a miscarriage of justice, she in fact was recompensed, where as in fact Pauline Hanson, who is also regarded as a serious example of a miscarriage of justice, is still financially out of pocket," he said. He says in most other states, if a person is found not guilty after a criminal trial, the judge has the discretion to award them full recovery of costs. "In Queensland, even if a finding is made that you have been wrongly charged, many people have to mortgage their house in order to defend themselves," he said. "The Chief Justice's comments are timely, but we would like to see them taken further so that people who are found not guilty after a judge and jury trial can get their costs."

The Queensland Law Society (QLS) also welcomes the plans, and says an overhaul of the system is long overdue. Spokesman Sean Reidy from the QLS says he would support the review. "The rights for people who are successful in criminal matters are almost non-existent," he said. "They can be acquitted, exonerated and have suffered an unfair trial and be on the edge of economic ruin. "The system is long overdue for a major overhaul so that some fairness and equity for winning parties can be brought back to the system."

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

California Needs Eyewitness Identification Reform

And it's not only California. I reported on the Atkins case on May 2nd.

Herman Atkins suffered for 12 years in a California prison - for crimes he did not commit. Then DNA exonerated him. Mr. Atkins was a victim of faulty eyewitness identification.

Mr. Atkins' wrongful conviction for rape and robbery began when the victim and a witness identified him as the perpetrator after seeing his picture on a wanted poster for an unrelated crime. Then, the photo array used later by police also contained the wanted poster photo, which had already been viewed by the witnesses.

What happened to Mr. Atkins is not as uncommon as it should be. Eyewitness identification is notably unreliable. According to a detailed 2004 analysis of California wrongful convictions by San Francisco Magazine, faulty eyewitness identification was a factor in 60% of the 200 cases of people proven to have been wrongly convicted in the state since 1989. Indeed, study after study has shown that faulty eyewitness identification is one of the most common causes of wrongful convictions. Faulty eyewitness identification played a pivotal role in 75% of the cases nationwide where DNA later exonerated the person convicted. We now know through decades of empirical research that practical changes to identification procedures such as:

* cautionary instructions to witnesses,

* effective use of fillers,

* full documentation of the lineup procedures and a witness's statement of certainty,

* and double-blind administration

can significantly improve the accuracy of eyewitness identifications. (Please visit The Justice Project's web site: here for more details of eyewitness identification reforms.) In California, however, only the Santa Clara Sheriff and Police departments have voluntarily adopted these best practices.

The good news is that Senate Bill 756, sponsored by Senator Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles, Culver City), addresses the development of new guidelines for statewide eyewitness identification procedures. The bill has already passed the State Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committee, and it will soon be heading to the Assembly Floor for a final vote. An earlier version of an eyewitness reform bill was taken up in the legislature last year, but it was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. If this new eyewitness reform bill passes the Assembly, the Governor will soon have an opportunity to sign into law this important reform.

It is also important to note that in addition to improving eyewitness identification, videotaping custodial interrogations and corroborating jailhouse informant testimony have been shown to help prevent wrongful convictions. Senate Bill 511, sponsored by Senator Elaine K. Alquist (D-Santa Clara), would require full electronic recording of interrogations in both juvenile and adult cases and Senate Bill 609, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), would require corroboration for jailhouse informants.

Given the documented cases of miscarriages of justice in California - and the research indicating that many of the errors leading to wrongful convictions can be prevented - we hope that Legislators will support these three essential bills, and that the Governor will ultimately sign them into law. Lawmakers have a duty, not only to the public safety, but also to the wrongly convicted like Herman Atkins, to take the necessary steps to ensure that the state's criminal justice system is as fair and accurate as possible.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Protecting negligent officials comes first in Britain

A series of blunders that led to a convicted knifeman killing a Cornish cleaning lady will remain secret to protect the identity of the probation officer who failed to ensure that he was properly supervised, officials have ruled. Gary Chester-Nash had more than 30 convictions, several for offences involving knives, when he stabbed 59-year-old Jean Bowditch to death at the Cornish seaside bungalow that she was cleaning. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of 30 years.

During his trial last year it emerged that Chester-Nash, 28, should have been subject to stringent supervision after his release from prison for a previous offence. But instead of returning to the bail hostel in East London where he was supposed to be living, he travelled to Cornwall where he killed Mrs Bowditch during a bungled break-in within a week of his release. Although he was under one of the highest levels of supervision by a multi-agency public protection arrangement (Mappa) under the London Probation Service, the Metropolitan Police Service and the Prison Service, no attempt was made to find him, and police forces were not alerted to look out for him, even though he was considered a high-risk offender.

Mrs Bowditch’s family said that they were disgusted that a report into the failure of Chester-Nash’s supervision is being kept secret. In a response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act, a Home Office official said that it was important to protect “Mr Chester-Nash’s personal data”. Information policy officer Jill Naylor said that the probation officials involved also needed protection. She said: “Given the high profile and extremely serious nature of this case, the individuals concerned would be subjected to unwarranted and unwanted media attention. This may result in them being unable to conduct their day-to-day work and they may also suffer unwarranted disruption to their private lives. “As well as protecting the personal information of officials, Mr Chester-Nash’s personal data, where it is not in the public domain through official channels, must also be safeguarded.”

Stephen Peattie, who is the partner of Mrs Bowditch’s daughter Angela, said yesterday: “We waited nine months just to get that. All we want is someone to stand up, admit responsibility, and apologise. Instead, they hide behind the Data Protection Act. “It is unbelievable that the privacy of Chester-Nash and the probation officer who was responsible for this whole mess is put above us getting justice for Jean.”

Chester-Nash was considered such a threat to the public that he was subject to one of the most stringent ASBOs imposed, which banned him from all licensed premises in England. He was also banned from carrying any weapon and from seeking employment that would bring him into contact with young women. He had been the prime suspect in a series of stabbings in Cambridge but although his picture was posted on warning notices and he was banned from entering any college or educational establishment he was never charged through lack of evidence. He subsequently served a series of short sentences for burglary and possession of offensive weapons before moving to East London.

Mrs Bowditch’s husband Michael, a 65-year-old retired milkman from St Ives, described the decision to keep the report secret as pathetic. The widower said: “It is just cover-up after cover-up. People don’t do their job and they get away with it. “They feel they have to protect the prisoner’s human rights all the time. The victims are just not considered and are not important. “Somebody, somewhere has not done their job but they will keep their job and their pension and their sick pay and all their perks while the victims are just fobbed off.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said last night: “The London Mappa strategic management board carried out an internal review of the handling in this case and developed a series of recommendations as a result.” The spokesman added: “Mappa reviews scrutinise its risk-assessment, risk-management, and offender-management procedures. “The integrity and rigour of the scrutiny would be prejudiced and seriously undermined by routinely placing reviews which contain high levels of operational detail in the public domain. Where there are lessons for the management of future cases, they are highlighted and implemented by Mappa partners. “Public protection is our top priority. It is vital that we have the best possible systems in place to manage offenders effectively.” There was also a separate serious further offence review carried out by the London Probation Service.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Australia: Pedophile rights trump the safety of children

THOUSANDS of pedophiles living in Queensland have been promised their whereabouts will be kept a secret. The State Government has refused to reveal any details about the whereabouts of 1878 pedophiles living under release conditions which force them to regularly report to police. Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson further refused to even reveal in which prison a further 558 offenders are being held pending release.

The decision comes after The Courier-Mail was told by a highly-placed source of concerns that pedophiles were developing networks after their release from jail. The Townsville region has been highlighted as an area of concern, with a relatively high number of reportable offenders in the area.

Commissioner Atkinson said personal details about reportable sex offenders were restricted. "Careful consideration was given to the decision not to release statistics on pedophiles on a town-by-town basis in Queensland," Mr Atkinson said. "Issues such as potential vigilante activity and a balance between the prevention of public fear versus actual risk . . . were considered. "In addition, it is understood that publicity can drive pedophiles into hiding, reducing reporting compliance rates and making it more difficult for police to monitor their activities," Mr Atkinson said. "The decision (not to release the information) was based on legislative requirements . . . which states that the release of personal information is to be restricted to the greatest extent possible, and on public interest."

Sex offenders are listed on the Queensland Child Offender Register and have to report regularly to police. Under the Child Protection (Offender Reporting) Act 2004, only the Police Commissioner can release information about reportable sex offenders. The Courier-Mail did not ask for the names of the offenders or their street addresses.

The matter came after a manhunt was sparked last month for serial rapist Robert Fardon, who failed to meet with his Brisbane parole officer. Fardon, 54, who had served a 14-year-jail sentence in Townsville Correctional Centre for rape, sodomy and assault on a woman in 1988, was caught hours later outside Ayr in north Queensland.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission has previously raised concerns about the emergence of pedophile networks. CMC intelligence director Chris Keen had previously said pedophiles, especially those who use the internet, are maintaining contact with other known offenders after leaving prison. "They are certainly forming associations (within jail and in the community) and that is a point of concern," Mr Keen said. "There's a concern that they can learn and provide support to each other, as far as moral support." Offenders on the police database have committed sexual or serious offences against children.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Australia: Fruity cyclist kills man -- fined only

A Hell Ride cyclist who ignored a red light and killed an elderly pedestrian has been fined what a magistrate labelled a "pathetic" $400. William Raisin-Shaw [above] pleaded guilty to failing to stop at a traffic signal, fatally striking 77-year-old James Gould as he crossed Beach Rd, Mentone, last August.

Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg criticised the law that limited the penalty he could impose. Road safety campaigners have pledged to lobby for tougher sanctions for rogue cyclists. Mr Rozencwajg said intermediate legislation should be considered. "This situation really highlights the incongruous state of the law, because there are such severe consequences of your riding on this particular day -- namely, the loss of the life of James Gould," Mr Rozencwajg said in Melbourne Magistrates' Court. "I'm now going to impose what everybody would consider a pathetic fine of $400. "It has got to be made clear it is not an offence involving injury or the death of an individual."

The maximum fine for failing to stop at a traffic signal is $550. Mr Gould's friend, Ivan Lomasney, said he was offended his mate's life was worth only a few hundred dollars. "He got the penalty under the law, which is something. But the law is inadequate," he said. "That man has to live with what is on his conscience."

An inquest on Mr Gould last month condemned the "high-risk" behaviour of the Hell Ride cyclists. The CEO of the Pedestrian Council of Victoria, Harold Scruby, said it would make an urgent formal submission to Premier John Brumby. "It's a scandal," he said. "The legislators have shown utter contempt for the rights of the most vulnerable road user -- pedestrians. "With an ageing population, we demand legislation which gives us protection at traffic lights."

Chairman of the Amy Gillett Foundation Duncan Murray said it was inappropriate that motorists faced different criminal consequences than cyclists. "If cyclists want the same rights, they should face the same consequences," he said. The Amy Gillett Foundation, in memory of the Commonwealth Games track rider killed two years ago, promotes harmony between cyclists and other road users.

Mr Raisin-Shaw was one of about 100 cyclists on the high-speed Hell Ride through the bayside suburbs on August 26. Defence lawyer Michael Sharpley told the court his client was in the middle of a pack, and riders behind him yelled "rolling, rolling" to indicate they were running the red light. "One must not underestimate group dynamics and group pressure," Mr Sharpley said.

Prosecutor Sen-Constable Amber-Lea Brown told the court the traffic lights were clearly visible, and the walk signal had been green for three or four seconds. She said he had told police: "I couldn't stop safely in time." Mr Gould died in the Alfred hospital the next day. State Coroner Graeme Johnstone found Mr Gould's death was "unnecessary and preventable", and that bunching cycle riders were a catastrophe in waiting. He did not single out Mr Raisin-Shaw as responsible for Mr Gould's death.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kenny Richey to be freed at last?

See my post of July 12, 2005 for more background

A Scottish man who has spent more than two decades on death row in the United States could walk free within weeks after a US court reaffirmed its decision to overturn his death sentence. Kenny Richey, 42, was condemned to death in 1987 for the aggravated murder of a two-year-old girl who died in a fire that he was accused of starting to exact revenge on a former girlfriend. The case attracted attention from the late Pope John Paul II and a former Archbishop of Canterbury and has been taken up by Amnesty International.

Richey, who is being held at the maximum-security Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio, was told that the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit had ordered that he should be retried or released within 90 days. “I spoke to Kenny this morning. He was very excited and happy to hear this news. It’s something we have been waiting to hear for some time now,” Daryl Wiesen, his Boston-based lawyer, said. “He wanted to speak to his family. He was in a very good mood.” His former fiancĂ©e, who remarried her former husband last year but continued to campaign for Richey, said that she was delighted that his ordeal was nearly over. “I think that this is it now,” Karen Torley said, from her home in Glasgow. “Obviously we are not at the finish line yet. They have to make a decision to retry or release him in 90 days, and the state will appeal. I would hope that they will not drag out endless appeals for more months. This has gone on for over 21 years now and enough is enough.”

The Court of Appeals reaffirmed its previous ruling of January 2005 — later set aside by the Supreme Court — that Richey had received an inadequate legal defence. “There can be little doubt that Richey was prejudiced by his counsel’s deficient performance,” the court held. “There is a reasonable probability that had his counsel mounted the available defence that the fire was caused by an accident, and was not the result of arson at all, the outcome of either the guilt or the penalty phase would have been different.”

The ruling means that the Attorney-General in Ohio must decide whether to appeal once again to the Supreme Court. The local prosecutor in Putnam County must decide whether to retry Richey or to drop the case. “I would hope all these people would realise that holding someone wrongly on death row for 21 years is enough and they would decide not to appeal or retry,” Mr Wiesen said.

If officials take no further action against Richey, he could be free within weeks. The Court of Appeals decision would become effective in ten days and would then be ratified formally by the trial court. Richey’s backers expect a new appeal and possibly a retrial. If the prosecutor for Putnam County decides to retry Richey, his lawyers will ask for him to be released on bail.

John Watson, director of Amnesty International Scotland, said: “This is fantastic news and represents the opportunity that Kenny has long fought for — the chance to clear his name in a proper trial. Nobody should be sent to the living hell of death row but Kenny Richey’s 20-year ordeal came after a flawed trial and serious concerns about the Ohio justice system.”

Originally from Edinburgh, Richey has an American father and moved to the US at the age of 18, becoming a Marine. He was arrested aged 21 after Cynthia Collins, whom he had offered to babysit, died in a fire at New Farm Village Apartments in Columbus Grove, Ohio, in the early hours of June 30, 1986. Prosecutors said that Richey had been smoking marijuana and drinking and had started the fire to gain revenge on his former lover, Candy Barchet, who was with another man in the flat below.

The prosecution claimed that Richey stole petrol and paint thinner from a greenhouse and poured them in the living room and patio before igniting them. The Court of Appeals found that his lawyer did not properly represent him by failing to argue that the fire was an accident, as Richey insists.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Framed man appeals for clemency

A British businessman who has spent more than 20 years in a US prison for a double murder he claims he did not commit has begun his final effort to be granted clemency. Krishna Maharaj has always protested his innocence over the shooting of Derrick Moo Young, a Jamaican drug trafficker, and his son, Duane, prompted by an alleged debt in 1986.

Originally sentenced to death, the former millionaire now faces a 53-year prison sentence after exhausting his appeals. His lawyer said a meeting with Florida Clemency Board in Indiantown had been "positive".

Report here

Some background:

Krishna Maharaj, from London, has spent two decades in a Florida jail for a double-murder - despite a wealth of evidence to suggest that he is innocent and did not receive a fair trial. So compelling is the case for his innocence that Krishna is supported by nearly 300 British politicians, and some of the leading lawyers in the UK.

Seven Key facts that point to Krishna's innocence:

Alibi witnesses never called: Krishna has six alibi witnesses that can testify that at the time of the killings in a Miami hotel room he was 30 miles away in Fort Lauderdale having a business meeting with associates followed by lunch. Amazingly, none of these witnesses was called to give evidence at Krishna's trial. Why? It seems an astounding oversight by Krishna's young defence lawyer who was out of his depth handling a capital case. An investigator working for the defence claims that Krishna's lawyer was threatened just before the trial - at which he called none of the witnesses. All six alibi witnesses were willing to testify.

The victims' true dealings in drugs: The Moo Youngs, who were found shot dead in the hotel room, were portrayed in court as an honest, retired businessman and his son. Derrick Moo Young, the father, was shown as having a $20,000 dollar annual income. What the jury never heard about was that he and his son had just taken out $1million life insurance policies - and documents in their briefcase mentioned loans of up to $5 million. It seems that the Moo Youngs were not as innocent as presented in court. A manager from the leading accountancy firm Ernst & Young, who examined their documents, concluded the Moo Youngs were either selling drugs or planning to launder money. They were really killed, in all probability, for trying to cheat Columbian drugs cartels from money.

Judge arrested for bribery: Three days into Krishna's trial the judge, Howard Gross, was arrested on bribery charges (in relation to another case) and subsequently debarred. Quite incomprehensibly, Krishna's lawyer did not demand a new trial. Krishna claims that the same judge tried to solicit a $50,000 bribe from him before his trial got underway - via an Assistant State Attorney sent to see him in jail (whose visit to Krishna is noted in the records). Miami Dade County was awash with corruption in the late 1980s: Operation Court Broom caught four other judges taking bribes.

Prosecution witness failed lie detector & changed story: Neville Butler, the prosecution's only eyewitness who claimed to have seen Krishna commit murder, failed part of his lie detector test - and then went on to change his version of the events about who booked the hotel room. By contrast, Krishna passed his polygraph with flying colours and has never deviated from his original account. (The lie detector results were not admissible in court). Neville Butler was also seen right after the murders in the back of a car in Miami. He had blood on his own shirt - and looking like he has been in a scuffle himself. What's more, he told those with him in the car that: "They went crazy and started shooting." This implies there was more than one killer - in direct contradiction to his evidence in court that Krishna acted alone. In the hours after the murder he never even mentioned Krishna's name to those he was with, and was also told by another man present to "get his story straight" before calling the police.

Key witness kept from jail by prosecutors: The other most damning witness against Krishna was Tino Geddes, a Jamaican journalist, who was originally an alibi for Krishna - but on the eve on the trial turned into a prosecution witness saying that he'd been planning the murders. What explains this sudden damning volte face? The BBC has learned that Tino Geddes was facing serious charges for bringing ammunition from Jamaica into the US. The prosecutors in the Krishna case flew to Jamaica and testified for Tino Geddes - and helped him beat the rap. They also helped him with a drink-driving charge and, astonishingly, went to a lap-dancing bar with their star witness. Naturally, the jury in Krishna's case knew nothing of the prosecutors keeping the witness from jail, or fraternizing with him. As late as 1997, one of Krishna's six alibis testified that he had seen Tino Geddes with Krishna in Fort Lauderdale at the time of the murders: the very account Tino Geddes had given before his sudden change of story.

Questions about a man who could be the real murderer: There is one man who has never been questioned by police despite an extraordinary set of allegations against him: he is Trinidadian businessman Adam Hosein. Hosein looks like Krishna - to the point where he used to pass himself off as Krishna to get into horse races in England. At the time of the murders in Adam Hosein used to run a garage in Miami. One of his former employees at the time has come forward with some explosive allegations. He told the BBC that on the day of the murders Adam Hosein was seen heading to the Du Pont Plaza hotel - where the murders happened - and that a gun and silencer were missing from his draw (but returned the next day). What's more, that evening Adam Hosein told his colleague that he had "eliminated two people he owed a lot of money too" and come into some money and drugs. The man claims that Hosein had owed the Moo Youngs - the victims - a significant amount of money for drugs. These are astonishing claims - made recently on BBC TV, but never heard in a court. It is also significant that there is a note in the police file from the time of the murders showing that Adam Hosein had called the Moo Youngs room on the day of the murders: key evidence which was kept from the defence team. Adam Hosein's brothers were jailed in 1970 for one of England's most gruesome murders - the kidnap of killing of the wife of the News International chairman, whose body was reportedly fed to the pigs.

Krishna's motive to kill doesn't add up: The true reason for the Moo Young's murders no doubt lies in their drugs or money laundering activities - especially, as it appeared to the Ernst & Young accountant, they were planning to skim-off some of the money for themselves. Krishna's motive, as put by the prosecution, fails to make sense. Why would he murder someone who owed him money - and at a time when he was on the verge of winning a lawsuit against them to recoup the money? The prosecution case also assumes Krishna took a stranger, Neville Butler (who failed the lie detector test), to be an eyewitness to a premeditated murder. But Krishna would be an ideal person to frame: he'd had a public falling out with the Moo Youngs, could be lured to the Du Pont Plaza to leave his fingerprints there, and looked very similar to the man who may have been the real murderer.

More here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

British police very relaxed about convicted pedophile cop

A police force is continuing to pay a former child protection officer's 35,000 pound salary despite his conviction for serious paedophile offences, The Times has learnt. DC Peter Cooper, 58, was found guilty last month of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy but remains suspended on full pay pending a police disciplinary tribunal. West Midlands Police will not reveal when its misconduct panel will meet to hear the case, which is expected to result in the officer's dismissal from the force. It may not take place until after Cooper has been sentenced at Stafford Crown Court this month. Judge Simon Tonking has already warned the policeman that he could face a significant custodial sentence.

Cooper has been a West Midlands officer for 32 years and was assigned to the Family Protection Unit, investigating child abuse cases, between 2002 and 2005. He was attached to the unit when the allegations against him were made in 2005. But a spokesman for the force said that it did not plan to review cases in which Cooper had been involved during that period, nor to alert families with which he may have had contact.

The offences of which the officer has been convicted relate to his position as a senior instructor in an Army Cadet Corps in the Midlands between 1983 and 1986. They surfaced two years ago when a former cadet who had been abused by Cooper in the 1980s came face-to-face with him again. Two other former cadets also gave evidence against Cooper at his trial last month. The three spoke of a culture of sexual abuse in the cadet corps involving a number of volunteer instructors, who held officer rank. The principal witness said: "The cadets had been brainwashed into thinking it [indecent assault] was normal."

The witness, now in his thirties, told the court that he had gone to the police with the allegations because he reached a point in his life where he could no longer keep it buried. He said: "When sexual abuse happens your trust is shattered and you worry whether people will believe you."

The jury found Cooper guilty of buggery and indecent assault against the main witness. But it failed to reach verdicts on five counts involving the other complainants. Investigators believe, however, that there may have been an organised paedophile ring at work within the cadet corps and that there are more abuse victims who have not yet come forward. Cooper was a soldier in the Royal Corps of Signals, serving in Northern Ireland among other places, before leaving in 1973 and joining West Midlands Police. He volunteered as a cadet instructor, rising to the rank of major. In 1987 Cooper married and, four years later, left the cadet corps to spend more time with his family.

During Cooper's police career he spent periods as a firearms officer and in the regional crime squad before joining the Family Protection Unit. Police colleagues who appeared as character witnesses described him as a man who rarely became flustered and said that he was regarded as one of the best in the unit at interviewing suspects.

Cooper denied the charges and his lawyers asserted at his trial that the complainants had colluded to make make false allegations. Rachel Brand, for the prosecution, told the jury during the trial in July that Cooper was quietly-spoken with a diffident manner but the kind of man that others looked up to. She said that one witness referred to him as a "James Bond figure". But she said neither the passage of time nor his service in the West Midlands force absolved Cooper of responsibility for a "gross breach of trust". She said: "The damage done to these impressionable young men is far-reaching. It causes an emotional turmoil that lasts for many years." Miss Brand added that Cooper was "plausible" and "intelligent" but had lied when he denied the allegations. She said: "Throughout the intervening years he must have thought he had got away with it but the truth, we submit, is out at last."

The force said that it would stop paying Cooper's salary when he received a custodial sentence. It felt that it was unnecessary to review his work as a child protection officer because he spent most of his time interviewing suspects and would not have been alone with vulnerable children. A spokesman said: "When complaints are made against officers we carry out robust, thorough and proportionate investigations to ensure the integrity of the organisation. This investigation has been conducted in that manner resulting in the conviction of Peter Cooper and we are clearly disappointed that this officer has failed to uphold the high standards of West Midlands Police."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said that all army cadet instructors recruited now were subjected to strict vetting and checks by the Criminal Records Bureau.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)