Thursday, April 30, 2009

No compensation for wrongly imprisoned British veteran

There are few things nastier than a British bureaucrat

It would have been a ruling to rock Westminster to its foundations. John Taylor believes MPs should be held to account by the courts. For the first time, MPs would potentially have had a legal duty to properly represent their constituents. There is no telling how many cases might have followed in its wake.

But sadly, for John Taylor, it was not to be. The 84-year-old war veteran claimed his MP, Labour's Ann Keen, had not done enough to help him in his battle for compensation over a wrongful conviction. He told Brentford County Court that Miss Keen had ignored his letters and refused to let him see the representations she said she had made on his behalf to the Ministry of Justice. She claims she did everything she could for him.

District Judge Tim Jenkins ruled that there was no legal basis for Mr Taylor's case to go ahead and overturned a default judgment which found against the MP when she did not attend a previous hearing. Mr Taylor, who was badly wounded while fighting in Holland during the Second World War, has now vowed to seek a judicial review in his ongoing battle for compensation from the Ministry of Justice.

In the early 1960s, he served three years and six months of a five year sentence after finding himself at the centre of a police raid on a flat where officers found a stolen safe. He always insisted that he had only been there by chance, having gone back with a friend after an evening in the pub to sleep off the drink rather than drive home.

In 1998 the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction on the grounds that he had not received a fair trial because he represented himself and evidence that backed his story had not been heard by the jury.

Mr Taylor then embarked on a fruitless quest for compensation for his time behind bars - culminating in an unsuccessful High Court battle with the home secretary.

The anger and sense of injustice the pensioner feels at his wrongful conviction still burns brightly. He has sent more than 300 letters to Miss Keen asking for her help in seeking compensation. He insists he has nothing personal against her, calling her a "stepping stone, who has not stepped", and that his real complaint is with the Ministry of Justice - but he says he is equally determined to expose what he sees as Miss Keen's "incompetence" in not securing him compensation.

Needless to say, the old soldier - immaculately turned out and clutching a pair of manila envelopes containing his notes - chose to represent himself at Wednesday's hearing.

Miss Keen, a junior health minister, was not present. A young man from her office, who was there to watch the proceedings, said she had important business in the Commons and did not, in any case, have to be in court for what was essentially an administrative hearing, not a trial.

Mr Taylor had a different theory. "If she did it would have allowed me to cross-examine her," he said beforehand, with a gleam in his eye. Despite the media attention - it was standing room only in the tiny Court 5 - he gave a measured and calm performance, clearly relishing his day in court. "I believe this is the first case of its kind, where a constituent has taken an MP to court. In that case - if there is no precedent set - then this court should set one," he told District Judge Jenkins. "If this court fails to do that, it is the equivalent of saying an MP, once elected, no matter what they do - they can do nothing, just report in, grab the money and walk off and there is nothing you can do about it until the next general election.

"If a constituent has a grievance they have to wait five years or something to the next election. Well that isn't representation at all." He added: "I would have thought there is some remedy for a constituent who is totally ignored by his MP."

The only remedy is in the "court of public opinion", Ms Keen's solicitor explained to the court. There is no law which says MPs have to represent their constituents properly but even if there was, Miss Keen would not have been in breach of it, she added. The Brentford and Isleworth MP had received an average of a letter a week from Mr Taylor for a number of years, the court was told. Her office had stopped responding to them - beyond sending out a standard acknowledgment slip - in February 2008 due to one member of staff being "overworked" and suffering from ill health, the court was told.

Speaking on the court steps after the hearing, Mr Taylor accused the MP of "incompetence" and of being "in it for herself". He joked that the case was the only thing that has kept him from going senile. But he also could not resist dig at his MP, and the fact that she trained as a nurse in the same hospital he had been treated in during the war. "She might be a very good nurse but if she offered me a tablet for a headache, I wouldn't take one from her," he quipped.

Miss Keen's lawyer, Gerald Shemarsh, who described Mr Taylor as "a nice old boy", offered to show him copies of the representations the MP had made on his behalf. He also handed reporters a statement from Miss Keen, which said: "I am sorry that this court action had to go this far. "As an MP, I deal with huge number of cases each year for my constituents, many of whom have successful outcomes. "Unfortunately, some cases for a variety of reasons for a variety of reasons do not have successful outcomes. "Despite trying my hardest for Mr Taylor for than 10 years since 1997, this was one such case."

Original report here

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ireland: Victim of wrongful conviction in sex case to seek million euro damages

A false and uncorroborated tale by a young girl believed again

A MAN whose conviction for sexually assaulting a young girl has been declared a miscarriage of justice is expected to seek up to 1m euros in compensation from the State. Michael Feichin Hannon (34) said his family had lived with a decade of "stigma" following his wrongful conviction for molesting a 10-year-old. The Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) yesterday declared the conviction a miscarriage of justice after the 'victim' in the case admitted she had made the whole thing up. Una Hardester invented the claims in 1997 because her family was involved in a Connemara land dispute with relatives of Mr Hannon.

Mr Hannon received a suspended four-year prison sentence as a result of those claims in 1999. However, Ms Hardester, who is now 21 and lives in the US, admitted to gardai [police] eight years later she had made up the allegations. It emerged yesterday that she decided to come clean after "finding God". The young woman is the daughter of American actor Crofton Hardester, who appeared in Steven Spielberg's World War II epic 'Saving Private Ryan', RTE soap 'Fair City' and 1980s TV series 'The A-Team'.

Speaking last night, Mr Hannon said he was still "upset and angry" about his conviction. "But at least she had the good sense to come back and rectify what she did wrong and I suppose I have to be thankful for that," he said. Mr Hannon also said he was "quite upset" that the DPP had opposed his application for a miscarriage of justice certificate. "I never asked for any of this to begin with. I couldn't understand why they just couldn't just issue me with my certificate," he said.

Mr Hannon said no-one in authority had ever apologised to him. "No state agency or department has ever apologised or expressed regret for what happened to me," he said. He added that he would now try to put his life back together. "It's not something that's going to go away from me now over time. This is always going to be in my head. I'm never going to forget this," he said.

The CCA quashed the conviction last February, but it was only declared a miscarriage of justice yesterday following an application from lawyers representing Mr Hannon. The application had been opposed by the DPP which argued there was no wrongdoing by the State or any of its agents.

Granting the certificate yesterday, the three-judge court described the case as "alarming and disturbing" and said an entirely innocent man was convicted by a jury. The court said Mr Hannon, a married father of one, was entitled to have his good name restored.

Informed legal sources said Mr Hannon, of Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway, could now expect to receive anything up to 1m euros in compensation from the State. Any compensation payout would be much less than the 4.7m euros paid to wrongly imprisoned Donegal publican Frank Short as Mr Hannon did not spend any time behind bars. Mr Hannon received his suspended sentence at Galway Circuit Court in 1999. He had strenuously denied allegations by Ms Hardester that he had sexually assaulted her near her home at Cleggan, outside Clifden, Co Galway, in January 1997.

Ms Hardester moved to Connecticut in the US a short time later after her family put their home on the market. However, she briefly returned to Ireland in 2006 and admitted to gardai that her complaints were completely fabricated and motivated by "revenge and misplaced loyalty to my family". Ms Hardester told gardai she was never coerced or coached by anyone into making the allegation.

Original report here

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Colorado: New trial ordered in 1991 murders

New evidence has come to light in the case of Tim Kennedy, who is serving 50 years for the 1991 murders of Jennifer Carpenter and her boyfriend, Steve Staskiewicz

An El Paso County judge has ordered a new trial for a man convicted of double homicide, saying that DNA and other newly discovered evidence could acquit him. Tim Kennedy, 52, was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to 50 years for the murders of Jennifer Carpenter, 15, and her boyfriend, Steve Staskiewicz, 37. "The case starts over now, so we will be preparing for trial if the DA wants to proceed. That remains to be seen," said Kennedy's attorney, John Dicke.

Prosecutors hadn't had a chance to review District Judge Thomas Kane's ruling Thursday afternoon, said Shelly LaGrill, executive assistant for the El Paso County District Attorney's Office. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment."

Carpenter and Staskiewicz were shot in 1991 in their Colorado Springs trailer while hiding from her former housemate, Rebecca Corkins, and Corkins' boyfriend, Charles Stroud. Carpenter feared that the couple would have her killed before she could testify against them in their trial for kidnapping, rape and assault on her four months earlier.

In asking for a new trial, Kennedy's attorneys argued that prosecutors hid an important letter from Stroud to Corkins. They also argued that the lawyers who handled Kennedy's trial defense didn't interview important witnesses, including one who said Corkins told her about a plot to have a man named Patrick Dudley kill Carpenter. Dicke and his partner, Kathleen Carlson, also submitted evidence showing that DNA on items gripped by whoever shot and dragged the victims did not belong to Kennedy.

FBI bullet-lead analysis that helped convince jurors of Kennedy's guilt has since been discredited by the bureau, which has said it "exceed(ed) the limits of science."

"The court finds that the defendant has demonstrated that the newly discovered evidence in the form of the renunciation of bullet-lead analysis, the trace DNA evidence and the 2008 admissions of Corkins are of such character as to probably bring an acquittal verdict," Kane wrote in his 13-page decision issued Wednesday.

Kennedy, a handyman, was a friend of Carpenter and her boyfriend. The shooter used his gun. He loaned the gun and two others to the couple to protect themselves, along with television sets and other items, Dicke said. Stroud and Corkins didn't know Kennedy. And prosecutors have never explained how the pair might have arranged for him to carry out the assassination of his friends.

Witnesses weren't interviewed. Investigators for Kennedy's original defense team, headed by lawyer Kenneth Dresner, failed to interview witnesses who could have bolstered Kennedy's case, Kane said.

"These details could have been corroborated by other available evidence in the case. These details included the use of (a) messenger between Rebecca Corkins and Charles Stroud since they were both in jail, other individuals who were approached by Charles Stroud to perform the murders and specific observations of a visit in jail to Corkins by a former boyfriend, Patrick Dudley," Kane wrote.

Kane agreed with the defense that prosecutors should have made a letter written to Corkins by Stroud available to defense lawyers. In the letter, Stroud threatened Corkins' son if she didn't commit perjury and, Kane said, suggested that he was involved in the murders. Stroud gave the letter to another inmate, Charles Tate, to deliver to Corkins, and Tate turned it over to the prosecutor handling his own case.

Kennedy, who has served 13 years, will be transferred from the Limon Correctional Facility to the El Paso County Jail, Dicke said. "We are going to be asking for a reasonable bond," he said.

Original report here

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Power-freak British social workers, backed by police with a battering ram, snatched a dementia patient from her daughter's house and took her back to care home

Concerned about the treatment her elderly mother was receiving in a care home, Rosalind Figg decided to look after her personally. She and her partner created an ensuite bedroom with an alarm system to wake them if 86-year-old Betty Figg, who has dementia, got up in the night. When her mother confirmed that she was unhappy, Miss Figg took her home in the hope that it would be the end of an unfortunate chapter in her life.

But two days later, amid astonishing scenes, the old lady was snatched back by social services. A distraught Mrs Figg was wheeled to a car with a blanket over her head after police who had been called in as back-up threatened to smash the door with a battering ram if the family did not hand her over. Yesterday she was back in her room at £2,000-a-month Butts Croft House in Corley, Warwickshire.

'I will fight tooth and nail to get my mum back,' said 55-year- old Miss Figg at her home in Coventry. 'I can't believe this has happened - I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and realise it has been a bad dream.'

Miss Figg's mother had lived alone in Coventry since the death of husband Brian 15 years ago. She was admitted to hospital last June suffering from swollen legs and was becoming increasingly forgetful. Her daughter initially agreed to advice from social services that she should go into a home and she moved to Butts Croft House in August, with the fees being paid by the family.

In October, Mrs Figg fell out of her bed and was starting to lose weight and her daughter decided to give up her pottery business to care for her at home. Divorced mother-of-four Miss Figg and her partner Christopher Roberts, 41, created the downstairs bedroom, installed wheelchair ramps and had a special bed delivered with sensors in the mattress so an alarm would wake them if the old lady got up in the night.

But a council occupational health specialist ruled the three-bedroom semi-detached home was still not suitable for Mrs Figg. She was taken back to hospital in November after picking up an oral infection. When she returned to the home, her daughter went to visit and discovered Mrs Figg's mouth was caked in dried blood and she was complaining of feeling hungry.

Last Saturday, as usual, Miss Figg took her out from the home but says her mother was so unhappy there that she decided not to return her. She said she had contacted police before doing this and officers had told her it was a civil matter and did not concern them. Miss Figg, who herself used to work as a carer, said she saw a real improvement in her mother in the next two days, by the end of which she was laughing and chatting to neighbours over a cup of tea.

However, Coventry City Council obtained an 'emergency warrant' from magistrates under the Mental Health Act on the grounds that a 'person believed to be suffering from a mental disorder is being ill treated and neglected'.

'Mum was escorted out of my house in her wheelchair and had a towel thrown over her head as though she was some kind of prisoner,' said Miss Figg. 'She is not happy in the home. She should back with her loving family where she belongs.' A neighbour who witnessed the raid said: 'I can't believe they brought a battering ram. They use them to break into drug dens, not to cart off little old ladies.'

A council spokesman said an independent advocate had been appointed to work in Mrs Figg's best interests. 'Staff from a number of agencies are involved in safeguarding her, including using statutory powers to protect her against further moves and to provide a mental health assessment after she was removed from a residential care home by her daughter against advice.' He said social care staff had been refused entry to Miss Figg's home and returned with police assistance. A police spokesman said: 'Police were asked to assist social services to remove an elderly woman to a place of safety. 'A warrant was granted and an enforcer was taken in order to gain access to the property if needed. The enforcer was not used.'

Butts Croft House is a 28-bed home which specialises in dementia care. It has not been rated by the Care Quality Commission since changing ownership in October. It was inspected for the first time under the new regime last month. A spokesman for the CQC said the report was still being finalised and was not due to be published until late May.

Original report here. (Via Political Correctness Watch)

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Flimsy evidence leads to wrongful conviction

Julie Murphy lived in about 20 foster homes, group homes, hospitals and detention centers after her father was convicted of sexually abusing her. She says she knew the story she told as a 10-year-old was a lie and that she had been telling that to people ever since. But it took until she was 23, when she was enrolled in community college and taking paralegal courses, that she chose to do something about it. She approached her instructor one day and told him that she had, in childhood, confused her father with her mother's boyfriend in regard to the allegation that put her father in prison.

"I was kind of ashamed of the situation," she said. "I asked him a hypothetical question about the case. He said about the only option at that point would be to do a recantation."

So in December 2002, she wrote a letter to the district attorney in Yadkin County recanting the accusation she had made 13 years earlier against Larry Murphy. The letter, she hoped, might set things straight once and for all.

But there would be no new police investigation in a case that had no physical evidence and was based solely on the word of then 10-year-old Julie Murphy.

There would be no prominent media coverage, as there had been when Murphy was arrested, tried and convicted in 1989. And there would be no new trial; her father failed to persuade a judge that his daughter's statement meant that he had been wrongly convicted.

Now 58, Larry Murphy has been in prison for 20 years. These days, he spends his time in the geriatric ward at Albemarle Correctional Institution, where he has been eligible for parole since January.

The Murphy case is unusual and complicated, and the truth is difficult to ascertain. A man was convicted on the word of a child who in her behavior immediately before and in the years afterward showed signs of rebellion and deception. She had been physically abused by another man just months before her father won a contentious custody battle with the girl's mother and brought her back to live in Yadkin County.

There was never any DNA evidence in the case; the only physical evidence was abrasions on the girl's thighs two days after the alleged abuse occurred. Which leaves a simple question: Do you believe the story told by 10-year-old Julie or the one told by the older Julie?

The case points to one certainty about North Carolina's legal system -- the original stories told by a victim, a suspect or both are difficult to take back. The only picture of Larry Murphy and his two daughters is from 1989, in an East Bend church directory. He's smiling, and the girls -- one on his knee and the other on his shoulder -- are laughing.

Murphy had been raised in Yadkin County and left at 19 to enlist in the Army, where he became a dental hygienist. He began dating Anita Carol Robinson while at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. They later married and had Julie in 1978 while he was at Fort Riley, Kan. Stephanie was born in 1981 in Honolulu. Family life was marked by moves and acrimony. By 1983, Murphy was assigned to Korea, and his wife and daughters were living in North Carolina near Murphy's family. But the couple split in 1987, and the girls moved with their mother and her boyfriend to Iowa. There, in the summer of 1988, began a series of critical events that would change the lives of father and daughters.

An Iowa juvenile-court report lays out the basics of what happened on one particular day, though the details are not clear. Julie and Stephanie were in a second-floor bedroom and they stuck their heads out the window. The mother's boyfriend became upset, striking Julie on the arm several times with a belt and lifting her up by grabbing her neck, the report says.

It is unclear what action, if any, was taken against the boyfriend. A judge did note that "because of his attitude and based on the history of physical abuse it is likely the children would be physically abused in the future." Robinson could not be reached for an interview. Both daughters say they haven't seen their mother in at least 10 years and don't know where she is.

That same summer, Murphy went to Iowa and won temporary custody of the girls. After Murphy and the girls returned to North Carolina, Robinson and her boyfriend called social services in Yadkin County and accused Murphy of abuse. Social services talked with the girls and determined that nothing had happened.

The girls started school that fall and seemed to be settling in, but Murphy said he was having almost daily power struggles with Julie. He had told the girls that he was going to divorce their mother and mentioned a woman he hoped to begin dating. Then, in January 1989, Julie told two friends at school and later a school counselor that on a particular Saturday night her father had come into her room and "done bad things to her."

When a sheriff's deputy came to interview her, she gave him more details, alleging that her father had tried to rape her, and when he couldn't, he rubbed himself against her. On Jan. 12, 1989, sheriff's deputies arrested Murphy at the poultry plant where he worked.

Murphy said he was dumbfounded. "I said ‘I know why she's doing this. She doesn't want me dating,'" he said.

Sheriff Mike Cain, who was then a detective, was assigned the investigation. He had never handled a child sex-abuse case before, he said. He didn't go to the house or collect any physical evidence. Nor did he investigate anyone besides Murphy, saying that Julie's words implicated only her father. As he listened to what Julie told him, he said, it was clear that she had been abused.

She knew things about sex that a 10-year-old shouldn't have, Cain said in a recent interview. In the end, he said, the case went to the grand jury. The jury heard Julie's testimony and gave its verdict. Murphy was indicted. "I don't buy a child gives out that kind of details. Never once did she mention another house or another person," Cain said.

Julie's testimony during the trial in April 1989 in Yadkin Superior Court was convincing, agreed Tom Fagerli, Murphy's post-conviction attorney. She was this adorable little child and she was talking about semen, he said. "And these people, I'm sure they couldn't get over it," he said. "These jurors were going to convict whoever was sitting in that room."

Murphy's defense attorney, Lee Zachary, called a few witnesses to back up Murphy's story that the girls had spent the entire night with his sister on the Saturday that the abuse was alleged to have occurred. The sister, Ruth Cave, lives outside Dobson; she confirmed in a recent interview that she had the girls on the Saturday night in question....

More here

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Australia: Man wins $300,000 after vicious assault by NSW police goon

A NSW man is set to receive more than $300,000 in damages after successfully suing the State for assault and malicious prosecution. Allan Frederick Hathaway, now 45, sued the State over his arrest in Wagga Wagga in February 2003, which resulted in his admission to hospital and surgery for facial fractures.

Justice Carolyn Simpson accepted the evidence of Mr Hathaway, who complained he was beaten with a baton by a constable who discovered him hiding in the bedroom of a stranger's house after a police pursuit. Mr Hathaway has admitted to refusing to stop after being seen driving while disqualified in an unregistered car, sparking the pursuit.

The NSW Supreme Court judge concluded Mr Hathaway had been maliciously prosecuted by police on charges of possessing a knife with intent to prevent lawful apprehension, and breaking and entering a dwelling house and stealing a knife. The judge concluded the knife, which belonged to the absent householder, had been placed in the bedroom by a police officer or officers after Mr Hathaway was taken from the scene.

But she said Mr Hathaway failed to demonstrate he had been maliciously prosecuted in relation to charges of assaulting two officers and resisting another. The judge awarded $100,000 in damages in relation to the malicious prosecution. The overall damages figure, which is yet to be calculated, will be above $300,000 and will include $65,000 for general damages.

Original report here.

More details of this appalling episode and the gross police misconduct -- including both destruction and planting of evidence -- here. The goon involved was eventually arrested and charged but got off! It's very hard to nail a crooked cop -- particularly when his superiors are as crooked as he is and do all they can to protect him -- as happened in this case according to the official inquiry.

(Via Australian Politics)

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Illinois: Convict speaks on wrongful convictions, DNA testing

Refusals to allow DNA testing are just amazing. They are almost a confession of wrongful conviction in themselves

Johnnie Lee Savory spent more than 30 years of his life in prison for a crime he says he did not commit. In an event hosted by the Northwestern College Democrats, Savory spoke at the McCormick Tribune Center on Tuesday night about wrongful convictions and his fight to have DNA testing prove his innocence. Steve Drizin, Savory's lead attorney and director of NU School of Law's Center on Wrongful Convictions, also spoke about Savory's ongoing struggle with the justice system.

Weinberg junior Mac LeBuhn organized the event to raise awareness about wrongful convictions and inform students about how they can help. LeBuhn heard Savory's story while interning at the Center on Wrongful Convictions during Winter Quarter.

"He has such a compelling case," said LeBuhn, the special projects chairman for College Democrats. "The average student will find this very compelling and hopefully want to get involved."

At age 14, Savory was arrested for the murder of two of his friends in Peoria, Ill. A bloody pair of pants taken from his home and other physical evidence was used against him, but according to the Center on Wrongful Convictions, the pants belonged to his father and the other items had no evidentiary value. Savory said he was forced to confess after a lengthy and harsh interrogation.

After he was convicted with what he described as weak evidence and a questionable confession, Savory spent more than two-thirds of his life behind bars. "I was clinging to the promise that the truth would win out," he said.

Savory said he did not let the prison culture influence him and even organized campaigns from prison to help victims of disasters like Hurricane Katrina. He said he was able to successfully reintegrate into society on parole in 2006, and now works at a facility helping inmates transition out of prison. "It is imperative that I speak to other people about what I've been through," he said. "Who better is there to awaken the consciousness of others than the people who have lived it?"

At the time of his conviction, DNA evidence was not available. As this technology developed, prosecutors continued to refuse the tests that could establish Savory's innocence. The Center on Wrongful Convictions continues to fight alongside Savory to have the governor order DNA testing.

Both Savory and Drizin spoke about how students can become involved in fights against wrongful convictions. "You can be one of Johnnie's many supporters," Drizin said. "You can call Governor Quinn and ask him to order DNA testing for Johnnie Lee Savory. Let's all work together to repair this broken world and broken justice system."

While speaking with a group of students after the event, Savory told them to spread the word around campus that injustices do exist and they can happen to anyone. "Injustice has touched every man and woman from all walks of life," he said. "Injustice is like a stray bullet. It doesn't care where it lands."

Drizin said now is an exciting time to be a young person concerned with injustice and innocence movements. "It's just at the beginning," he said. "There are going to be many, many more exonerations based on DNA evidence."

Though the speakers were hosted by College Democrats, LeBuhn said issues of wrongful conviction transcend political views. "It's not simply a question of Democrats versus Republicans," he said. "There's a common interest among Americans in making sure the people we're sending to jail actually committed the crimes."

According to the Center on Wrongful Convictions, 13 men have been released from Illinois death row in the last 15 years. "There has been an ongoing effort to spread his story to as many people as possible," LeBuhn said. "If this can happen to one person, it can happen to anyone else. As long as we have a system that allows innocent people to go to prison, it's a detriment to everybody."

Original report here

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

A long overdue step for Britain's police

Police officers should wear name tags on their uniforms and those who deliberately hide their identity could be sacked, Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said today. The police has come under severe criticism for its handling of the G20 protests and Sir Paul, Britain's most senior policeman, said he wants officers to be more easily identifiable to the public.

He also made it clear though that he wanted his senior officers to take a more robust approach in supervising the rank and file officers to ensure they could both be praised and have problem areas identified.

Speaking at New Scotland Yard Sir Paul said: "I have made it clear consistently that uniformed officers should be identifiable and I see no reason why we should not have name tags on when in uniform. "I have made it absolutely clear it is totally unacceptable for any uniformed police officer not to be showing relevant identification. I have also made it clear that I will deal appropriately and proportionately with any such breach." He added: “If somebody is trying to deliberately avoid being identified and the reason he is doing it is so he can behave inappropriately, badly or criminally, then of course they will face the sack."

He said the ability to identify an officer was not just an essential check on their behaviour but a way of protecting them from false allegations. Three months ago officers in Cambridgeshire began to wear their names on their uniforms to much praise from the public. Whether the tags will be sewn into uniforms or attached by velcro, which could come off in a riot, would have to be discussed with the Police Authority, Sir Paul said.

Sir Paul spoke as a third post mortem was carried out on Ian Tomlinson who died minutes after allegedly being pushed over by a Territorial Support Group officer during the G20 protests. The officer, based in Lambeth, has been interviewed under caution on suspicion of manslaughter by Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) officials.

The autopsy was carried out at the request of the officer and the Met said they would be represented after taking legal advice. The first post mortem showed the 47-year-old died from a heart attack but the second, conducted at the request of the man's family and the IPCC, found he died from internal bleeding in his stomach.

The IPCC is investigating the circumstances of Mr Tomlinson's death and they are also looking into video showing another officer hitting a woman with his baton. The IPCC will also examine whether the officers were clearly wearing their identification numbers.

Sir Paul said that he sincerely regretted the death of Mr Tomlinson and that he would do everything he could to make sure his family got the answers they wanted. He also revealed that both the Met and the City of London police were examining hours of CCTV and video footage to see if any officers had contravened police regulations.

He said that the G20 protest was "one of the most challenging police operations in the Met and police history". He added: "When you talk to international colleagues they are staggered in what the Met has done. I have to say this is in context of a man dying." In the next few days Sir Paul will be questioned about the tactics used at the G20 protests twice by the Metropolitan Police Authority and by a Home Affairs Select Committee.

Original report here

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Amazing British police arrogance

They can smash into the home of an innocent person and then not fix the damage. They are no better than vandals

Returning home from a visit to the shops, 73-year-old Mary Reason was shocked to discover that police had kicked down her front door and were standing in her living room. She was even more surprised when she was charged £100 for the repairs.

Mrs Reason, from Staverton, Gloucestershire, was due to appear as a witness in a magistrates' court case and police wanted to check that she would be attending. After being unable to make contact with her, officers became concerned for her welfare, said a police spokesman. But they are not legally required to pay for the repairs.

Mrs Reason, who lives on a state pension, told of her amazement and of her refusal to foot the bill. She said: 'I get home and I find them in the house. I am not the sort of person to kick up a fuss. But I'm a pensioner who has had a stroke and I shouldn't have to deal with stuff like this from the police. 'I won't be paying - I shouldn't have to.' She added: 'They had no reason to break in. They could have just walked round and seen there were no problems.'

A Gloucestershire Police spokesman said: 'Our Witness Care Team had been trying to contact Mrs Reason for two days and were concerned for her welfare.
'Officers attended her address and had reason to believe someone was in but there were no signs of movement. They forced entry to her property to ensure that Mrs Reason was safe.' 'They did not find anyone in the property and fortunately it was later found that Mrs Reason was safe and well.'

The repair work was carried out by a local contractor, who had billed Mrs Reason. The police spokesman added: 'It is not the responsibility of the Constabulary to reimburse the cost of any damage which is as a result of officers legally entering a property.'

Original report here

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The NY disgrace

Alan Newton has missed many chances in life. Now 48, he spent almost half his life in upstate prisons for rape, robbery and assault charges stemming from a June 1984 crime against a woman in the Bronx. Not until 2006 did DNA absolve him of the 1985 conviction. He was innocent.

Newton's story is just one of hundreds nationwide that have weakened faith in the justice system. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson repealed the death penalty in his state in March, citing the potential for executing the wrong person among the many reasons.

Here in New York, the state bar association has begun identifying the causes of wrongful convictions in New York. In a recent report, an association task force reviewed 53 cases of vacated convictions. Its findings do not conclude that each was a case of innocence, but that errors and lapses in due process led to "a conviction [that] was wrongfully obtained."

A number of bills to address wrongful convictions have been proposed in the state legislature, and a previous attempt to expand the state's DNA database could have resulted in fewer conviction errors.

"No one benefits from a wrongful conviction. Not the police, not the prosecutor, not the judge, not the jury, not the victim," said Stephen Saloom, policy director at the Innocence Project. "The only person that really benefits is the perpetrator."

Causes of Wrongful Conviction

The 53 cases studied by the bar association represent only a sample of cases, although it's difficult to determine the extent of wrongful convictions in New York. The state Division of Criminal Justice Services does not keep track of wrongful convictions, said John Caher, the director of public information. Whatever the number, criminal justice experts and professionals agree that flaws in the system need to be addressed.

Newton's case exemplifies how things can go so terribly wrong. Soon after Newton's arrest, he said his then fiancée presented his alibi: Newton was in Queens with her at the time of the rape. But a Bronx store clerk identified Newton in a lineup as the male customer who trailed the victim out of the store. The victim, too, identified Newton. She chose him in a photo array as the man who forced her into his vehicle after she left the store, dragged her to a park and raped her, then stalked her as she tried to flee. He then allegedly brought her to an abandoned building where he raped her again and blinded her in the left eye with a box cutter.

Newton said in 1979 police had slapped him with a misdemeanor assault charge after he and his teenage friends grappled with an opposing group of teens. Five years later, his arrest photo was shown to the rape victim. "Her testimony and the store clerk's testimony convicted me," Newton said. "That photograph is ultimately the reason why I'm here today."

Improvements in forensic science finally caught up with the evidence in Newton's case. Newton began requesting DNA testing on the victim's rape kit in 1994, nine years into his 13 and a half to 40-year sentence. Officials say they could not find the evidence.

The Innocence Project took up Newton's case. Since 1992, the non-profit legal organization has helped free 234 people based on DNA evidence, said a spokeswoman. Through its efforts, the kit was found in 2005 where it should have been all along, Saloom said.

Newton's case was among the 53 the task force studied. Mishandling of forensic evidence and/or not using DNA testing contributed to a wrongful conviction in almost half the cases. In most, as in Newton's case, which involved mishandling of forensic evidence and misidentification, more than one factor contributed to the wrongful conviction.

The task force found that errors by defense attorneys, false confessions and false testimony by jailhouse informants also contributed to imprisoning the wrong person. About 58 percent of vacated convictions stemmed from errors by a prosecutor, officer or judge. The most common cause of wrongful convictions, misidentification of the accused, accounted for about 67 percent of the cases.

Newton felt wronged but did not hold a grudge against the victim, he said. He thinks it was an honest case of mistaken identity. But he is definitely mad at the justice system. "It's almost like there's no incentive for them to find out the truth about an innocent person because the cops solve the crime, they get a promotion or a raise or whatever," Newton said. "When a person is exonerated and a cop goes out his way to help the person, you don't hear about him getting no accolades."

Prosecutorial Problems

The state bar association's task force tackled the 53 cases last year in an effort "to pinpoint where the system let us down," said Bernice Leber, a partner at law firm Arent Fox and president of the bar association. The task force reviewed cases and interviewed some of the judges, lawyers and the exonerated, Leber said. Their findings showed what other legal experts and advocates knew: The system needs reform.

In 31 cases, government malpractices contributed to a wrongful conviction. These included a prosecutor's failure to hand over information the defense had a right to examine and a prosecutor's purposeful use of false testimony. Failure to collect and preserve evidence and police not investigating other potential suspects were also cited by the report. "I think if a prosecutor knowingly presents false testimony and it can be shown, then it's a crime and it's a kind of behavior from any lawyer that the system can't tolerate," said defense attorney Joel Rudin. He estimates he has helped overturn about 15 convictions.

Prosecutors argue that purposeful misconduct happens infrequently. But unintentional errors sometimes occur, such as not giving the defense evidence that the police unintentionally withheld from the prosecutor, said Anne Swern, first assistant district attorney for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, a member of the task force. On appeal, the prosecutor's failure to hand over evidence to the defense could be called prosecutorial misconduct even if it was not a "willful mistake," Swern said. To limit the argument over withheld evidence, the task force suggests requiring a pre-trial conference that would establish that the defense has assessed evidence held by police and the prosecutor.

A Deficient Defense

Sometimes, though, defense counsel may be at fault. They do not always adequately review evidence or represent their clients. Supposedly on the side of the accused, defense attorneys have contributed to their client's wrongful convictions "usually [through] a failure to fully investigate or to offer alternative theories and/or suspects," according to the report. "That's fundamental," Saloom said about every defendant's right to reliable counsel. "Our system relies upon an adequate defense --period."

For quality control of defense attorneys, the task force suggests additional resources that allow lawyers to investigate further and receive more supervision of their work. Additional funding could also provide poor defendants with lawyers even after appeal, when they are trying to get their convictions vacated, Rudin said. "In our system now, no one has the right to a lawyer once they've lost appeal," he said. "You have all these people in prison with no resources whatsoever and no legal training, and most of the time they end up representing themselves and don't know how to do it."

False confessions have also contributed to wrong convictions. In 1990, five teenagers were convicted in the beating and rape of a Central Park jogger. They confessed to the crime on videotape but DNA later implicated a lone man, not the teenagers. In 2002, their convictions were vacated amid accusations of racism and police misconduct during the original investigation. False confessions helped cause a wrong conviction in 12 of the 53 cases, the task force found.

A Taped Record

Some, including Assemblymember Joseph Lentol of Brooklyn, advocate for videotaping interrogations, not just confessions. This, they maintain, would provide reliable evidence of whether coercion played a role in a confession.

But even those who support videotaped interrogations are leery of the costs involved. If police taped all confessions and the entirety of interrogations, prosecutors would have to view hours of tape, some of which might not be of evidentiary use, and the tapes would have to be stored for years. This all costs money, said Swern, who serves on the board of the National District Attorney's Association. Paying for the equipment could also be an issue in some jurisdictions.

"Indeed, if adequate funding is not provided, there could be an unwitting failure to comply with the mandate and, depending on the sanction for non-compliance, strong and persuasive evidence of a defendant's guilt (i.e., his voluntary confession) may be suppressed," wrote Swern in an e-mail. "That result would not further the cause of justice."

A former prosecutor and defense attorney, Lentol says he plans to push for funding support of proposals like videotaped interrogations. "Even if it costs money, how much is a human life worth? Do we want to risk a valuable citizen because we didn't have a few bucks?" he said.

With the status of videotaped interrogations up in the air, critics argue that police need more training in interrogations and recognizing false confessions elicited under extraordinary pressure. "I think police need to be educated more than they probably are that there are such things as false confessions," said Judge Barry Kamins, a former prosecutor and chair of the task force. "If you ask the public most people would think, 'Why would you confess to something you didn't do?' It is a strange phenomenon but it does happen."

Mistaken Identity

Several studies in the last few years single out the misidentification of the accused as the primary reason for wrongful convictions. The task force recommends changes in police procedures that can make the process fairer and more accurate. The recommendations include assigning an officer who does not know the identity of the suspect to administer lineups and photo arrays. This prevents intentional or unintentional influence by the officer on the witness. In one of the most egregious instances, Leber said, "the accused was handcuffed to a table during the lineup and no one else was."

Each step in the identification process should be documented, including the witness's degree of certainty when describing the suspect or picking a suspect from a photo or lineup, according to the report. The New York Police Department did not return requests for comment on the recommendations.

The New Tool

To undo the potential for human error posed by, for example, witnesses or police, the courts have relied heavily on the absolutes of DNA profiling. Since its inception in 1985, the evolution of DNA profiling and its use in solving crimes has led to a push for increased DNA testing. But many support DNA database expansion more as a strategy to catch the guilty than to clear the innocent. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer sought to expand the DNA database by including anyone convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony, instead of just some felonies, like sexual assault. But that fell through with his governorship.

Rockland County State Sen. Thomas Morahan has proposed new legislation to mandate DNA samples from everyone convicted of a felony since Jan. 1, 2003. His motivation for the expansion: helping police solve sex crimes. And in his State of the City speech last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed that arrestees, not just convicts, be required to add their DNA swab to the database.

But less than 5 percent of cases involve DNA evidence that can 100 percent prove innocence or guilt, said Saloom. Rudin said none of his wrongful conviction cases included DNA that could absolve his client. In those cases he couldn't argue innocence based on DNA, but instead had to attack the "fairness of the process." "The reason we're supposed to have a fair process is to increase the likelihood that the result will be consistent with what really happened," Rudin said.

Reducing Mistakes

The task force's proposals, as well as those from the Innocence Project and some members of the state legislature, seek to increase the fairness and accuracy of the criminal justice system. Lentol, for one, has sponsored legislation that makes it easier for the accused to request post-conviction DNA testing on evidence, such as rape kits. Presented in February, the bill has been referred to the Committee on Codes, of which Lentol is chair.

This bill accompanies a package of legislation that would expand the state's DNA database, require videotaping of interrogations and establish an Innocence Commission, Lentol said. The commission would investigate and reconstruct cases of wrongful convictions -- as investigators reconstruct a plane crash -- to find the faulty parts, he said. If his bills make their way through the political and bureaucratic obstacles, Lentol said he expects them to come up for a vote in late April or May.

Another bill in the Assembly, similar to Lentol's Innocence Commission, has spent two years working its way down the pipe. Sponsored by Assemblymember Michael Gianaris of Queens and picked up in the Senate in 2008 by Sen. Eric Schneiderman of Upper Manhattan, the bill would create the State Commission for the Integrity of the Criminal Justice System. The bill has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee in the Assembly and the Judiciary Committee in the Senate.

The permanent commission would investigate cases of wrongful convictions to establish their causes. The unpaid commission members would submit to the attorney general and governor recommendations on how to prevent wrongful convictions. Schneiderman says he thinks the governor and legislature would take the recommendations seriously because "the evidence of wrongful convictions that has developed in the last decade has had a tremendous effect on public policy."

Life After Wrongful Imprisonment

The crime Newton was convicted for is still an unsolved mystery. DNA excluded Newton but has not linked police to the actual perpetrator. Newton said he wishes the rapist had been caught 20 years ago. But he focuses on his present life and reminds himself that it feels good to be home....

For his time lost, pain and suffering, Newton is suing the city and the state for $50 million each. He filed his suits for compensation in late 2006, yet he is still not close to a conclusion. "One thing I have plenty of is patience," Newton said. "What were you doing all that time in that cage? You were waiting." ...

Luckily, Newton, who said there was no government help for him after his release, had family he could rely on and an education underway. He doesn't mind the media attention, he says, because people need to know the system is flawed. "A lot of times people don't believe this happens," Newton said. "This doesn't happen to the billionaires, this happens to ordinary people. They think it happens to other people. We all are those other people."

Original report here

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Australia: Police goons again

Recent revelations about police misbehaviour in the State of Queensland don't seem to have slowed them down any. The cop who put his knee through Mulrunji Doomadgee's liver got away with it so I guess they have reason to be confident that they can do as they like without fear of retribution

THE Police Minister has ordered a report into the alleged assault of a handcuffed man at a Gold Coast police station after viewing a video of the incident. Neil Roberts has asked Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson for a report by the end of this week after being shown the footage by The Sunday Mail on Friday.

The incident, recorded by cameras at the Surfers Paradise Police Beat office, shows a male officer forcing the 19-year-old building worker to the floor after he allegedly refused to remove his socks. The man, who has his hands cuffed behind his back, hits the floor face first and when the policeman rolls him over there is a dark patch visible on the carpet under his face.

The man's mother, who uploaded the video on YouTube, claims the incident left her son with a $30,000 dental bill for jaw fractures and seven broken teeth.

An internal investigation by the police Ethical Standards Command (ESC), watched by the Crime and Misconduct Commission, last year cleared the police officer of using excessive force.

However, the man - who asked not to be identified because he fears police persecution - is using the video of the incident, on October 6, 2007, in a personal damages claim against the Queensland Police Service.

Mr Roberts admitted that his initial response after seeing the video was "one of concern" and he had asked the commissioner for more details. "There is no sound accompanying the vision to provide context to the situation," he said in a statement to The Sunday Mail.

The 19-year-old was one of several partygoers arrested following a brawl in Orchid Ave about 10pm. He was charged with a public nuisance offence, and later with obstructing police for having failed a direction to remove his socks.

The video shows him standing at the counter of the Police Beat beside a male officer while another officer speaks to him from behind the desk. Three other men, two also handcuffed, are seated along a wall below the camera. The 19-year-old kicks off his shoes, then appears to make an attempt to remove his socks with his feet before the officer forces him to the floor. The officer rolls him over, revealing the pool of blood before rolling him back on his face and walking into the station. The man eventually struggles to a sitting position and the other men seated in the station notice the bloodstain. They jump out of their seats before being restrained by police who then escort them out of the Police Beat - over the top of the man.

Mr Roberts said his initial advice from the commissioner was that the man was injured in the Orchid Ave brawl and was bleeding and spitting blood. "The officer involved took him to the floor to better manage the situation," he said. Mr Roberts said the man's mother made a complaint of excessive force, but investigations in December last year found the claim was unsubstantiated. He said despite repeated attempts by ESC investigators to speak with the man, he had declined to make a complaint or assist with the investigation. "I am also advised that the male person pleaded guilty to a charge of public nuisance and at that time, a second charge of obstruct(ing) police was withdrawn by agreement between police and his legal adviser."

The man's mother said he could not remember the incident. "My son has been to jail before. He's not a saint. He's stolen a car, he's been in a couple of fights," she said from her Gold Coast home. After her son's court case was finalised, she posted the footage on YouTube with a message saying: "This could be your child."

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Useless West Australian police

Pervasive corruption was revealed among the West Australian police in the Mallard case. And they are in trouble again below. No wonder Western Australian juries tend to side with those who bash the police

A JUDGE has slammed police for their handling of a long-running domestic dispute which ended in the brutal murder of a Perth woman. Anthony Thomas Evans, 32, was jailed today for a minimum of 14 years for killing his partner, Alana Dakin, 33, with a knife on November 13, 2007. Evans cut her arm to the bone then, as she lay on the floor abusing him, he slashed her chest and severed her jugular vein at the home they shared in Girrawheen. Her other arm was in a cast – an injury from a previous domestic dispute - while she was being butchered. Justice Narelle Johnson said Evans had pressed down on her chest to increase the flow of blood from her wounds as she was dying.

Evans was previously found guilty of murder. He appeared in the WA Supreme Court today for sentencing. Justice Johnson was highly critical of the way police dealt with the five reported cases of domestic disputes between the two. “I have real concerns with the police case, they just accepted everything he told them,” she said. “I don’t see the police reaction as being indicative of the informed explanation of what happened. “He (Evans) was treated as the victim, while she is the one who has ended up dead.”

She said one police officer had suggested counselling to Evans, while telling Ms Dakin that it was an unviable option for her. She said on one occasion Ms Dakin spat on attending police, who then accepted Evans' version of events “despite her being the one who was constantly injured”. “You were being treated like the victim,” she said. She said that in one police report Evans was described as fine, calm and cooperative and that his version of self-defence was accepted.

Justice Johnson said Evans' state of mental health was a mitigating factor, but it did not contribute significantly to his actions. She said Ms Dakin’s alcoholism would have been difficult to live with but “she did not deserve the amount of violence perpetrated on her”.

Ms Dakin has a son, Zebediah, from a previous relationship. He turns six on May 3, and is being cared for by her parents, Marius and Rose Dakin, both 56. “We are happy with the outcome and that man got what he deserved,” Mrs Dakin said outside court alongside her husband. She said her daughter would be alive today if the police had handled the situation differently.

Ms Dakin’s close friend Jane Maton said the murder was preventable “if police had acted the way they should have”. “I find it devastating that he was given life yet will be eligible for parole in 14 years,” she said. “I hope he rots in that jail cell and feels the pain he has caused every second, every minute, every day and every night and even that won’t be enough.”

A victim impact statement from Mrs Dakin said Evans’ family had prevented her from collecting her dead daughter’s belongings. Mrs Dakin described it as “the loneliest night of her life” when she went looking for new clothing to dress her in. “She tried to find something for her daughter to wear or she (Mrs Dakin) would have found a sheet to cover her body,” Justice Johnson said.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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

Saturday, April 18, 2009

British police coverup coming apart

Their tame pathologist initially said that the guy they killed died of a heart attack. Luckily, the family's lawyers insisted on an independent pathology examination -- which showed that he did NOT die of a heart attack. One hopes that the crooked pathologist faces some form of justice in due course too

A BRITISH police officer has been questioned on suspicion of manslaughter over the death of a man in protests during the London G20 summit earlier this month. Britain's police watchdog said the action had been taken against the unnamed officer after a second post-mortem found that newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson had not died from a heart attack as first thought.

Mr Tomlinson, 47, died after being caught up in protests near the Bank of England in the heart of London's financial district as he made his way home on April 1, the day before world leaders gathered to discuss the economic crisis. Video footage taken by a New York Fund manager showed Mr Tomlinson, who had not taken part in the demonstrations, being shoved to the ground by a police officer in riot gear. He collapsed shortly afterwards in a nearby street.

The officer involved has already been suspended by London's Metropolitan Police and the matter is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). "Following the initial results of the second post mortem, a Metropolitan Police Officer has been interviewed under caution for the offence of manslaughter as part of an on-going inquiry into the death of Ian Tomlinson," the IPCC said in a statement.

The first post mortem had recorded that Mr Tomlinson had died from natural causes. But lawyers for Mr Tomlinson's family said a second pathology report had indicated that the cause of death was abdominal haemorrhage. "First we were told there had been no contact with the police, then we were told that he died of a heart attack," said Paul King, speaking on behalf of the family. "As time goes on we hope the full truth about how Ian died will be made known."

London's police force said it could not comment while the IPCC probe was ongoing but said it would fully co-operate.

The watchdog has received a total of 145 complaints about the policing of the protests which turned increasingly violent as the day wore on, with confrontations between anti-capitalist demonstrators, environmental campaigners and riot officers.

Earlier this week, a sergeant was suspended after more video footage showed him apparently lashing out at a woman who was remonstrating with him during one protest.

The capital's police chief has expressed his concern about the video images and has ordered a review of public order tactics, especially the use of "kettling" where protesters are herded by officers into a confined space. That followed growing criticism from politicians and civil rights groups that the police had used excessively violent force to deal with the protests.

Original report here


Pressure on police officers over their conduct at the G20 protests increased dramatically today on the word of one man - Britain’s most eminent pathologist.

Dr Nat Cary announced, after a second post-mortem on Ian Tomlinson, that he had rejected initial findings that the newspaper seller collapsed after suffering a heart attack. Dr Cary, who has worked on some of the most high profile murder cases of the past decade, said it was most likely that Mr Tomlinson died of an abdominal haemorrhage after police officers confronted him.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission and Mr Tomlinson’s family requested that the case was re-examined by Dr Cary, who has a celebrated record of forensic discovery. He worked on the Suffolk prostitute killings and Ian Huntley’s double murder, before solving the mystery over the sudden death of Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan cricket coach, in 2007. By studying video footage of the post-mortem carried out on Woolmer in Jamaica, Dr Cary concluded that the high-profile murder hunt was misdirected and the former England bowler had actually died from natural causes.

Dr Cary first came to national prominence when he disproved Huntley’s claims that Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman had died in a freak accident in his bath. Huntley’s defence had initially said the bath contained 18in of water when Holly fell into it, a figure questioned by Dr Cary, who pointed out that the overflow was at 11in. Huntley was forced to revise the height to six to eight inches, insisting there had been a miscommunication between him and his legal team as his defence fell apart.

Dr Cary, who is affiliated to the Home Office, is often called in to review contentious cases. He examined all of the prostitutes killed by Steve Wright and gave evidence at Ipswich Crown Court last year that discredited the defendant’s claim that Paula Clennell had died during a sex game.

There was some surprise that the first post-mortem on Mr Tomlinson was not carried out by Dr Cary, who often oversees suspicious cases in the London area. Instead, it was handled by Dr Freddy Patel, who had previously been warned by the General Medical Council about his conduct. He found that the man died of natural causes minutes after he was struck by the police officer.

Original report here


The rough treatment given to Ian Tomlinson by police at the G20 protests could easily have led to the internal bleeding that allegedly killed him, according to experts. But it could also have resulted from natural causes or a preexisting health condition. A second postmortem examination found that Mr Tomlinson, 48, died from an “abdominal haemorrhage”, or bleeding within the abdomen, despite the conclusions of an earlier postmortem, which gave the cause of death as a heart attack.

Charles O’Donnell, the consultant in emergency and intensive care medicine at Whipps Cross University Hospital, London, said that it was “definitely well within the realms of possibility” that a preexisting condition such as liver disease or an enlarged spleen had left Mr Tomlinson vulnerable to internal bleeding. “It might only take a small thump which in a healthy individual would not do any harm.” The postmortem report showed that Mr Tomlinson had a diseased heart and liver and narrowing of the arteries.

Another possible cause of an abdominal haemorrhage was a burst heart artery, or aortic aneurysm, said Dr O’Donnell. This would be unlikely to have any connection with a violent assault, he pointed out.

Guy Rutty, chief pathologist at East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit, said that to be fatal an abdominal haemorrhage would involve “substantial” blood loss. Internal bleeding could come from a blood vessel or a major organ, and it might not be clear to the pathologist what the cause was, he added. “Significant bleeding can put a strain on the heart and if someone already suffers from heart disease or a weakness in that area, it may not be obvious which has been the main cause of death – the bleeding, a heart attack or a combination of the two,” he said. Dr Rutty added that “there could be a multitude of factors at play” in Mr Tomlinson’s case.

Original report here

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Australia: A police version of an "apology"

The police brass "were happy with the actions the police took" (!!) Some apology

QUEENSLAND police have apologised to an 18-year-old man who was handcuffed after officers thought his steering wheel lock was a gun. While Chad Hastings accepted the apology yesterday, he expressed disappointment it did not come directly from the officers involved. The Zillmere teen said he received a phone call about 4pm yesterday from a senior constable in charge of the officers who handcuffed him. "He was apologising on behalf of the police commissioner," he said.

"He said they were happy with the actions the police took but they apologised for the way they handled it in the end.

"Sorry on the spot would have healed things better, instead of going through all this. I think the only reason they said sorry is because the media got involved." Mr Hastings said he would have preferred a visit from the officers involved. "It was just a phone call and not even from the people who did it, so I'm not really happy," he said. "But it's not the end of the world, I'll get over it."

Earlier in the day, Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson had promised to apologise to Mr Hastings if an investigation found the officers were in the wrong.

Mr Hastings was stopped for a routine random breath test on Milton Rd on his way to work about 5am on Thursday. While one officer breath-tested him, another checked his Nissan Skyline. Mr Hastings was then ordered to get out of the car and sit on the footpath while the officer demanded to know why there was a gun in the vehicle. Mr Hastings explained that he had no gun in his vehicle and police eventually realised what they thought was a weapon was Mr Hasting's partially-obscured steering wheel lock.

Police late yesterday said the officer involved had acted with caution by removing Mr Hastings from the car and calling for assistance. Mr Atkinson said after reviewing the incident it would be determined if additional training or policy issues needed to be addressed. [A directive to "open your eyes" might do it]

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Witch Hunt, Documentary About Wrongful Conviction Then Exoneration Of Bakersfield Residents

The award-winning documentary Witch Hunt, a story about the arrest, conviction, and later exoneration of dozens of Bakersfield, California, adults for alleged child sex abuse in the mid-1980s, makes its world television premiere April 12 on MSNBC, with a DVD release April 14.

Witch Hunt weaves the larger Bakersfield story through the travails of John Stoll, a construction worker, who while in the midst of a custody battle over his young son was accused of sexually abusing the boy and five other children. Stoll was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison despite glaring problems, among them, a lack of physical evidence, suggestive questioning of the children by authorities, irregularities in the investigation, and overreaching by prosecutors.

Stoll’s conviction was ultimately reversed after three Northern California Innocence Project attorneys and 10 Santa Clara University law students proved, after two years and thousands of borrowed dollars, that the methods used to interview the child witnesses produced false testimony.

After witnessing firsthand the dedicated team and vital services provided by the Innocence Project, which has lost the government funding it once received, directors Dana Nachman and Don Hardy decided to donate a portion of the profits from the sale of the DVD to NCIP.

“We learned a little bit about the epidemic of wrongful convictions in this country, where over two million people are incarcerated,” said Hardy. “If even one percent of those prisoners are innocent, a very low estimate by most experts, that means more than twenty thousand people are looking toward agencies like the Innocence Project for help. Dana and I want to do our part to help them continue to fight for the rights of the wrongly convicted.”

“The film is a stark reminder of what happens when the justice system has no meaningful accountability of prosecutors and law enforcement. And it is a wake-up call for those who think things like this don’t happen to people like us. They do,” said SCU Law Professor and NCIP executive director Kathleen “Cookie” Ridolfi. “These were ordinary Bakersfield families, working people, living peacefully, raising their children, going to work everyday. Then one day, their children are taken, they’re thrown into prison and they’re caught in this hellish, unimaginable nightmare and it goes on for years and years. It can happen to them, it can happen to anyone,” said Ridolfi, who appears in the film along with legal director Linda Starr, supervising attorney Jill Kent, and some of the Santa Clara University students who worked on the case. California Innocence Project attorneys Justin Brooks and Jan Stiglitiz served as co-counsel on the John Stoll case.

The documentary is narrated by Academy Award winning actor Sean Penn, with music by Pearl Jam (whose lead singer, Eddie Vedder, donated the song after viewing an early version of the film).

Original report here

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another brutal British cop

That he hid his identity shows his thuggish intentions

THE Metropolitan Police are examining new footage of alleged violence by an officer at the G20 demonstrations this month. Video material and still photographs appear to show an officer swiping at a woman with the back of his hand before drawing an extendable baton and striking her on the legs.

The woman can be heard on the audio track to the video shouting and swearing at the policeman before he raises his arm. The officer's face is visible but his number, unlike those of his colleagues in the pictures, is hidden. The shoulder epaulettes on his jacket look to have been covered up by strips of grey material.

Scotland Yard said that the actions of the officer in the video raised "immediate concerns" and a spokesman said that it would urgently identify the officer. He also said that the Metropolitan police was referring the incident to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The incident is also likely to be raised next week when Scotland Yard commanders are questioned at the Metropolitan Police Authority about the policing of two days of demonstrations around the G20 summit.

It is understood to have happened at about 3.30pm on April 2 - the day after the main G20 Meltdown protest when demonstrators smashed windows in a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Protesters had again gathered close to the Bank of England. Activists have posted an appeal on the internet for witnesses to the incident involving the policeman and the woman to come forward, with a view to complaining to the IPCC.

A Met spokesman said: "Every officer is accountable under law, and fully aware of the scrutiny that their actions can be held open to. The decision to use force is made by the individual police officer, and they must account for that. "The City of London Police is now carrying out a full post-event investigation into crimes committed that day, processing the 124 arrests, and identifying outstanding suspects. "Where through viewing material this investigation highlights what is believed to be excessive force by officers the Directorate of Professional Standards will be made aware." The commission has also seen the footage of the incident involving the police officer and the woman.

A spokesman said: "The IPCC has received a number of complaints from members of the public about the actions of police officers at the G20 protests. We are assessing the most serious ones to decide whether it is appropriate for the IPCC to investigate further."

The commission is leading the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death the previous evening of Ian Tomlinson, 47, a newspaper seller who had a heart attack minutes after being pushed to the ground by a riot policeman.

David Winnick, a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, called on Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, to make a statement to the Commons about the latest footage. Mr Winnick said: "What we have here is outright police brutality which cannot be justified."

Original report here

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Australia's arrogant secret police again

Let's be glad that they do eventually have to substantiate their claims in court. On this occasion it was a court order that would have revealed their improper activities that caused them to drop a case. They couldn't risk facing the light of day

NEARLY five years after the nation's most infamous former detective, Roger Rogerson, was arrested while appearing on the comedy circuit with Mark "Chopper" Read and former footballer Mark Jackson, the corruption charges against him have been quietly dropped.

The South Australian police case against Mr Rogerson was shelved after disturbing allegations that the nation's most powerful law-enforcement agency had illegally tapped his phone and run a campaign of intimidation and harassment against the NSW ex-detective. The allegations of corruption about the activities of the Australian Crime Commission were considered so serious that the South Australian judge hearing the case reported it to the ACC, which in turn referred it to the corruption watchdog -- the Australian Commission on Law Enforcement Integrity.

Mr Rogerson's lawyer, Paul Kenny, said the results of that corruption investigation had never been made public. "I am concerned about the lack of transparency of any secret inquiry," he said.

Mr Rogerson, now 68 and still working doing the "odd club and pub show", said he was disgusted at the ACC's actions. "These agencies are not answerable to anyone -- they are out of control," he said. "It's just like the old saying, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

A spokesman for the integrity commission said it could not comment on operational matters. However, a secret report believed to be about the complaint was sent to federal Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus. The report dismissed the allegations of illegal activities, but reported "possible breaches of duty" and referred the matter back to the head of the ACC.

Mr Rogerson was arrested in 2004 while on tour with the comedy act Wild Colonial Psychos, in which he, Jacko and Read talked about their life experiences. Mr Rogerson's performances around the country were seen by some as an attempt to remake his persona from a decorated detective gone wrong to a lovable rogue.

Mr Rogerson was sent to prison for six months in 1985 for perverting the course of justice. And he was jailed in 2005 for 2 1/2 years for giving false evidence to the NSW Police Integrity Commission in 2000.

Police had waited for two years until he crossed the border into South Australia before charging him with "attempting to procure the abuse of public office". The South Australian charges related to an alleged approach by Mr Rogerson to a police sergeant to find the whereabouts of former Sydney bikie lawyer Justin Hill. Police alleged that in 2002 he had asked David Lawrence Mullen, 55, to help find Mr Hill's address so he could give it to a friend -- a process server -- who was attempting to serve the former lawyer with a court order.

Mr Mullen also had the charges of abuse of public office against him dropped. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was put on a good behaviour bond in the South Australian District Court. During the preliminary stages of the case, it emerged that the charges arose because the ACC had been tapping Rogerson's phone with what were alleged to be illegal warrants.

Former ACC officer Sam Foster gave a number of affidavits, which were filed in the District Court, alleging that one of his colleagues at the ACC was running covert operations on Mr Rogerson "like a personal vendetta" and had told his colleagues that he would "get Roger".

Foster is in jail after admitting to setting up drug dealers and robbing them, and other offences. But he has been accepted as a credible witness by the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions in a number of successful prosecutions of his co-accused. Foster's affidavits alleged that the ACC had continuously targeted Mr Rogerson over a number of years even though he was not doing anything illegal. "I was most concerned that the particular interception warrants in relation to Mr Rogerson have been improperly obtained and were being reapplied for and granted without proper foundation as no evidence or credible information of substance was forthcoming," he said.

In preparation for the trial, Mr Rogerson's legal team subpoenaed every telephone warrant used by the ACC and the information used to get the warrants. But not one of those subpoenaed documents was presented to the court. And the charges against Mr Rogerson were withdrawn just days before the matter was due to go to trial. Meanwhile, Foster waits in jail, still anxious to give evidence about the activities of the ACC.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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

Monday, April 13, 2009

Killing of black man by police shakes La. town

For 73 years before his killing by a white police officer, Bernard Monroe led a life in this little town as quiet as they come—five kids with his wife of five decades, all raised in the same house, supported by the same job.
The black man's death is making far more noise than he ever did, and raising racial tensions between the black community and the police department.

Rendered mute after losing his larynx to cancer, the 73-year-old retired power company lineman was in his usual spot on a mild Friday afternoon in February: A chair by the gate that led to his Adams Street home. A barbecue cooker smoked beside a picnic table in the yard as a dozen or so family members talked and played nearby.

All seemed peaceful, until two Homer police officers drove up. In a report to state authorities, Homer police said Officer Tim Cox and another officer they have refused to identify chased Monroe's son, Shaun, 38, from a suspected drug deal blocks away to his father's house. Witnesses dispute that account, saying the younger Monroe was talking to his sister-in-law in a truck in front of the house when the officers pulled up.

All agree Shaun Monroe, who had an arrest record for assault and battery but no current warrants, drove up the driveway and went into the house. Two white police officers followed him. Within minutes, he ran back outside, followed by an unidentified officer who Tasered him in the front yard.

Seeing the commotion, Bernard Monroe confronted the officer. Police said that he advanced on them with a pistol and that Cox, who was still inside the house, shot at him through a screen door.

Monroe fell dead along a walkway. How many shots were fired isn't clear; the coroner has refused to release an autopsy report, citing the active investigation.

Police said Monroe was shot after he pointed a gun at them, though no one claims Monroe fired shots. Friends and family said he was holding a bottle of sports water. They accuse police of planting a gun he owned next to his body. "Mr. Ben didn't have a gun," said 32-year-old neighbor Marcus Frazier, who was there that day. "I saw that other officer pick up the gun from out of a chair on the porch and put it by him." Frazier said Monroe was known to keep a gun for protection because of local drug activity.

Despite the chase and Tasering, Shaun Monroe was not arrested. He and other relatives would not comment on the incident.

Monroe's gun is being DNA-tested by state police. The findings of their investigation will be given to District Attorney Jonathan Stewart, who would decide whether to file charges.

The case has raised racial tensions in this north Louisiana town, led to FBI and State Police investigations and drawn attention from national civil rights leaders. "We've had a good relationship, blacks and whites, but this thing has done a lot of damage," said Michael Wade, one of three blacks on the five-member town council. "To shoot down a family man that had never done any harm, had no police record, caused no trouble. Suddenly everyone is looking around wondering why it happened and if race was the reason."

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped organize a massive 2007 civil rights demonstration in Jena after six black teenagers were charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white classmate, will lead a rally Friday in Homer. "The parallel here is that the local community cannot trust law enforcement and cannot trust the process to go forward without outside help," Sharpton said.

Homer, a town of 3,800 about 45 miles northwest of Shreveport, is in the piney woods just south of the Arkansas state line. Many people work in the oil or timber industries; hunting and fishing are big pastimes. In the old downtown, shops line streets near the antebellum Claiborne Parish courthouse on the town square.

The easygoing climate, blacks say, masked police harassment. The black community has focused its anger on Police Chief Russell Mills, who is white. They say he's directed a policy of harassment toward them.

Mills declined interview requests, saying he retained a lawyer and feared losing his job. But after the Monroe killing, the Chicago Tribune quoted him as saying, "If I see three or four young black men walking down the street, I have to stop them and check their names. I want them to be afraid every time they see the police that they might get arrested."

"Word got around on what the chief said and things really boiled up again," said the Rev. Willie Young, president of the Claiborne Parish NAACP.

Mills describes his policing style as "aggressive" but denies making the statement to the Tribune. He would not permit interviews with his officers. The FBI and State Police said they received no complaints about Homer police before the shooting. "They're more than aggressive around here," said Shirley Raney, 47, a homemaker who lived a few blocks from Monroe. She said officers pulled up at her house and searched her son before going to his home Feb. 20. "They said there were drugs in this area and Chief Mills wanted it stopped," Raney said.

Meanwhile, the officers are on paid leave as Homer prepares for Friday's rally. "I consider (the rally) to be more spiritual than divisive," said the NAACP's Young. "There are whites who understand the situation and are working with us."

Original report here

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

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lash out, close ranks – it’s the British police way
‘Police log, Neasden Central police station, 0830 hours: Every available officer to report for emergency riot duty at the G20 summit at the ExCel centre. All officers to be issued with Kalashnikov assault rifles, Tasers and overtime claim forms (PX 74235b) . . . Officers will be issued with guidelines on how to act effectively in the unfortunate event of the demonstrations remaining peaceful.”

Private Eye’s spoof Police Log has for some time satirised the modern British police force as part paramilitary, part social worker – and entirely self-serving. As so often, the best satire turns out to anticipate events, rather than just caricature them. The latest Neasden Central log was published before the G20 demonstrations, and while they were not entirely peaceful, one officer needed more to satisfy his desire to be involved in a violent confrontation.

This was the masked member of the supposedly elite Territorial Support Group whose unprovoked assault on Ian Tomlinson, a 47-year-old father of nine, is now being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Mr Tomlinson – who was not a demonstrator, but just walking home – suffered a fatal heart attack immediately after the encounter; if the assailant had been anyone other than a policeman “in the course of his duty”, we can be fairly sure that the police would favour a charge of manslaughter against the thug in question.

I imagine that most readers will already have seen the video of the incident, fortuitously captured by a City worker’s mobile phone, but for the benefit of those who haven’t, it shows Mr Tomlinson, who was walking away from the group of policemen, being hit across the back of his legs with a savage blow from a truncheon. This did not have the presumably desired effect of bringing Mr Tomlinson crashing down; so the same officer achieved his pointless purpose by pushing Tomlinson from behind, with maximum force.

Robert Rhodes QC points out – and, as the lawyer who represented the Belgian government against English football hooligans after the Heysel stadium disaster, he knows a thing or two about thuggish behaviour – “The really worrying aspect of the police involvement in Ian Tomlinson’s death is that several officers saw [the incident] but just stood by, doing nothing. It is this closing of ranks until the video was published that is likely to be destructive of public confidence in the integrity of the police.”

Until that video emerged, the police had presented themselves to the IPCC’s investigators as Mr Tomlinson’s benefactors: they had had no contact with him before he collapsed, and their medical officers’ subsequent attempt to treat him had been made more difficult by a hail of missiles, a barrage that no independent witness seems able to recall.

In recent years we have become wearily familiar with what the “closing of ranks” can involve, not stopping short of tampering with evidence. This was seen most dramatically in the inquest into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, when a Special Branch officer, giving evidence behind a screen, admitted that he had deleted a line in his original notes, which had recorded that Cressida Dick, the officer in charge of the operation, said at the time that Menezes “can run onto Tube as not carrying anything”.

This, I’m afraid, is the sort of thing that happens when the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Manual of Guidance on Police Use of Firearms sanctions so-called “conferring over notes” after a fatality. The IPCC has on three occasions called for this practice to end – in the first instance after the death in 1999 of 46-year-old Harry Stanley, shot by officers who believed he was holding a gun; the late Mr Stanley, a part-time painter and decorator, was in fact walking home from a pub with a table leg tucked under his arm. Mr Stanley had a spent conviction for robbery, while the unfortunate Mr Tomlinson was an alcoholic drifter who seems to have been drunk on the day of his death; but it is not the job of the police, any more than it is of ordinary members of the public, to carry out extrajudicial punishments against sundry shambling scamps.

It’s true that I have experienced none of the undoubted frustrations that mark the working day of the police officer. I am not engaged in the constant struggle to stem the tide of villainy in a legal system that inevitably affords wicked people the chance of acquittal if a jury remains unconvinced by the prosecution. Yet the people who should be most angered by the excesses of individual officers are the police themselves, as I imagine many are. The less the police are trusted by the public, the more likely it is that juries will disbelieve the honest evidence of a policeman taking the stand in a courtroom.

A friend of mine, who was a Metropolitan policeman in the early 1970s, allegedly a time when the force was much less enlightened and accountable than it is now, rang me up to express his disgust at what had happened to Mr Tomlinson. “I policed rent-a-mob rioting student and anarchist groups,” he said. “So I know all about provocation. But to witness a British policeman, dressed like an Omon trooper [a member of the Russian Special Purpose police unit], with his face obscured, running up and striking a defenceless man from behind makes my blood run cold.”

My friend added that the very video evidence that has prevented Mr Tomlinson’s assailant from getting away with a criminal assault could now itself be prevented: section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which came into force in February, permits the arrest of anyone taking a photograph or film of the police that is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”. The police will doubtless protest that this new law is not meant to stop “innocent” people taking such film.

Since we have now seen legislation designed to fight terrorism invoked against Icelandic banks, hecklers at Labour party conferences and parents suspected of lying about their place of residence in order to get their children into their preferred school, I think my ex-policeman friend is right to believe that section 76 is also likely to be abused.

In a month when a number of Pakistanis on student visas have been arrested as part of a suspected terrorist plot, it will be argued that the police need all the support we can give them in the fight against people who have no qualms about murdering multitudes of innocents. There is, however, absolutely no connection between what that member of the Territorial Support Group did to Tomlinson and the work of the anti-terrorist branch. Nor should the threat from extreme Islamism be used to justify removing the liberties that are precisely the legal inheritance that distinguishes this country from less fortunate nations.

New Labour has always been contemptuous of that history, being convinced that nothing which predated 1997 – its year zero – is worth preserving. It is probably far too late, but I would beg its latest home secretary, in the short time she has left in the job, to study the founding principles laid down by perhaps the greatest incumbent of her office, Sir Robert Peel, when he created the Metropolitan police: “The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent on public approval of police actions . . . Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police.”

The City worker who filmed the beating of Ian Tomlinson was acting exactly in that tradition.

Original report here

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