Friday, November 30, 2012

British cops can say what other Brits cannot

Other Brits have been sent to jail for lesser offences under the same laws with no regard to free speech rights. Only police have free speech rights in Britain, apparently

Two police officers were cleared of racial harassment today after one admitted saying a black man looked like a monkey while another allegedly told a black colleague that she was 'going home to cook bananas'.

Metropolitan Police constables Kevin Hughes, 36, and Pc David Hair, 42, were both found not guilty on two separate charges each at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court.

PC Kevin Hughes, 42, was patrolling the East End of London in a squad car when he made the remark about a black man looking like a monkey to colleague PC Costas Dakoutros.

When challenged by PC Dakoutros, Hughes said ‘It’s true’ and added: ‘They’re closely related to chimpanzees and more closely related to Neanderthals.’

During the same patrol another workmate, PC Kirk Baker, heard Hughes say: ‘Black people haven’t evolved, they live in mud huts in Africa.’ He went on to say that black people’s ‘sticking out ears and thick lips’ made them resemble primates.

Prosecutors claimed the case revealed a culture of racism in the Victim Offenders Location Time (VOLT) team which was based in Newham, one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the country.

But Hughes, along with PC David Hair, 36, a fellow member of the VOLT team, was cleared of a public order offence and racially aggravated harassment.

Hughes wept as District Judge Howard Riddle announced the verdicts at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, while Hair signed with relief.

Hair was alleged to have racially abused PC Julia Dacres while travelling in a police minibus last March 13. He asked her if she was going to do some overtime and then said: ‘I didn’t know if you were going to go into a little rant and say how you had to go home and cook bananas’.

Hughes would also talk in a mock-Asian accent call other officers ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’. He thought it was hilarious because he had dealt with Asian man who said he was ‘visiting his aunty for a party’ in a very thick accent.

He admitted he had referred to the men’s similarities to monkeys but said it was during an innocent conversation about evolution and had nothing to do with his race.

‘I just said it has nothing to do with him being black, I noticed him because he had elongated limbs, his gait,’ Hughes told the court. ‘I said that was why I picked him out, because of the way he was walking - it was a fleeting glance.

‘I was just trying to reinforce my point that I believe that some human beings had characteristics that resemble monkeys.’

Hair admitted making the bananas comment, but denied that it was racially motivated.

Senior District Judge Howard Riddle said: 'Whatever precisely Pc Hughes said, it was unacceptable and offensive.' He said that 'in these circumstances it did not amount to a criminal offence'.

Noting that 'context is central', Mr Riddle pointed out there had been no aggression or threat.

He said: 'Freedom of speech is a cherished principle. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to be offensive. 'It is, of course, restrained in a number of ways - employers can require employees to avoid offensive language or lose their jobs. The civil courts can provide redress for harm caused.

'But when the state tells people what they can or cannot say, on pain of criminal sanction, the position is different. Citizens expect strong justification for curtailing freedom of expression. Offensiveness is not enough. Context is central.'

Hughes, of Ingrave, Essex, and Hair of Epping, Essex, were both found not guilty of one count of using threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behaviour to cause another person harassment, alarm, or distress and alternative charge of racially aggravated harassment.

The judge praised the MPS and CPS for bringing the case.

Original report here

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sydney jeweller found guilty over boyfriend's death after third trial

After two judges found there was no case to answer! This may now go to the High Court. It is exceptional enough

Sydney jeweller Phillip Leung has been found guilty of killing his male partner after three trials spanning four years - a first in NSW's legal history.

Leung, 51, sobbed uncontrollably in the dock as the jury found he was guilty of manslaughter over the death of his long-term partner Mario Guzzetti - a crime for which he had previously been acquitted.

"This is wrong, just wrong," Leung said, through tears.

The trial in the NSW Supreme Court had heard that on the morning of April 7, 2007, a row erupted between the couple over a tiler's bag of cement that was obstructing access at their home in Alexandria.

About the same time, neighbours heard a loud noise, like a shelf falling. After several minutes' silence, Mr Leung was heard wailing hysterically.

The first witnesses at the scene found him at the foot of the stairs, rocking back and forth while cradling his blood-stained partner, who had sustained head injuries. Mr Guzzetti, 72, had stopped breathing by the time ambulance officers arrived.

At his original trial in 2009, Mr Leung was acquitted of murder after a judge directed the jury to find him not guilty.

The Crown, however, used NSW's controversial double jeopardy laws, introduced in 2006, to have the verdict quashed.

Mr Leung then faced court on a manslaughter charge last April, but became the first person in Australian legal history to be acquitted twice by a judge's directed verdict. As he left court that day, he said he was "finally free" to move on.

He was wrong.

In March this year, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal upheld a second appeal by the Crown and ordered that Mr Leung again be tried for manslaughter.

Leung appeared to be in a state of shock as the jury foreman delivered the verdict today after two days of deliberations, shaking his head slowly before breaking down. At least one member of the jury also appeared to be crying.

Leung's barrister, Winston Terracini, SC, made a last ditch effort to keep his client out of jail, asking that he be granted bail.

But Justice Derek Price refused bail, telling court sherrifs to "take the offender into custody".

Leung, still protesting his innocence, removed his jewellery and his glasses and descended the stairs to the cells below.

Mr Leung, 51, is the first person in NSW legal history to be tried three times over the same homicide investigation.

Original report here

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Australia: Bugging report too "dangerous" to release

The report of an official enquiry should be well considered so there can only be one thing the cops are afraid of: The truth

THE secret police report into the widespread phone-tapping and bugging of over 110 serving and former officers was too "dangerous" to be released, the Inspector of the Police Integrity Commission, David Levine, said yesterday.

The reputations of the NSW Police Force and individual officers could be trashed if the report and recommendations by strike force Emblems were made public, the former Supreme Court judge said.

Mr Levine said while he could understand the concerns of the 114 people named in just one of the warrants investigated by strike force Emblems, the final decision to release the report should lie with NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour.

Police Minister Michael Gallacher denied this was another attempt to bury the report which he had pledged to release when he got into government.

Police Association president Scott Weber said those police officers affected felt the matter was "not being taken seriously" and rejected criticism of the Emblems investigators.

"Many of (the officers) were senior and respected police officers," Mr Weber said.

"They did their absolute best despite zero co-operation from the NSW Crime Commission and limited access to information. They were even subjected to threats of being prosecuted under the draconian secrecy provisions."

Strike force Emblems was set up in 2003 after a number of officers, including one of the now-deputy commissioners Nick Kaldas, made complaints about being bugged by the police's Special Crime and Internal Affairs unit working with the Crime Commission and the PIC in what was called Operation Mascot. The operation's leader was Superintendent Catherine Burn, another current deputy commissioner.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Grave injustice in Australia: fight to clear a dead man goes to unusual appeal

He was old, sick and holed up in a men's home, but two weeks before he died, Fred McDermott was still getting hassled about the murder.

"People still believe I did it," McDermott told a television journalist. "They said 'He got out on a royal commission, but that's the bloke who knocked over Lavers'."

In that last interview, the old shearer looked like a hunting trophy. Leukaemia, two heart attacks and years of living rough had left him a skeleton with a pale coat of skin. When he died, in 1977, McDermott had been out of prison for 25 years. But he had never been acquitted of the murder experts say he could not have committed.

"Employers all over the place know my name and I didn't stand a chance anywhere," he said.

Betty Sheelah heard about her cousin's death on the news. "He ended up a real broken man," she said. "He still had that murder thing hanging over his head."

If you had told Ms Sheelah then that decades later she would be in a Sydney court watching a barrister fight to make her cousin the first dead person ever to be acquitted in Australia, she would never have believed you.

"It's all because Ted Markham found that skeleton," she said.

In November 2004, a Grenfell farmer, Ted Markham, spotted something white in the grass on his property. "I picked it up and turned it round and saw two open eye sockets looking at me," he told ABC News.

Police found other bones in a nearby cave. DNA tests confirmed they belonged to Harry Lavers, who owned a Grenfell petrol station in the 1930s.

The last time Lavers had been seen was the morning of September 5, 1936. He woke before dawn and told his wife he was going out to feed the horses. She rose an hour later, and thinking it odd that her husband had not lit the fire, she checked out the front of their petrol station.

The hose of one of the bowsers lay on the ground. Blood and hair mingled at its base.

Tyre tracks ran across the soil in front of the bowsers and kept running along the unmade road north from Grenfell to Forbes. Residents said they had seen a noisy touring car headed north. Essie May King, who worked the show circuit as a phrenologist and psychologist, told police she had seen two men in a touring car on that road the day before Lavers disappeared. But police found nothing.

The case lay dormant until 1944, when detectives in Sydney heard that a shearer in Griffith had confessed to Lavers's murder. This led police to McDermott, who had told his girlfriend years before that police had interviewed him about Lavers's disappearance. When she got drunk she would sometimes accuse McDermott of killing Lavers. To shut her up he would say: "Yeah, I did it."

Now they had a suspect, police called Essie May King and asked her to look at some photos. They showed her a portrait of McDermott standing in the sun with his eyes closed. King identified him as one of the men she had seen in the car nine years earlier.

"That identification would never be allowed in a court today," said Tom Molomby, SC, who as well as defending McDermott, has written a book about the saga.

On Wednesday, Mr Molomby will tell the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal that McDermott's conviction was based on shaky evidence, which collapsed with the discovery of the skeleton.

A state coroner called McDermott's conviction a "gross miscarriage of justice". A royal commission freed him from jail in 1952 because there were too many doubts about the evidence. But he was never acquitted, because common law denies dead people the right to an appeal. Mr Molomby has found a loophole - under the Crimes (Appeal and Review) Act 2001, a relative of the accused is allowed to petition the Attorney-General.

Ms Sheelah, now 74, says she has petitioned because "it's time Fred's name was cleared".

"I know it's probably too late for Fred, but it's not too late for the rest of the McDermotts, and it's not too late to have it erased off our family history."

Original report here

UPDATE: Conviction now overturned

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Va.: Montgomery release at last

Convicted on the word of a stupid woman. More details here

Elizabeth Paige Coast has been charged with perjury

Johnathan Montgomery stepped into the chilly night air Tuesday evening as a free man. After receiving a conditional pardon from Gov. Bob McDonnell, he was finally released from the Greensville Correctional Center where he had remained incarcerated for four years for a crime he did not commit.

About a month ago, his accuser admitted she had fabricated a story that Mr. Montgomery had sexually assaulted her. On Nov. 9, a Hampton Circuit Court judge ordered that his conviction be overturned. But due to a convoluted Virginia process, Mr. Montgomery was not going to be released until a petition had made its way through the Virginia Court of Appeals. This was despite the fact that the Hampton Circuit Court judge, the Hampton Commonwealth's Attorney, the Virginia Attorney General all advocated his release.

Not only did Montgomery lose the four years he'd spent in prison, he had to endure another 11 days of incarceration while the powers that be jockeyed for a solution. Eleven days may not sound like much to those of us who take our liberties for granted, but in this young man's case, that delay was especially unjust. As he said when he left Greensville, "You don't know what is lost until you've lost it."

Our Governor did a good thing Tuesday, and his personal calls to apologize to Montgomery and his parents were also the right thing to do. While Mr. Montgomery's freedom is no doubt exhilarating, his exoneration will not be truly complete until all the paperwork is signed and his record is expunged of the wrongful charges and conviction.

Original report here

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

British law student stole neighbour's identity to buy £100,000 worth of cars after bank statement was wrongly delivered

No jail

A former law student stole her next door neighbour's identity to carry out a £100,000 luxury car scam.

Stephanie Lane used Susan Cooper's personal details, which she obtained from a bank statement delivered to her in error, to apply for credit for high-value vehicles.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 24-year-old applied for finance for a £50,000 BMW, a £40,000 Audi, a £10,000 BMW sports car and a £5,000 Volvo in her neighbour's name.

Despite the applications being granted by the four showrooms she visited, the mum-of-two's plan to get her hands on the vehicles was foiled when the companies asked for extra confirmation of her identity.

Lane, of Marsden Way, Seaham, who has 10 GCSEs and three A levels, including law, was arrested after details of the finance agreements were received by Miss Cooper. Lane pleaded guilty to four charges of fraud during a two week period in February.

Mrs Cooper told police she was left under enormous stress and worry about what impact the scam will have on her future credit rating. She said she was disappointed a neighbour would act in such a way. Her statement said: 'She never even attempted any explanation or apologised for her actions.

'It is very difficult for me to see Stephanie Lane, knowing she was the person responsible for causing me such stress and worry.'

Judge John Evans said Lane's education had been a success and told her: 'On the face of it you appeared to be someone who was destined for a life which would be fulfilled and would certainly be honest. 'It is difficult to comprehend what was going through your mind when you embarked on this series of attempts to obtain valuable cars.'

Lane was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with 250 hours unpaid work and a three month night time curfew.

Nick Cartmel, defending, said the scam was 'clumsy and inadequate' as Lane used many of her own personal details, including her address, on some of the applications. Mr Cartmel said Lane has two young children to care for and added: 'She is a non violent, non sexual offender who I would ask the court to give a chance to. 'She is genuinely remorseful.' [At getting caught]

Original report here

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Why is doctor in GMC probe STILL being allowed to break up British families?

Psychiatrist accused of falsely diagnosing parents with mental health illnesses

The evidence of a psychiatrist accused of distorting reports to suit the needs of local authorities is still being used to remove children from their parents.

One mother faced the prospect of having a baby son taken away from her because of a report written by Dr George Hibbert six years ago - before the child in question was even born.

The doctor is at the centre of an investigation over claims that he falsely diagnosed parents with mental disorders to fit with the view of social services.

He has already offered to surrender his doctor's licence following the claims - but has been told the allegations are so serious he must face a public hearing.

Now the Mail Online has learned that his reports - for which he has been paid millions by local authorities - are still being used in the secret family courts against parents he labelled 'unfit'.

One woman, who can be named only as Miss C, had her two daughters taken away after she failed one of Dr Hibbert's controversial 'parenting assessments' in 2006.

In a bizarre report, he criticised Miss C for speaking to her elder daughter 'in an over-bright tone', vacuuming the floor 'in an agitated way' and even on one occasion, for 'overcooking the pasta'.

He also expressed concern that her youngest daughter, who was just two months old, spent too much time 'asleep, wrapped in blankets'.
Claims have been made by a woman known as Miss B, about how her daughter, now six, was taken away from her mother due to a report by psychiatrist Dr George Hibbert

Claims have been made by a woman known as Miss B, about how her daughter, now six, was taken away from her mother due to a report by psychiatrist Dr George Hibbert

He concluded she was 'unable to protect the children from harm' because she was 'preoccupied' by what other people thought of her.

As a result of the report, the mother was forced to endure the agony of having her two children taken away - and placed in the care of her abusive ex-partner.

'I couldn't believe it,' she said. 'They are everything to me. To have them taken away was awful for me but much worse for them. My eldest daughter was utterly traumatised.'

Determined to get her daughters back, Miss C fought a long legal battle and eventually won the right to care for her two daughters unsupervised for one day a week.

When she gave birth to another baby earlier this year, a parenting assessment found 'no concerns' about Miss C's ability to look after the child, who was 'happy' and 'contented' in her care.

But despite this, her local authority started proceedings to have the boy removed and adopted - citing Dr Hibbert's six-year-old report on her parenting capabilities as evidence she was an unfit mother. 'It was like being in a nightmare' she said.

'Everybody knows I'm a good mother. But Dr Hibbert's report is like a black cloud hanging over everything. It just seems so wrong that they could still have used his reports in court to take my baby away, even though he's being investigated and all these people have come forward.'

The General Medical Council is investigating a string of claims by women who say their children were wrongly removed as a result of Dr Hibbert's reports.

At least one former member of staff at his Assessment centre - Tadpole Cottage in Blunsdon, Wiltshire - is understood to have come forward in support of the parents.

Earlier this year, Dr Hibbert, an eminent psychiatrist who has lectured at Oxford and advised MPs on the family courts, offered to surrender his doctor's licence after being confronted with allegations that he had deliberately misdiagnosed patients with mental disorders.

But the GMC dismissed his request and has said it expects to hold a Fitness to Practise Hearing early next year. Dr Hibbert is now seeking permission of the High Court to challenge the GMC's decision to investigate one complaint that falls outside the usual five-year time limit for investigations.

Meanwhile a number of women have contacted a solicitors' firm in Manchester regarding civil claims against the psychiatrist.

In a statement, Dr Hibbert said: 'I have had one complaint referred to the GMC's Fitness to Practise Panel for a hearing, a complaint that relates to a case in 2007, but no hearing date has yet been fixed.

'There are other complaints that the GMC are investigating but their investigations in these other cases are at a preliminary stage and none of them has been referred to the GMC's Fitness to Practise Panel.'

Original report here

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Australia: State Crime Commission broke the law

This has long been alleged

The police watchdog has found misconduct and illegal practices within the New South Wales Crime Commission.  The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has found the Crime Commission has grossly misapplied the law for more than a decade.

The PIC says the crime fighting body illegally funded about 15 per cent of its budget using cash seized from suspected criminals.

The report says grossly-excessive sums of money were handed back to defendants for their legal fees.

The solicitor girlfriend of a former senior officer received more than $300,000 for four cases alone.

The PIC has recommended the former officer Lou Novakovic be charged with misconduct for favours to his girlfriend, Salina Sadiq, and for giving false or misleading evidence.

The Crime Commission's former commissioner and directors have escaped adverse findings, with the report concluding they were ignorant of the law.

The New South Wales Crime Commission was set up in 1985 to investigate major drug trafficking and organised crime.

The PIC has conducted a four-year investigation into the organisation, after a series of scandals.

In 2011, former assistant director, Mark Standen, was jailed for 22 years on drug importation charges.

A separate special commission of inquiry found no ongoing corruption within the body but problems with its accountability.

In September, veteran barrister Peter Hastings QC was announced as the new Crime Commissioner.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

British cop 'felt sober after six-pint drinking session before car crash that killed new girlfriend'

Six pints is a lot of beer and of all people a cop should know about drinking and driving. He should not have been driving at all. But no doubt he will get a wrist slap, if that

A police officer whose new girlfriend died when he lost control of his car while driving at around twice the legal limit said he 'felt sober' when he got behind the wheel.

Brendan Buggie, 39, who was not on duty at the time, had downed six pints ahead of the crash in Greater Manchester.

Justyna Stanczak, 26, who was in the passenger seat, suffered fatal injuries when the Toyota Celica hit a van in Ramsbottom.

Greater Manchester Police officer Buggie, who denies causing death by careless driving while over the prescribed limit, has said the car skidded as a result of icy road conditions on the night of the accident last December.

The police officer had been driving Miss Stanczak - the best friend of his ex-girlfriend Lucy Fox - back to her home in Bury after the pair met at the end of her shift in a bar on December 4 last year.

The couple had been spotted walking to his own house by Miss Fox's mother and, fearing his ex-partner would turn up, Buggie offered to drive his new girlfriend to her home at around midnight.

Buggie, who had spent the afternoon in various local pubs, told Bradford Crown Court: 'I'd had a number of drinks at that time, I'm not denying it. 'But I felt sober.'

The officer's car hit a stationary white van parked on the A56 in Ramsbottom after it skidded on the road.

Buggie said the roads looked damp and although he did not notice ice on the surface, he had to defrost frozen hail from his car windscreen before the journey. 'As far as I could see, at that time it appeared to be damp,' he said. 'Speed-wise, I didn't feel like I was exceeding 40mph.

'Virtually as I'm exiting the corner the back end has come round to my right-hand side. 'It came as such a surprise because I'd nearly got round the bend,' Buggie said.

He said the car fishtailed before smashing into a parked van.

'The split second of the impact, I don't know whether I had my eyes closed or not.

'Straightaway I looked to my left and Justyna's eyes were shut.

'When I looked over, I expected screaming or shouting. But to look over and she's unconscious...To see someone not responding is the worst case scenario.'

Buggie called an ambulance but Miss Stanczak, a Polish national, died of 'massive internal bleeding' in hospital hours later, the court was told.

Expert witnesses have told the jury the road was extremely icy and the conditions treacherous.

The prosecution claims that Buggie was not driving with care and his ability to do so was impeded by the amount he had drunk.

Nicholas Williams, prosecuting, told jurors: 'The prosecution say he drove carelessly that night - no doubt because he'd been drinking - by failing to adapt his driving.'

The court previously heard that when the defendant's ex-girlfriend learned that he had been seen with Miss Stanczak it sparked a furious text exchange between the trio. The exchange of messages had left Miss Stanczak upset and Buggie offered to drive her home.

Despite briefly regaining consciousness after the crash, the 26-year-old died at around 4.30am at Fairfield General Hospital in Bury.

The trial, scheduled to last five days, continues.

Original report here

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Another Drug War Nightmare

The government has the power to seize your assets for a crime you did not commit. That's essentially the argument being made in a Boston federal court this week as the U.S. Department of Justice and Tewksbury (Mass.) Police Department work to take Motel Caswell away from its owner, Russ Caswell.

The libertarian-leaning legal team Institute for Justice took on Caswell's case pro bono, attorney Scott Bullock told me, because this case "is really taking civil forfeiture where it has not gone in the past."

The government wants to take Caswell's motel, not because Caswell is guilty of dealing drugs or other crimes but because some of his guests broke the law. A legal brief cites 15 drug crimes, including distributing heroin and manufacturing methamphetamine, that prompted police to arrest Caswell guests from 1994 to 2008.

"We're trying to make the property and the location safe," said Christina DiIorio-Sterling, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

TripAdvisor reviews make Motel Caswell sound like the place I stayed at when I covered the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. One cab driver heard the name and insisted I pay cash.

DiIorio-Sterling noted that the government had pushed for a settlement that would have required Caswell to pay $167,500 and agree to sell or shutter the property. He refused.

Bullock assured me that the Main Street motel isn't seedy, just the cheapest room in town. "We get a cross section of society," Caswell told me.

The legal point, said Bullock: An innkeeper should not be held responsible for "transient guests that occasionally use the motel for illicit drug activity behind closed doors."

The Institute for Justice has experience with governments going after the property of people without the means to fight back. The institute represented working-class homeowner Susette Kelo after the town of New London, Conn., tried to seize her house under eminent domain for a private waterfront development project. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court infamously ruled 5-4 for New London.

In a righteous dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that if governments can kick people out of their homes for economic development, "the specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

Voila. Caswell's father built the one-story, 56-room motel in 1955. Because it's family-run with no mortgage, said Bullock, a seizure would deliver "pure profit for law enforcement." The Tewksbury police stand to pocket 80 percent of the $1 million or more Caswell believes the property is worth.

The government doesn't have to prove Caswell was a party to or even knew what was going on in guests' $56 rooms.

In 1999, Congress passed a law to curb civil asset forfeiture abuses, citing a Houston Chronicle editorial that argued, "Good people should not have to fear property seizure because they operate business in high-crime areas. Nor should they forfeit their property because they have failed to do the work of law enforcement."

Yet it's happening all over again. Quoth Bullock, "I think it's fair to say they expected Mr. Caswell not to fight this all the way."

Original report here

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Death in custody coverup defeated by amateur

She was up against the daunting proposition of a police force and two barristers [trial lawyers]. But this did not deter factory cleaner Tracey McCourt from getting justice for her brother-in-law.

A three-week inquest was held recently into the death of Lenny McCourt, who died of a heart attack in a cramped cage at the back of a police van.

At the inquest, Durham Police had their own barristers and the Police Federation - the police officer's trade union - also supplied another.

However, the McCourt family were unable to obtain legal aid and so did not have any legal representation.

But this did not deter brave Mrs McCourt who decided to take actions into her own hands. The grandmother-of-one took the bold decision to go up against the two barristers herself and ask questions on behalf of her family.

And following her legal representation, Durham coroner, Andrew Tweddle launched a criticism into the police actions which led to Lenny, 44, dying in the cramped cage. Mr Tweddle also praised Mrs McCourt's quizzing of the officers she blames for Lenny's death, saying she had 'missed her vocation' as a lawyer.

Mum-of-two, and grandmother to Logan, one, Mrs McCourt is married to Lenny's brother Gene, 49.

Lenny was the youngest of five brothers and the close-knit family was left devastated when the 44-year-old, who had been drinking heavily, died on his way to the cells at Peterlee Police Station on the afternoon of Saturday, September 11, 2010.

Mrs McCourt, from Eastlea, Seaham, said: 'I thought the world of Lenny. We were the same age and went to the same school. 'We always got on well together.'

Mrs McCourt describes 6ft 3in tall Lenny as a 'gentle giant' but accepted he had 'issues' and could sometimes drink to excess.

It was while he had been drinking that neighbours called police following a disturbance outside his home in Seaham.

Police arrived at his house and told the hearing they thought they had managed to calm him down. But he followed them out to their car and the officers claimed that he became aggressive.

After spraying him twice with pepper spray, two male officers and one woman special officer bundled him into a van.

There then followed a catalogue of errors by police which has led to three officers facing disciplinary action.

Mr Tweddle called for a review into the size of cages in the back of police vans where prisoners are held, after Mrs McCourt insisted that the inquest jury inspect the van Lenny was put into.

Other errors highlighted by Mr Tweddle included a failure to tell Lenny why he was being arrested, a failure to keep him under observation while he was being transported to Peterlee and a failure to apply prompt medical action aid when they realised he was unconscious.

The jury decided that Lenny died of a heart attack in the van, Mr Tweddle added: 'I think anyone who saw the footage at Peterlee police station could not fail to be moved by the fact that for what seemed like an eternity, nothing seemed to be done. 'I found it distressing to see officers standing with their hands on their hips for a considerable period of time, an inappropriate length of time in my view.'

Mrs McCourt said she felt vindicated by the coroner's comments after spending three weeks questioning witnesses on behalf of her family.

Mrs McCourt said: 'I have always been determined to get at the truth and I volunteered to speak on behalf of the family. 'I have never been into a hearing of that nature before but I picked it up as I went along.

'I learned what I was doing wrong, instead of asking questions of witnesses I was making statements to them. 'But I learnt how to phrase questions properly as the hearing progressed.

'I tried to detach myself emotionally, but it is very difficult when you are discussing the last moments of a much-loved brother in law.

'It was horrible watching the video footage of him lying there. The police officers were just standing around.

'I feel an element of relief now it is over, although there is also a lot of sadness and a lot of anger. 'I hope the police officers are severely dealt with.

'I am particularly pleased that the coroner highlighted how cramped the police custody cage in the van was. 'My husband, who has been a huge help to me, said he wouldn't have put a dog in it.

'The police lawyers didn't see any need for the van to be produced at the inquest for the jury to inspect but I insisted that it was brought to Crook. 'And they saw for themselves the cramped cages in which Lenny was thrown.

'If this inquest can prevent another family going through the heartache we have been put through then Lenny will not have died in vain.'

Mrs McCourt has stressed that she is not against the police and says she used to attend local Police and Community Together meetings.

She said: 'At the time there was a drugs problem on our estate and I spoke out at the meetings and worked with police.

'I am not afraid to speak up when I think something is wrong and there was something very wrong about Lenny's death.'

She also said that the birth of her grandson, Logan, was a huge comfort at a time when the family had been through so much.

She said: 'Gene and Lenny's mother's funeral took place exactly a year after Lenny's.

'My dad died earlier this year, and Gene and Lenny's brother Dave was killed in a motor-cycle accident in North Yorkshire.

'All this was happening when we were preparing for Lenny's inquest, but in a way it has made us stronger as a family.

'And Logan's birth has been a ray of sunshine amongst all the doom and gloom. 'I adore my grandson, he's the apple of my eye.'

A spokesman for Durham Police said: 'Durham Constabulary continues to extend its condolences to Mr McCourt’s family on their loss.

'We co-operated fully with an IPCC independent investigation into the circumstances leading to Mr McCourt’s death and we accept the findings of the inquest.

'The formal verdict recognises the officers involved acted lawfully throughout this incident.

'On the afternoon of September 11, 2010, we responded to a 999 call from a resident of Ash Crescent who was fearful for herself and her child because someone was out in the street who appeared to be very drunk, behaving violently and trying to break into a vacant house.

'Mr McCourt, unknown to any of the attending officers, had a serious underlying heart condition not previously known to himself or his family.

'The constabulary will now move towards misconduct procedures for the members of staff principally involved.

'The issues identified in these reviews, and the report of HM Coroner, will be addressed in due course and the family of Mr McCourt will be involved in this process.'

Original report here

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Entire British police team axed for playing poker and cleaning golf clubs

An entire neighbourhood police team has been axed after they were caught playing cards, board games and even cleaning golf clubs when they were supposed to be patrolling the streets.

Three officers were sacked and another four resigned following an internal investigation by the Metropolitan Police. The team, made up of regular officers and community support officers, were supposed to be helping keep the streets safe in Bromley, south east London.

But instead hidden cameras and listening devices found them playing backgammon and poker or just watching television. One officer regularly went out for a run rather than working while another was cleaning his gold clubs in the office. Some then claimed overtime for shifts they had not worked.

Commander Allan Gibson, head of the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards, said: "These officers let the whole of the service down with their behaviour; but more importantly they let down their local community. "There is no place for lazy attitudes in the MPS and those who are found to be failing in their duties will be held to account."

The activities were exposed during an undercover operation by Cmdr Gibson’s unit into the Safer Neighbourhood Team in the Mottingham and Chislehurst North ward of Bromley in 2010. Disciplinary proceedings were only concluded last month.

One sergeant and a constable were sacked after the Met's disciplinary panel found them guilty of gross misconduct. Another constable and three of the team's community support officers resigned, while a fourth PCSO was dismissed.

In a statement, the Met said: "The disciplinary panel heard evidence that officers from the team had played backgammon and poker whilst on duty, watched TV in the office, frequently failed to go out on patrol, had not worked full tours of duty and also claimed overtime that had not been worked. "In addition, one officer had gone out for runs during the working day whilst a further officer cleaned his golf clubs in the office. These activities appear to have taken place at the expense of policing duties, such as patrolling the local area."

Roger Charsley, an ex-police officer and now local councillor for the ward, said: “I was horrified by this. “The public expect the police to do their job not sit around watching television and playing cards.”

A Met source added: “It was an extraordinary state of affairs. “The public will be shocked to learn how little work was actually being done by this team.”

Neighbourhood teams were introduced by the Met in 2004 and subsequently rolled out across the country. They were intended to make the police more accountable to the public because local people would get to know their designated team. They were described at the time as the “greatest development in community policing in the past 30 years”.

PCSOs have come under criticism since they were introduced by the last Labour Government. Dubbed “Blunkett’s bobbies” after the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, critics warned they would result in policing on the cheap.

Original report here

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Five British cops arrested for 'persuading criminals to confess to crimes they did not commit to boost detection rates'

Five detectives have been arrested on suspicion of persuading criminals to confess to crimes they did not commit, it was revealed last night. The officers, four men and a woman, were questioned over claims they dishonestly manipulated suspects to boost their crime detection figures.

They were held by anti-corruption colleagues at their desks in Maidstone, Kent, after a whistle-blower raised the alarm.

The allegations centre on the controversial practise of criminals admitting to other crimes known as TICs, or 'taken into consideration', when they are sentenced. They are told the move is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean so they cannot be investigated again for old crimes but the system is open to abuse.

The officers, a detective inspector, a detective sergeant and three detective constables, worked in a team dealing with persistent offenders, including car thieves and burglars.

In January last year Maidstone had the highest detection rate in the county at 39.4 per cent, 4.5 per cent higher than the force average.

The arrests are the latest blow to the reputation of British policing which is reeling from a series of scandals.

These include the sacking of Cleveland Chief Constable Sean Price for corruption last night and shocking claims of a wholesale cover-up after the Hillsborough disaster.

The five officers, who deny any wrongdoing and have been suspended from duty, have been released on bail.

In a similar case in January, two South Wales detectives were reprimanded for plying a 17-year-old suspect with alcohol before taking his confession for 11 burglaries.

A Kent Police spokesman confirmed 'five people' were arrested over allegations of 'administrative irregularities in the way prisoners had been dealt with.'

'The anti-corruption unit became involved after the alarm was raised by someone else in the force,' a source told the Times, adding: 'The allegations centre on boosting their detection rates, making themselves look good by pursuading regular offenders to cough up to other offences. 'It all revolves around vehicle crime.'

The revelations come on the eve of the first election of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC).

Original report here

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Australia: No conviction for officer charged with stealing money during drug bust

A DETECTIVE who was caught on camera pocketing up to $1000 during a drug bust on Brisbane's southside had a "death wish" when he did it, a court has heard.

Detective Sgt Shane Allen Stirling, 40, was today sentenced to 200 hours of community service after pleading guilty to stealing as a clerk or servant in the Brisbane Magistrates Court.

Prosecutor acting Inspector John Lane said the Crown alleged Stirling pocketed $1000 during the drug raid in Woodridge on June 25 this year, but defence lawyer Steve Zillman argued it had only been $300.

Insp Lane did not read a statement of facts to the court but indicated the Crown was seeking jail time of up to two years.

Mr Zillman said his client had enjoyed a "meritorious career" for more than 20 years working on difficult and complex investigations of criminal misconduct, particularly in organised crime and homicides.

He detailed ongoing psychological difficulties Stirling had grappled with and failed to seek treatment for since 2004, partly out of fear of acknowledging any shortcoming with the Queensland Police Service because of a perception it would be "a sign of weakness".

"Much of it was able to be disguised from the service and from his colleagues because there is a perception within the police service that if you do suffer these kinds of conditions, that is a sign of weakness," Mr Zillman said.

Mr Zillman could offer no explanation for why his client took the money during the drug raid, but tendered medical records that indicated Stirling suffered bi-polar disorder and was "delusional" at the time. "He was, by any measure, out of touch with reality," he said.

"It appears it was the playing out of a death wish, and it has been achieved, because he has no future with the Queensland Police Service." Mr Zillman said QPS had already instigated disciplinary action seeking the dismissal of Stirling.

Deputy chief Magistrate Orazio Rinaudo exercised his discretion to not record a conviction against Stirling.

"The public demands, as it must, the integrity of major sectors of the community but in particular, for police officers to uphold the law," he said.

"There has been public humiliation and a future which as far as work is concerned, looks at this stage, bleak."

He said Stirling had shown remorse and returned the money taken during the raid.

Original report here

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Brutal and moronic Florida cops

Daniel Jensen wasn't running from the law, he was trying to protect his home from burning up. Yet, Pinellas Park Police tasered him in the process. Jensen and his attorney say it's an excessive use of force.

Jensen was still shaken and visibly emotional as he retold what happened last Thursday evening. He said being tasered by police has not only impacted him, but it also impacted his children, who saw it all happen.

He described the Pinellas Park Police officers actions as "brutal." He said they showed "no compassion."

"All I remember is laying in water, being electrocuted for saving my home," said Jensen.

Four days later, burns on Daniel Jensen's body still mark where the stun gun's probes hit him. He says they tasered him for doing what any father and husband would do protect his family's home from an out-of-control grease fire.

The 42-year-old father of two recalls his wife waking him around 6 in the evening, saying there's a big fire at his neighbor's house.

"I could hear it, I could feel it," he explained.

He ran outside and grabbed a fire extinguisher. He sprayed it until it was empty.

"I was calling for my daughter and getting no response. I came out, grabbed the hose and sprayed her room until I heard she was out. I was always taught to help when you can; help is what I tried to do," said Jensen.

He continued to recount the events. He said he then took the garden hose and started watering down his fence and the back corner of his rooftop, trying to prevent the fire from spreading to his property. But with each attempt, Daniel said Pinellas Park Police kept pulling him back... even though firefighters were not in sight.

"They kept telling me, 'Let it go, that's what insurance is for.' That's not acceptable to me," said Jensen.

Captain Sanfield Forseth with the Pinellas Park Police Department said officers could have charged him with obstruction for not listening to an officer's orders.

"I wasn't doing that. What I was doing was what any home owner would do to protect a family and home," said Jensen.

Captain Forseth said the department will not be charging him.

When Jensen saw the fire jump on to his back roof, he again grabbed the hose. That's when he said -- unknown to him -- a police officer pulled out a taser and fired it at his back.

"As I went to grab the hose, I hear an officer on this side. There was a boat here; he was just behind it. He said, 'Hit him, hit him! Take him down, tase him!'" explained Jensen. "I didn't know they were talking to me, or about me. I was concerned about putting water on the fire, and the next thing you know I'm being tased."

Daniel said a Sergeant ordered an officer to tase him, but the officer never warned him as department policy requires.

According to Pinellas Park Police policy, an officer will use a taser when "other control techniques" would likely result in a "physical confrontation" that may cause injury to the officer or person. But the officer must first give a "verbal warning" that he is going to use a taser.

After tasing Daniel, he said several officers picked him up, carried him to the front yard, threw him on the ground and handcuffed him.

Daniel says he's very disappointed in the police department.

"They should have more tolerance with the public, to exhaust all options before firing electricity into somebody, handcuff them instead of tasering them."

Daniel said about the experience as he fights through tears, "It was horrible. I was laying in a puddle of water being electrocuted here by the people that are supposed to protect us. I'm trying to protect my family, my neighbor, and they bring harm to me. I don't understand."

Captain Forseth with the Pinellas Park Police Department said they exhausted all other options, and that their goal was to keep Daniel and the officers safe from the fire.

Daniel and his attorney Heidi Imhof are considering legal action against the Pinellas Park Police Department.

Original report here

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Official buckpassing: Australian nurse wrongly blamed for death at poorly resourced public hospital

Jane Thompson says her life has been reduced to 49 minutes. In that space of time, three children can lose a mother, a husband can lose a wife and a nurse can find herself publicly blamed for the whole lot, in a case that became a cause celebre for stretched hospital resources.

Ms Thompson has written reams of statements and answered thousands of questions about her movements between 8.03am on June 24, 2007, when a 29-year-old woman who had just delivered a baby girl by caesarean section came into her care at Bathurst Hospital, and 8.52am, when she urgently called back the doctors. The woman later died from post-partum haemorrhage.

Now, finally, Ms Thompson has been exonerated of wrongdoing. But the nurse's battle to clear her name came at the cost of her marriage, her career and almost her sanity.

After the incident, the hospital conducted a "root cause analysis", which indicated that it took Ms Thompson 36 minutes between noticing the blood loss and calling back the specialists. That report has since been discredited but it was seized on by the grieving family desperate for answers and the Health Care Complaints Commission, which has pursued Ms Thompson ever since.

It also came into the possession of the then opposition spokeswoman for health, Jillian Skinner, who held a doorstop with the patient's widower in which she presented it as the epitome of what was wrong with NSW hospitals: "Poor communication, inexperienced staff, equipment that didn't work." When that hit the headlines, the town rounded on its hospital, which fielded death threats and abusive phone calls in the days that followed.

Brendan Smith, who was in charge of the anaesthetic department, said the effect on staff was debilitating. "Nurses were bursting into tears in the corridors," he said.

For Ms Thompson, it was too much. She moved out of the operating theatre, which she loved, and into a community role. "I felt that I was No.1 target," she said. "I couldn't cope with it any more, with that high pressure environment."

Worse was to come. In June 2009, a coronial inquiry into the incident was held at Westmead. Ms Thompson was labelled as "junior" and "untrained". She was blamed for taking too long to call the doctors, keeping poor notes and failing to recognise that the patient was about to haemorrhage.

Professor Smith said staff were confused by the focus on Ms Thompson. "I don't know quite what happened at the coroner's inquest but somewhere behind closed doors there seemed to be some kind of agreement that Jane Thompson's pelt was going to be tied to the back fence," he said.

Ms Thompson gave evidence for five hours. "The family's barrister … said I was a liar and incompetent, and I did not look after my patient," she said. "Apart from losing [the patient], it's the most horrific thing that ever happened to me. I can't sleep at night. I'm still stuck in that coroner's court."

The coroner made no adverse findings against Ms Thompson, but the commission pressed on with its case against her. It took its complaint against her to the Professional Standards Committee, and when she was cleared in that forum, it appealed to the Nursing and Midwifery Tribunal, which ordered a new hearing.

But by now, Ms Thompson had legal representation and was better prepared. Two emergency doctors gave evidence that she could not have anticipated the haemorrhage and a more thorough investigation of call records indicated she had informed doctors immediately.

She told the tribunal: "I still cannot believe that out of the entire team that was on that day that I am the only one that is being accused of anything … I looked after my patient."

The Nursing and Midwifery Tribunal dismissed the case against Ms Thompson earlier this month. The decision is a vindication of Ms Thompson but for her there is something bigger at stake.

"These five years I've been under intense pressure, fighting for every breath I took," she said. "If I gave up, I knew I was going to be tainted with the death of [the patient] and I didn't want to live with that and I didn't want them to live with that. "I didn't want those three little children to believe that I was the cause of their mother's death."

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

'Thuggish' Australian police face action over death of Brazilian student

The police certainly handled a fraught situation badly. All police violence should have stopped as soon as the student was cuffed. The student was however as high as a kite and I see to mention that the stuff he was on may have contributed to his death

A coroner has recommended five police officers face disciplinary action and others go before the Police Integrity Commission for their "thuggish" role in the death of a Brazilian student.

In a scathing critique of many of the 11 officers who arrested Roberto Laudisio Curti in the early hours of March 18, the NSW Coroner, Mary Jerram, said they acted like "schoolboys in Lord of the Flies", with no idea what the problem was, or what threat or crime was supposedly being averted by the chaotic and violent struggle.

"The actions of a number of the officers were ... reckless, careless, dangerous and excessively forceful," she said.

"They were an abuse of police powers [and] in some instances even thuggish. Roberto's only foes during his ordeal were the police ... Certainly, he had taken an illicit drug, as has become all too common in today's society. But he was guilty of no serious offence. He was proffering no threat to anyone."

Ms Jerram handed down 35 pages of findings in Glebe Coroner's Court on Wednesday morning following a two-week inquest into the death of the 21-year-old Brazilian student and football player.

While stopping short of recommending criminal charges, Ms Jerram delivered a damning indictment on the entire episode. "It's impossible to believe that he would have died but for the actions of police," she said.

Mr Curti was chased by police down Pitt Street, tasered several times, sprayed with almost three cans of OC spray, handcuffed and restrained by seven officers on the ground.

He had earlier jumped the counter of a convenience store in a paranoid, LSD-induced psychotic state and taken two packets of biscuits. It was reported over police radio as an armed robbery.

Ms Jerram said many officers had lied to the inquest and "conveniently forgotten" evidence. She said the most senior officer present during the violent struggle on Pitt St, Inspector Gregory Cooper, gave evidence that was so conflicting and self-serving it "hardly deserves narration".

He claimed that he told the junior officers to stop using their Tasers. None of those officers heard the order and the Coroner said it was likely he never made it but was seeking to shift the blame onto other officers in court.

Ms Jerram suspected that some officers were angry and emotional because they had been hit by Taser shots and inadvertently sprayed during the botched arrest.

However she said it was not right to refer them for criminal charges as it was about "policing issues warranting investigation by policing bodies".

Ms Jerram recommended five officers, including Probationary Constable Daniel Barling, who tasered Mr Curti five times after he was handcuffed, be disciplined.

She also called for an immediate review of the vague and confusing standard operating procedures relating to the use of OC spray, Tasers, handcuffs, restraint and positional asphyxia, particularly the use of multiple taser shots and its "drive stun mode" as a pain compliance tool.

Original report here

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

British cop who chased suspect car without siren or lights and crashed into packed bus escapes with just a fine

A police officer who crashed into the side of a bus after running a red light during a car chase walked free from court today. PC David Gudgeon, 37, careered into the packed vehicle as he tailed a car leaving a 'drugs hotspot'.

However, the officer did not activate the sirens or blue lights on his unmarked car because he did not want to alert the driver of the suspect motor.

The PC was fined £350 after he admitted driving without due care and attention at Westminster Magistrates' Court. He was spared penalty points on his licence after a judge said the case was 'exceptional'.

PC Gudgeon started the car chase when he noticed the suspect Vauxhall Corsa leaving the Thistlebrook Industrial Estate in Abbey Wood, London, at around 9pm last March 28.

The officer, who had only became an advanced police driver last year, had already overtaken the car so went around the roundabout at the junction of Harrow Manor Way and Eastern Way to get behind the Corsa so he could check its number plate.

However as they approached traffic lights westbound less than 25 seconds later, the Corsa, which had a front headlight out, sped through the green light and as the two officers followed in their unmarked Vauxhall Zafira, the light turned to red.

PC Gudgeon said: 'It was going faster than a normal member of the public would travel, and a lot of the local criminals are aware of our unmarked vehicles. 'I wasn't closing the gap significantly enough to be able to get an ID on the number plate.

'If I'd have put my two-tone sirens on straight away - if that vehicle had something on board of interest - we would have lost it straight away. It was 300 yards in front of us.'

He added that he felt it necessary to check the number plate before stopping the car in case the three passengers were armed or dangerous, so decided to go through the red light in pursuit.

PC Gudgeon then tailed the vehicle along into the Thamesmead estate along Eastern Way and noticed a bus at the junction of Nathan Way but presumed it was going straight on. He said it had then unexpectedly turned right and straight into the path of his car as he went through a red traffic light. PC Gudgeon, who was travelling within the speed limit at 37mph, then drove into the front side of the bus.

Colin Reynolds, for Gudgeon, said: 'He simply misjudged the position of the bus and accepts he made a mistake.'

None of the 25 passengers or the driver of the bus was injured in the crash, which caused severe damage to the police car.

District Judge John Zani said the incident had exceptional circumstances and PC Gudgeon had made the right decision not to use his flashing lights or sirens.

He added: 'This vehicle was being driven with only one headlight functioning and you made the decision, quite rightly in my opinion, to monitor its movements.

'This case really turns on one decision you made. It's a decision you made to drive through the red signal. It's as simple as that. 'I do say that this is one of those rare cases where I'm satisfied that it's not appropriate to endorse your licence.'

PC Gudgeon, from Aylesford, Kent, admitted driving without due care and attention. He was given a fine of £350 and ordered to pay costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £15.

Original report here

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Monday, November 12, 2012

NC Libertarian asks Governor Perdue to pardon the Wilmington Ten

Libertarian N.C. gubernatorial candidate Barbara Howe has announced her support for a pardon of innocence for the group known as the Wilmington Ten, nine men and one woman convicted of arson and conspiracy in 1972. They served nearly a decade in prison before a federal appeals court overturned the conviction for prosecutorial and judicial misconduct.

“The evidence that has been revealed over the years since the convictions paints a very gloomy picture of the North Carolina judicial system,” said Howe. “The recanting of witness statements and the prosecutorial misconduct that has come to light with the release of the (Prosecutor Jay) Stroud files clearly demonstrate the need for action (by Perdue).”

All three key witnesses for the prosecution recanted their testimonies in 1976, telling a grand jury they were paid for their testimony. The release of the prosecutor Jay Stroud’s files in September provided further insight into the depth of the misconduct.

The notes from jury selection reveal an active pursuit of jurors with possible Ku Klux Klan ties and attempts to have black jurors removed. The final jury selection in the case included ten white and two black jurors.

Howe said that granting a pardon to the Wilmington Ten would show a renewed commitment by the state of North Carolina to the cause of justice.

In May, Rev. Benjamin Chavis and the other five surviving members of the group petitioned Gov. Bev Perdue for a pardon of innocence. Howe said that a pardon would grant some closure for the surviving members of the Ten, but it must come before Perdue’s term ends on December 31.

A fourth member of the Ten died in August, underscoring the need for action by Governor Perdue.

Since the state of North Carolina has never declared the Ten innocent or withdrawn the charges against them, they remain felons in spite of the federal appeals court decision which freed them.

Under North Carolina law, a “pardon of innocence” allows the governor to declare a person innocent when they have been wrongly convicted and imprisoned and later determined to be innocent. It would allow those persons to seek compensation from the state

Original report here

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dismissed British police sergeant cleared of assaulting woman prisoner must be reinstated after bosses lose legal fight

Incomprehensible British judges

A police officer who was sacked after he dragged a female prisoner across a station floor and threw her headfirst into a cell must get his job back, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mark Andrews was jailed in 2010 for assaulting Pamela Someville, 60, before having his conviction quashed on appeal shortly afterwards.

But despite his acquittal Wiltshire Police still wanted him to lose his job, however, the High Court has today ordered he is reinstated.

During his trial CCTV footage was shown of the 6ft 3in policeman dragging 5ft 2in Ms Somerville, who weighs 8st, across a custody suite, throwing her into a cell and leaving her unconscious.

The footage then shows her bleeding heavily from an eye gash with blood shooting onto the floor.

In his judgment Mr Justice Ouseley said his order must now be followed by the force 'with full regard to its conclusions, and the failure of this unarguable challenge'.

Wiltshire Police's chief constable Pat Geenty confirmed they would not take any further legal action to block his return to the £36,000 a year job.

'I will now enter into discussions with Mark Andrews and his representatives in relation to his integration back into Wiltshire Police as a warranted police officer,' he said.

'The Police Appeals Tribunal accepted that Mark Andrews' actions were intolerant and discreditable and I felt they were a disgrace - there was no place in Wiltshire Police for this behaviour then nor is there now.

'While I believe the Police Discipline Panel's decision to dismiss Mark Andrews was correct, I accept the legal authority which states he must be reinstated.'

Ms Somerville had been detained at the police station in Melksham for failing to provide a sample for a breath test after being found asleep in her car. The charges were later dropped.

The case against Andrews was brought after a fellow officer, PC Rachel Webb, reported the incident to senior officers and gave evidence against Sgt Andrews.

He was jailed for six months in September 2010 by a district judge at Oxford Magistrates' Court, who condemned him for abusing a position of trust. He spent six days in prison before being bailed when a appeal was launched and his conviction was quashed.

Despite the conviction being overturned Wiltshire Police sacked the officer, saying that, while not criminal, his behaviour had fallen 'well below the standards expected'.

Wiltshire Police then asked the High Court to overturn the decision of the Independent Police Appeals Tribunal which on December 2011 ordered the force to reinstate Sgt Andrews to his job and award him back pay.

Speaking then the force said it was 'surprised and disappointed' at the tribunal's ruling. A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said today: 'Wiltshire Police has today been informed that it has not been successful in seeking a judicial review in the Mark Andrews case.

'Wiltshire Police would like to point out that the written judgement levels some criticism at the Chief Constable. It is important to note that this refers to previous Chief Constable Brian Moore and not current Chief Constable Pat Geenty.'

Christopher Hoare, of Wiltshire Police Authority, said they would abide by the judgement despite not agreeing with it. 'I clearly remember the impression made by the CCTV images from the Melksham custody suite. 'I stressed at the time that the Police Authority believed that this was an isolated incident which did not reflect the standards we expect of Wiltshire's police officers.

'A Wiltshire Police disciplinary panel decided that dismissal was the appropriate sanction for Mark Andrews. 'An independent Police Appeal Tribunal decided by a majority verdict that he should be re-instated. The Police Authority felt that the public of Wiltshire would expect that decision to be challenged, and so it was.

'However, today the courts have declined to over-rule the Police Appeal Tribunal, meaning that although the maximum fine imposed on Mark Andrews stands, he cannot be dismissed. 'Whilst we may not agree with that, we will abide by the judgement.'

Original report here

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

British police robots

Mother, 39, battling aggressive breast cancer is thrown into police cell for six hours after obsessed ex-boyfriend makes false assault complaint

A cancer sufferer was arrested and locked up in a police cell for six and half hours after her ex partner falsely accused her of assault.

Lisa Kaley, a mother of-three, tried to explain to officers that she actually had a five year restraining order against former boyfriend Gary Swann following a conviction of criminal damage after he tried to break into her home.

But police told 39 year old Ms Kaley, from Stanford-le-Hope, in Essex, there was nothing they could do because the allegation had been made against her.

She was then arrested on suspicion of assault and was taken to Grays Police Station, in Essex, where she was then finger-printed and left alone in a cell for six-and-a-half hours despite claims that she would be dealt with as a priority.

After a short interview, she was finally told she was free to go home and no further action would be taken against her.

Speaking from her home Ms Kaley said: 'It was a nightmare from start to finish, I was the one who was treated like a criminal - there was simply no need for it at all.

'One look at what I have been through should have been enough for those officers to realise they could have at least approached the matter with some discretion. 'It was all so heavy-handed.

'I am meant to be trying to reduce stress because of my cancer so this was about as bad as it gets.

'They could have used some discretion and perhaps arranged to come and see me - but to be carted off to the police station, leaving my children wondering what was happening to mummy was hard to take.

'I was sitting in the police cell, feeling like I had hit rock bottom and I just felt so helpless and scared.'

Ms Kaley claims she ran into the Mr Swann after she dropped her daughter, Georgia, four, off at school and was making her way home through a local park.

After an angry exchange, where she claims she was verbally abused, she went into a nearby supermarket where she had a cup of tea and tried to calm down after the upsetting confrontation.

But shortly after she got home two police officers arrived at her front door and said she was to be arrested on suspicion of assault.

She added: 'The police were saying to me, why didn’t you phone us there and then when it happened but I was upset.

'I started to show them all the paperwork, the history of what had happened yet it was like they were on autopilot.

'They were saying to me - ‘we are here to arrest you because an allegation has been made’ - I was getting upset, asking them for some understanding, saying it was simply a malicious allegation.'

The two officers explained that because of her illness, Lisa would be dealt with as a 'priority'. Yet despite being placed into a cell at about 11am , it was 5.30pm when she was finally interviewed.

The tearful mother explained to officers that her cancer means she can be very weak and the idea of being able to attack anyone was simply 'ludicrous'.

Despite a long history of alcohol-fuelled violence against Lisa - including throwing a brick through her window and breaking into her home - it was Lisa who felt like the criminal.

When she was finally told she was being released without charge, police made no effort to apologise for what she had been through.

She added: 'I am using all my energies to battle the cancer and am undergoing chemotherapy, so to be thrown into a cell was very hard to take in.

'When the police dealt with me at my home and I explained that I had cancer, they just ignored what I was saying - it was like trying to reason with robots.'

Lisa was handed a formal letter from police confirming no further action would be taken due to a lack of evidence.

An Essex Police spokesman said he was unable to discuss the specific details of the incident.

But he added: 'We are sorry to hear this lady feels aggrieved and would invite her to contact our professional standards’ department should she want to complain formally to us. 'We would always hope to treat people with the dignity and care which is appropriate to their position and if they are vulnerable we would hope to treat them very carefully indeed.'

Original report here

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Friday, November 09, 2012

Mother suffers horrendous eye injury after being hit in the face by her front door as police battered it down in drugs raid

Violence-happy British cops give her no time to answer door

A mother almost lost an eye when police smashed in her front door during a raid on her Derby home. Shanie McDonnell was hit in the face by the door as she tried to open it to task force officers who were executing a drugs warrant on her house.

Ms McDonnell, 28, was left with a fractured eye socket and was told she will need an operation because of the hit which took place at 8.30am yesterday.

Derbyshire police described the incident 'regrettable' but said it was acting on information that the property may have been used for drugs purposes.

Ms McDonnell said: 'I was holding my daughter one minute and then heard a tap on the front door. 'I looked through the spy-hole to see police in uniforms the other side and went to unlock the door.

'As I did so, there was this loud bang and the door smashed into my face. The pain was terrible.'

She shares her home in Normanton, Derbys, with her partner of five years Martin Dharam. Mr Dharam, 42, said he was upstairs when he heard his partner screaming. He said: 'I wanted to make sure Shanie and our daughter Shania, who is only 11 months old, were okay.

'This is the third time in the past two or three years the police have raided the house for drugs and they have never found anything. I just don't know why our house is being picked on.'

Yesterday Ms McDonnell spent more than eight hours at the Royal Derby Hospital. She said she did not yet know if her injuries would leave her with permanent scarring.

Superintendent Gary Parkin, head of operational policing in Derby, said: 'It is regrettable that Miss McDonnell was injured as officers tried to get into the property to execute the warrant.

'This information was put before a magistrate who granted the warrant under the Misuse of Drugs Act. It was carried out by specially trained officers.

'When executing warrants it is important to enter the property quickly and without warning to the occupants to ensure no potential evidence is lost. It is regrettable that the occupant appears to have been behind the door as our officers tried to gain entry. 'Investigations into the incident are on-going.'

Original report here

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Thursday, November 08, 2012

Thieving London cop jailed after stealing £400 left as bait at mock crime scene

A thieving police officer who was caught on camera pocketing cash from a mock crime scene was jailed for 12 months today after a judge branded him a 'bad apple'.

He was targeted after complaints about alleged thefts by officers from Greenwich Borough's Disruption unit during searches.

Scouler was filmed removing the cash from a leather jacket left in a flat in New Eltham, southeast London, in October 2011 and putting it into his pocket.

Before the start of Scouler's trial his colleague Pc Kenneth Potter, 30, had admitted to stealing £4 from a kitchen drawer during the same search and handling a stolen mobile phone. He was today handed a five month jail term by Judge Michael Gledhill.

Scouler, based at Plumstead police station, claimed he 'completely forgot' the money was in his pocket and that it had been a 'genuine error'.

However in passing sentence Michael Gledhill told Scouler and Potter: 'The trust that society places in their police officers is vitally important to everyone. 'When that trust is broken by rogue officers as you became public confidence is eroded, it makes the job of honest officers far more difficult, and it seriously undermines society.'

He said CCTV footage, which had been shown to the jury, clearly showed the 'thoroughly unprofessional' way the officers conducted themselves during the search.

The judge added: 'Why did you steal the money? The answer, certainly in your case Ian Scouler, is simply greed, perhaps both greed and stupidity in your case Kenneth Potter.'

He said the officers took the cash believing the suspect, whose home they thought they were searching, was an illegal immigrant who was unlikely to return to the flat or make a complaint.

He added: 'The pair of you were or are bad apples who have tarnished the reputation of the Metropolitan Police and the thousands of officers who do their job honestly on behalf of the public they serve,' he said.

'It gives me no absolutely pleasure to consider the consequences to yourselves, your families, and your friends.'

Potter also pleaded guilty to handling a mobile phone stolen during a search in 2010 belonging to Fadima Abhdoom.

Prosecutor Nick Corsellis said Potter had 'used the phone for a short time thereafter, selling it online'.

Mr Corsellis explained that Scouler was caught out after the mock crime scene was set up as part of an 'integrity test'

The flat in New Eltham, was fitted with audio and video recording equipment and the pair along with Pc Thompson were told to search the flat in connection with a series of robberies.

The recording of the search showed police officers playing music, using coarse language - and even stopping to browse a pornography magazine they found.

After pocketing the cash, Scouler was videoed going into the kitchen where he spoke to Pc Thompson who had just discovered 200 Euros, which was also planted in the flat. They both paused and looked at each other before Scouler quipped: 'It's not divisible by three.'

Under police procedural rules all discoveries should be announced, placed in an exhibit bag, logged, and then handed over to a superior. Mr Corsellis said that several items were bagged, logged, and passed on, but the cash was not.

Scouler was arrested early the next day on suspicion of theft where officers discovered the £400 was still in his pocket.

In a prepared statement Scouler said he had believed that that there was approximately £200 in the jacket pocket, but had forgotten putting it in his own pocket until he had left to go home. He said: 'I considered going back to the police station so drove past my house. 'I then changed my mind and decided I would sort it out in the morning. 'It was a genuine error on my part. I completely forgot about the cash. There was never any intention to steal it.'

Original report here

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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

More crooked forensic "science" in Australia

The person convicted in the report below is still in jail, though an official inquiry into his conviction is now underway

Midway through the 1995 Eastman murder trial, police and forensic staff in Victoria were expressing concern that a major scientific witness in the case had an "urge to impress by assisting to extremes".

A memo from a senior officer at the Victoria Forensic Science Centre (VFSC) to Detective Inspector Paul Sheridan, of Victoria Police, said the scientific witness, Bob Barnes, had gone into private practice as a forensic investigator, was charging hefty fees, was trying to establish himself as quickly as possible and his urge to impress by assisting to extremes was affecting how far he went with some points.

He was also misrepresenting his expertise, whether as a firearms expert or a ballistics expert, Inspector Sheridan was told.

Inspector Sheridan was being briefed for a possible attack on Mr Barnes's expertise in the Coulston murder trial in Victoria, but the comments were made in a paragraph relating to evidence he had just given in the Eastman trial, in a different jurisdiction.

In 1995, David Harold Eastman was convicted of the January 1989 shooting murder of Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester at his home in Deakin.

Ashley Coulston was the Burwood triple murderer and suspected "balaclava killer". Mr Barnes had been engaged by Coulston's defence team to attack evidence presented by another expert but, according to the VFSC, his statements were factually incorrect on some critical matters, and he misrepresented and exaggerated his abilities.

Mr Barnes had been dismissed for scientific misconduct by the VFSC in 1993 after serious concerns were raised about evidence he had given in a number of cases, and after an internal review of his cases had shown a persistent failure to follow established procedures for examining and recording evidence.

But this was not generally known at the time. The AFP used Mr Barnes as one of its forensic experts after Mr Winchester was shot dead in the driveway of his home. Mr Barnes's findings were critical in linking gunshot residue in bullet cartridges found near the murder scene with cartridges fired through a particular gun and, later, with microscopic gunshot residue said to have been found in the boot of Eastman's car.

But the jury, judge and defence team were not told by the Director of Public Prosecutions, or police, about Mr Barnes's dismissal or the doubts that had arisen about his methods. Mr Barnes's evidence at the trial, which varied in significant respects from evidence he had given at the inquest into Mr Winchester's death, was not cross-examined by the defence, and its weaknesses, or discrepancies, were not explored. Eastman suffered mental illness and repeatedly dismissed counsel in the trial. Mostly, when unrepresented, he refused to participate. The trial judge, who believed that Eastman was faking in an effort to achieve a mistrial, allowed the case to proceed.

It is only now, 17 years after the conviction, and nearly 24 years after the services of Mr Barnes were first engaged by the Winchester investigation, that Victoria Police has released its files on Mr Barnes, after a freedom of information request by The Canberra Times last year. Mr Barnes initially appealed the decision to grant access but ultimately withdrew his appeal.

The files show increasing judicial concerns about the evidence given by Mr Barnes in various Victorian cases and inquests, including accusations of misleading courts, lying and being evasive, defensive and defiant in cross-examination. In one case he was accused of "setting out to prove [an accused woman] had fired the shots, and lied and misled to achieve that aim and protect himself from criticism for having done so". He was also accused of doctoring a photograph to omit, from material tendered in court, particular identification marks that would not have assisted the prosecution case. Initial VFSC inquiries might themselves have been described as defensive.

They recognised that some of his procedures and records were deficient, but seem to regard them as mere technical breaches, raising no fundamental difficulties with his findings.

As one VFSC briefing note put it, "the facts remain that the courts have had several opportunities to challenge Barnes's acceptance as an expert witness and also ample opportunities to challenge his evidence and or his opinions".

Both police and VFSC managers initially tended to think criticism of Mr Barnes was nitpicking. They did not think that dishonesty or technical incompetence had been demonstrated.

Increasingly, however, the tone of reports becomes more critical, extending to the realisation that Mr Barnes had removed hundreds of files from the centre, that he had issued reports that had not been peer reviewed, and was given to using phrases - such as saying that two samples were "indistinguishable" - that were apt to seriously mislead others.

In June 1996, a senior VFSC manager flew to Sydney to discuss, for four hours, six cases in which Mr Barnes had given evidence in NSW investigations, the VFSC reviews and corrective actions taken. There was no record of a similar briefing for the AFP but a briefing note expressly disclaimed any responsibility for any advice Mr Barnes had given in relation to the Winchester case.

"With regard to other interstate and overseas cases, those that Barnes undertook while an employee of Victoria Police appear not to be a problem with the possible exception of the Winchester matter from the ACT," a 1996 briefing note to the Victoria Police assistant commissioner (crime) says.

"In this matter Barnes performed a considerable amount of work while at VFSC but completed most of that work, and performed additional work, while at the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories, the reports of which were not subject to VFSC quality management.

"Barnes's VFSC reports re Winchester were not checked through normal VFSC systems [bypassed by Barnes] and it is believed that at least one was dictated by Barnes directly to AFP police as they could not extract them from Barnes by telephone and written requests."

The report writer appeared to think that the Eastman team knew all about Mr Barnes's VFSC career. It predicted Mr Barnes's credibility would come under heavy attack at the appeal.

"The implications for VFSC and Victoria Police are restricted to the issue that he failed to follow all procedures on all occasions, and in doing so placed himself outside of the very rules that provide the framework in which VFSC staff are to operate and the protection that that provides," the memo said.

"It remains that the court must test the evidence, and the expert witness stands or falls on his/her performance on the day, as is always the case.

"If at the Winchester appeal Barnes's gunshot residue evidence is not allowed, this is not to say it is wrong per se, but may be considered by the court to be 'unsafe' in the overall context of their deliberations, a commonly encountered situation with DNA evidence."

Original report here

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