Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tackling Organised crime

As someone who's been flirting with the law today, perhaps I ought to be cautious in this post. Or perhaps not.

First of all, as a starter if you will, some credit where it's due. It's possible that people like myself don't say this often enough but I'm firmly of the belief that the vast majority of police officers in this country are honest and principled, and are motivated by the best of intentions. The same goes for the prosecuting authorities and the judiciary. One of things I like about Life on Mars is that it brings home the progress that has been made over the last two or three decades in the way we go about applying justice in this country. It's not perfect but we've come a long way.*

In fact, the current police service is probably negating the extent of the government's authoritarian instincts to some extent. I'd imagine that a fair few Seventies coppers would have had a field day with some of the laws New Labour has passed in recent years. When police officers use their powers in an unjustified way these days, you suspect it's got more to do with top down political pressure than with muscle-flexing abuses of power.** So, a big thank you to all the hard working coppers out there trying to make this country safer, less corrupt, and generally an all round better place to live. It is greatly appreciated.

Just a little bit more credit still to dish out before the ever so scrummy main course. I'm not sure how many people south of the border are aware of this but the Scottish National Party refuses to send anyone to the House of Lords (correct me if I'm wrong bit I think the Welsh nationalists do the same). The SNP have long argued that the system itself is undemocratic and essentially corrupt. That's why they've been in a position to make a lot of noise about the prime minister's "loans for peerages" policy without any fear of charges of hypocrisy. Not all the others parties can say the same. Can't say I agree with all of the SNP's policies but fair play too them for that.

And now, on to that most delicious main course. You know how sometimes the police will arrest a small cog first when they're investigating organised crime? They'll pick up a little guy and then squeeze him for incriminating information on their main target, the Mr Big. If TV dramas are anything to go by, they usually do the good cop/bad cop routine. "You're going down for a long stretch, sunshine. Do you like villians? Because I'm sure they'll love a pretty looking thing like you..." "What my colleague is trying to say is, we want to help you but you've got to help us first. If you tell us who you're working for, things could go a lot better for you..." I'm sure you know how it goes.

A headteacher who helped find sponsors for the government's flagship city academies programme has been arrested as part of a cash for honours probe.

Des Smith sparked a row earlier this year when he suggested donors would be given honours in exchange for funding.
Spill the beans Mr Smith. It's the only way. He told a Sunday Times undercover reporter that "the prime minister’s office would recommend someone like (the donor) for an OBE, a CBE or a knighthood" if they donated enough money to the city academy programme. (Here's the original Sunday Times article if you're interested.)

Mr Smith now says that he was "naive". Good. Listen to what the nice policeman is telling you, Mr Smith. Tell him how you got the idea that the prime minister's office would behave in this frankly illegal way. Who told you? Who are you working for? You don't own any loyalty to the Capo Bastone or the Capo di Tutti i Capi. They've set you up to take the fall. Do you think they care about you? They won't lose any sleep just because you're being kept awake at night by the over-affectionate attentions of your tatooed cellmate. Their extravagant jetset lifestyles won't be affected one bit. Tell the nice policeman what you know.

Oh, I do hope he comes up with the goods. I suspect he really is naive and probably didn't fully appreciate the nature of the criminal acts his masters had sent him on. He does appear to have broken the law allegedly, but it's not really him we should be chasing. We want Mr Big.

In fact, that would surely be a simply superb dessert.

* I do worry that the de Menezes enquiry could be a whitewash. Time will tell on that; it's currently in the hands of the CPS who will decide whether any charges will be brought.

** Not that I'm saying all Seventies coppers were bent though. I'm sure many were honest and principled back then too. There was a different culture though and I think it's widely recognised that things have changed for the better.

Edit (6.30 pm) - added the word "allegedly". As in "he does appear to have broken the law allegedly..." Listening to Today reminded me that even an obscure blogger really ought to be careful when commenting on ongoing cases. It's up to a jury to decide whether he actually did break the law.

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