Testing, testing, tap – tap – tap, 1 2 3 3 2 1
Just a quick ‘un from me.
All posts after this one are from Nightjack’s original blog which I -one way or another- have been able to recover.
The pictures have mostly disappeared, so I’m in the process of cleaning-up.
If anyone notices any dead-links or anything else egregiously faulty, please let me know.
Well, it’s been a hectic few days. At one point traffic touched 60,000 a day and the blog is getting links from the left and right of the blogosphere. Wonder of wonders, I even got mentioned on a “Downfall” video made by ScaryMary about Iain Dale.
I can now die a happy man.
Everyone and his dog wants an interview but that isn’t going to happen even if they make my voice sound like Davros. If I can get the book anywhere towards completion, I think there’s a chance I can get it published.
In other news, I got the magic phone call from H.R. today and by some very unexpected alchemy of guesswork and native wit, I have passed the OSPRE Part I. I honestly thought I had blown it very, very badly. Now I just have to get myself re-chipped for OSPRE Part II (The Assessed Role Plays) before Autumn.
I’m not planning any more updates any time soon. I’m also locking down comments again from Friday. After that I’m on e-mail if there’s anything on your mind that you want to share.
Take care, I’m off out to get another lottery ticket
As you may konw, this blog was put up on bricks on 1st May 2009 for several reasons, not least of which was that I want to concentrate on writing a book. However, if you have anything on your mind, I am still reading any e-mails that come my way and I answer most of them. I am at firstname.lastname@example.org I’m also sure that I will be back at some point in the future.
This post was my immediate reaction, live blogged, to winning the Orwell Prize.
I am sitting here at home with a glass of fizz at one hand and sausage, chips and beans at the other. My representative at the Orwell Prize Ceremony has just rung me with the news that I have won. It has also just been twittered on Iain Dale’s Diary so it must be true.
I couldn’t go to the ceremony but I got a friend from way, way back to go in my stead. This is what I asked him to say
When I started the Night Jack blog back in February last year, I was standing on the shoulders of others. I heard about a Police blog called Inspector Gadget at work. I read it and I agreed with it. My comments on there started to get so long that one evening I sat down with my laptop and started a blog of my own.
As I wrote more posts I found that people were coming to my site to read and leave comments. Arguments started, some of them even came close to being reasoned debates. Then people in other blogs started linking to some of my posts and saying they were worth reading. As the readership headed over 1,000 a day, I started getting the occasional e-mail from the news media asking for an interview. I even got the obligatory Police blogging book offer. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a media cop.
If anyone had told me then that I was going to make the short list for the Orwell Prize I would have asked them to stop being silly. It is still a bit of a nosebleed experience finding myself in the company of so many other blogs that I admire and follow.
I believe that as bloggers we are mostly short levers in the political world but I would like to thank the Orwell Prize for noticing us and for choosing to do so in a year that has seen political blogging become a more important part of the wider political process.
Anyway, as you may know, I am an anonymous blogger and as I do not feel able to accept the prize openly and in person, I have decided to donate any winnings to the Police Dependents’ Trust. This is a charity that assists the families of colleagues who have died in the execution of their duties.
Enjoy your night. Thanks again. Jack Night.
If you are here for the first time, there’s quite a lot of stuff to read if you want to. People seem to like the following
There’s lots more. Have fun. I’ll be back in a while when the book is finished.
Not much changes in 70 years does it?
I was going to save this until the Orwell Prize results were out but I can’t see much point waiting.
The last 13 months or so of blogging have been a lot of fun. It is still fun but I have now written down everything that I think is worth me writing. In some areas I am conscious that I am starting to repeat myself. If I keep on going I believe that I will end up spending the next year or so attack blogging the government rather than blogging about policing. I don’t want to be all about that. There are plenty of other people doing that better already.
Now as far as I know, I haven’t been outed at work and nobody has asked me to wind my neck in. This is just how I feel about the blog and it is a feeling that has been growing for a while. It’s time for me to do something else with my writing.
I don’t know if blogging changes anything. I do know that I am just a short lever in this world but it was worth a go on the off chance that there were people reading that could deploy longer levers. I’m probably going to write a book now. It won’t be another searing expose from the trenches, it will be a work of fiction. I don’t have a book deal, never wanted one. If you want to read a book on how it is buy Gadget, Bloggs or Copperfield.
Thanks for reading.
This blog will not self destruct in about a month or so. People have asked so I’ve left it up with comments locked down. Last word went to Big Fat Trucker. Take care all.
The e-mail still works. Keep in touch.
I don’t often post a direct reply to a question in the comments. I kind of enjoy reading everybody else kicking it about BUT I read Hopi Sen and he asked a straight question particularly about David Blunkett’s reforms to Policing.
“So here’s my question to Jack, genuinely meant. Since he knows that some of his colleagues dial it in, while most are dedicated and hardworking, that some constabularies are useless, and some senior officers worse than that, why wouldn’t a Home Sec look at this and come to the conclusion that their only viable option is to grab hold of the system and tell it what to do, even if that means wrenching the agenda away from the freedom of the frontline police to do what they will?” – Hopisen
The key phrase there Hopi is, I think, your last four words. “do what they will.” Was that really what was happening? Were an emancipated Police Service swanning around doing not much with all those extra resources? I don’t think we were.
In the wealth of statistics trotted out to show how great the 1997-2001 period had been in terms of Policing, the Home Office were asserting that recorded offences fell by 21% percent between 1997 and 2001. They also claimed that all types of crime from had fallen significantly. Public satisfaction with the police was around 66% (and how we would wish to achieve that barely 9 years later). The government already had it’s apparent result from the increased spend, a substantial reduction in levels of crime . So if it already had the result it wanted, why then deploy “The Blunkett” to crowbar through reform?
My proposition is that during his time at the Home Office, David Blunkett was not about making policing better. He was about doing things that seemed likely to be popular with
a) A Treasury with concerns that 20% of the bill for policing was for pensions.
b) That part of his political constituency that had been crying out for years that the Police failed the socially disadvantaged, women and various minorities.
c) That part of the floating vote that likes to hear strong rhetoric on anti-social behaviour.
David Blunkett addressed his perceived problems in ways that were not well thought out. His policy initiatives caused many of the problems in the relationship between Police and society that afflict us today. He is that most dangerous of things, a quick thinker and forceful advocate with no trace of self doubt.
Lets look at what David Blunkett did as Home Secretary between 2001 and 2004. What were the landmark Policing policies of his tenure? What were his big ideas? (I shall borrow heavily from Wikipedia, The Grauniad and Hansard and I may revisit old ground – sorry readers)
In 2001, right at the start in the Observer, he set out the thinking behind his version of Police reform. He came at it from a standpoint of making sure that the Police started providing a better service in terms of those crimes that impacted on the poorest and most deprived areas of our society. He explicitly saw Police reform as an arm of social policy. His talismanic image throughout was the repeat victim living on the sink housing estate in Sheffield. Policing was somehow failing these victims. His themes were that Policing was not convicting enough people and that Policing was not detecting enough crime. Never mind that Policing was reducing the actual levels of crime. He got us arresting more people alright and detecting more crime but I don’t think that the repeat victim in Sheffield is any better off today as a result and the cost in terms of public confidence and organisational confidence / morale just hasn’t been worth it. Anyway…..
Someone at the Treasury was not at all happy with the cost of Policing. We know this because early on in his career, David Blunkett mentioned the cost of policing quite a lot. He even fell out with the Police Fedaration about it when he decided to slash overtime, reform pensions, mess with working hours and introduce very large pay differentials all at the same time. It was too much too soon to force onto any working culture let alone the Police. He recanted at a Police Federation Conference when he realised that he had gone too far too fast but the damage was done in terms of trust between the Police rank and file and the Home Office. Too much, too soon. Consequences not properly thought out. Long term damage.
Exhbit NJ/01 Proposed reform to Police pay and conditions
His big idea White Paper was called Policing a New Century, a Blueprint for Reform. Amidst the rhetoric on increasing detection and convicition rates were a few choice phrases ( I cherry pick freely)
“The challenge of modernisation is to bring about the kind of improvements which are
welcomed by everyone – except those more concerned about protecting their comfortable
ways of working.” – Who could he mean?
“The Government intends to deliver a modern police service in which managers can make
the best, most flexible use of staff, and terms and conditions meet the diverse needs of the
workforce. Police employment regulations are a bar to efficient and effective policing, and
unresponsive to changing needs and pressures. They constrain the ability of police officers
to have modern career patterns and fail to meet the aspirations of those now entering the
employment market. The Government has asked the PNB to explore and agree ways of reforming the pay system and the current system of regulations. It is hoped that agreement in principle will be reached by the end of 2001. The PNB has also been asked to explore and agree
ways of delivering a fair and more consistent approach to early retirement due to ill health.” – We read this as “The shafting stick is coming to get you” and it was.
“Driving up standards is at the heart of police reform. Some forces and BCUs achieve high
standards, and proven good practice should be used for the benefit of all communities.
To help the Police Service deliver a better and more consistent service to the public the
Government is taking specific steps. These include:
• strengthening and developing HMIC to challenge the worst performers and recognise the best
• a National Policing Plan to set out the Government’s priorities for policing, how they wish
to see them delivered and indicators by which performance will be measured; and
• a new three tiered-approach to good practice – regulations binding in law, codes of practice
to which chief officers will have to have regard, and guidance which will be advisory.” – Hello and welcome to central targets and all the ungoodness that came with them
“There are, of course, particular concerns for women, members of ethnic minority communities,and other groups who are vulnerable to hate crime. Policing must deliver the same service and the same respect to the whole community. “ – Now hear this fringe voters, I’m going to make “The Man” work for you as well
I exhibit as NJ/02 Policing a New Century A Blueprint for Reform
April 2002 brought The National Crime Recording Standard. This was not about common practices of crime recording across forces. It said that on the tin but the label lied. This was about ensuring that every report of a crime was treated as a crime.
The noble aim was to ensure that the police stopped sweeping racist, homophobic, “bad on bad” and domestic violence crimes under the carpet. Did thatsort of thing ever go on? Of course it did. I remember it well. Shouty, criminal damage and common assault type domestic violence used to be a “look the other way” crime within my service. You might arrest “him” for Breach of The Peace to take the heat out of the situation but you would seldom prosecute for any criminal offence. The ethos was to take the heat out of the situation then and there rather than for the police to try and impose any long term solution on the couple. (That being said one of my first ever arrests was an ABH domestic assault that went to court and got a conviction).
Was N.C.R.S. the answer to those problems? Of course not. It was the bluntest of blunt tools, a quick fix machine bureaucrat’s response. Lets create a one size fits all system and see what happens. What happened was that the police got an unacceptably large bolus of criminal complaints that all had to be recorded as crimes and all had to be investigated. Goodbye increased Police numbers, hello more arrests and paperwork. The very best way to keep officers on the streets and away from red tape is to encourage us to use the power of arrest sparingly and to seek resolutions that do not involve recourse to the courts wherever possible. That’s where the paperwork is. Always has been. The case preparation that we had already was a massive chunk of that oft quoted 43% of time inside the station. How was adding more cases ever going to change that? There were never enough police to do justice to N.C.R.S., there never could be.
Matters of neighbour dispute, harsh words said, unwanted courtship, name calling, playground fights, petty acts of spitefulness, minor damage, marital arguments and revenge reportings that were never previously anywhere near the criminal justice system were now firmly within our remit as crimes. A social policy aim was served but at the cost of soaking up an awful lot of resources in pushing the NCRS boulder up the hill. This was entirely forseeable but it did not seem to occur to the Home Office at the time.
Now if you ally NCRS to inflexibly inspected, crude, centrally driven, quantity based performance targets in terms of arrests, detections and offenders brought to justice you get a Police service that is driven to do two things
1) Create a bureaucracy to ensure that no crime goes unrecorded, un-investigated or undetected. This must be done to pass the inspections. A whole audit trail industry has grown on the back of this central requirement.
2) Create Police Officers who lose sight of the the people involved and who see the world in terms of arrest and detection figures. A crime is just a crime. There is a process to be gone through. There is trouble in not following the process. Not reporting is not an option. Not arresting is not an option. Criminalisation follows given sufficient evidence.
The public have not enjoyed this new equal opportunity arresting face of policing. Just look at the satisfaction figures.
I exhibit as NJ/03 the National Crime Recording Standard and the systems that came with it.
I think that’s probably enough to be going on with for tonight. There are P.C.S.O.’s that don’t do much community supporting. There are his policies on moving law enforcement down a more authoritarian track really quickly in relation to ID cards, freedom of expression, freedom to protest and intrusion into private lives. There are his reforms to the sentencing system that have created a regularly expressed and growing dissonance between sentence given and sentence deserved to the point where the public look at some sentences and they see real injustice to victims.
I note with interest that the Home Office seems to be coming back to the idea that Police discretion is a good thing and central targets are not. It will be interesting to see how much else of his work survives reappraisal.
Just to re-iterate the point made above less crime is a good thing. More arrests and detections may not be a good thing. The more arrests we have to make, the more incidents we have to record as crimes, the less we can be outside policing. Processing arrests is the big number in putting police off the streets and swallowing up resources in the back offices. Please Home Office, try and remember that next time.
“Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.“
How the hell did we get here with the likes of Copperfield, Bloggs and Gadget being joined weekly by more officers all telling tales of the ugly truths of current Criminal Justice? How did we get into a situation where the Circuit Judges are quietly revolting and the Magistrates are as unhappy as unhappy can be with being pushed around by the government? Why has serious and violent crime been on the up every year since 1997? What kind of people have been setting the policies that have kicked such a big hole between the Police and the public? Bluntly, who has had their hands on the wheel whilst public confidence in all arms of the Criminal Justice System has tanked. I have an over simplistic explanation. It’s time to name and shame.
I’m sitting here thinking that we have a Lord Chancellor who has presided as public confidence in the Criminal Justice System is dropping through the floor. Only 31% of us now feel any level of confidence in how our system deals with criminals. His reaction? Well Jack Straw has been busy doing the Hokey Cokey with Bill of Rights 1.1 and foisting a Sentencing Commission onto judges through the Coroner’s and Justice Bill. I say foisting because the rather grandly named Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Juudges broke cover last week and said “We do not consider these sentencing proposals to have any benefit. The proposals are not sought by the judiciary or any other criminal justice group. They are unnecessary, costly and unwelcome.” That strikes me as judge speak for “Stop.“
We started this government with a Lord Chancellor called Lord McKay of Clashfern. Editor of Halsbury’s Laws of England, by most accounts an outstanding lawyer and judge, leader of the Scots Bar, basically a bloody good lawyer and well respected. Fit to be top judge? Oh yes. Man of substance. A man guaranteed to put the interests of a strong independent judiciary above party politics.
A Distinguished and Experienced Lawyer
Cometh the blessed TonyBlair, cometh the old mate in the shape of Tony’s old boss Lord Irvine of Lairgs. He blows £650,000 of our money doing up his grace and favour pad including £59,000 on wallpaper. His career highlights involved marrying his best friends wife, introducing the Blairs and providing legal advice to the Labour Party throughout the 1980′s. A towering legal presence fit for the top judges spot? Possibly not but Tony liked him and he was keen on passing the Human Rights Act.
Tony’s Old Boss
As we slide gently down the ability curve, another mate of Tony’s got to wear the shiney golden robes. Step forward Lord Falconer of Thoroton. Lest you forget, he used to be Tony’s flat mate. Surely, you are thinking, he had more qualification than that? Well, he ran the Millenium Dome for a while, and he was Tony’s mate. At least he was some sort of lawyer and he made QC in 1991.
Tony’s Old Flatmate
That takes us back to the current incumbent Mr. John Whitaker Straw. Well he qualified as a barrister some years ago but since 1979, he has been a full time politician. That’s the man in charge of the Ministry of Justice. It shows.
Some Bloke Who Used To Be A Lawyer A Long Time Ago
That’s how it has been for noble office of Lord Chancellor these last few years. Does the man at the top of the pile inspire any confidence in and of himself? The results are in.
That other twin pillar of the Criminal Justice System, the Home Secretary, how has that noble office of state fared?
We start with the incumbent Michael Howard QC. Say what you like about him but he qualified as a QC on merit in 1982. As a Home Secretary, he authored the quote “Let us be clear. Prison works. It ensures that we are protected from murderers, muggers and rapists, and it makes many who are tempted to commit crime think twice.” He was a Home Secretary who at least seemed to understand that the sentencing system needs to carry a little weight and that punishments need to enjoy general acceptance as fair. He appreciated the containment element of prison as well.
Reasonably Good At Law Stuff
Next up, running the Cops, the previously mentioned John Whitaker Straw. Jack brought us R.I.P.A. , sent Pinochet back to Chile and said of pre Operation Desert Storm Iraq “”we have faith in the integrity of the Iraqi judicial process and that you should have no concerns if you haven’t done anything wrong.” Thank’s Jack.
Perhaps Not Quite So Good At Law
All things must pass and in 2001, it was time for David Blunkett. Regular readers will know my opinions on his reign. A career politician with all the knowledge and experience of law enforcement that you would expect from the preparation of Sheffield City Council and teaching. Seldom has so much damage been done to the Police Service by one man. Along with beefing up RIPA and taking a swipe at jury trial, he started us down the road towards National Identity Cards. He was forced kicking and screaming from office when it became clear that he was somewhat involved in speeding through the immigration status of his mistress’s nanny, and giving the same mistress free train tickets on the public purse. I can do no better than quoting the top cop of the time Lord Stevens “If you are ever asked to meet with Blunkett, under no circumstances should you go alone…he is a bully and a liar.” Just what you want to hear about the man running the Police.
Now David Blunkett was replaced by Charles Clarke. Another career politician with a side line in running a PR agency. He was another man wedded to identity cards with a regrettable ambition to have all communications data stored for law enforcement purposes. According to his successor, he left a Home Office unfit for purpose.
More Of The Same
Enter Dr. John Reid. The doctorate was in history. The doctoral thesis was a Marxist analysis of the slave trade. From there until parliament he was a full time political organiser, you can guess which party. He was surpisingly sound on building more prisons, closing up our porous borders and sorting out the Probation Service but he did not survive the departure of the blessed Tony and the accession of the Dear Leader.
60 Watts In A 20 Watt World
That brings us to Jacqueline Jill Smith, another academic but sans doctoral thesis this time. You all know the score with Jacqui. Total expenses hog. Second home that isn’t. Lots of TVs and a lovely fireplace. The current Home Secretary has made a signed claim for her husband’s prOn and trousered the resultant cash. We don’t ask for much before she claims her expenses but at least she could have pretended to check them and weeded out the obviously bogus stuff. Maybe her husband could have done better by her for his our £40,000 a year. Either way she made a blatantly bogus claim and she is set on brazening it out.
Born To Wear Clown Shoes
I detect a downward slope. We start of with one of the greatest lawyers of his age and we end up with errrm Jack Straw. We start off with a man who understands the public expectations that punishments should fit crimes and we end up with a petty expenses fiddler who tries to pretend she hasn’t been caught red handed. Now I’m not claiming that there was ever any golden age of the Criminal Justice System. That would be foolish, but I am just pointing out that there is a case to be made that the people in the key jobs may not have been the best possible choices .
An Unsubtle Visual Reference