Society Magazine

UK Police – The Nation’s Sticking Plaster

Posted on the 30 November 2011 by Minimumcover @minimumcover

Sometimes I come home from work and feel quite pleased with what has been achieved with the last nine or ten hours. More often than not, I have managed to make some progress with something on my never-ending ‘To Do’ list. Even on days when I haven’t slapped some cuffs on a baddie there is still some degree of satisfaction to be gleaned from getting hold of that illusive victim statement or finishing that griefy Crown Court file ahead of the due date for once.

Some days, however, are so frustrating that you just feel like going outside, banging your head repeatedly against a brick wall and screaming to the skies.

Today was one of those days.

The sequence of events that led up to this outburst started a couple of months ago:

A garbled call was made to the 999 operator in barely intelligible, broken English. Myself and one other unit from the response team were deployed to what the call-taker believed was a violent domestic. Ten minutes passed as we were both on the other side of the district having just dealt with a group of drunk teens having a party without appropriate supervision (the parents were there, but even more drunk than their children and their children’s friends). Everyone else was already in custody or fighting elsewhere at the time.

Finally we arrived. The two officers from the other car, who had arrived a minute or so ahead of me,  had gone into the house and I soon managed to find the male party who was sitting in the rear garden acting all innocent. I asked the usual introductory questions and it became obvious that things were not going to be easy. The person I was speaking to, and all those inside the house, spoke fluent Polish but nothing else except the most basic English. My Polish is not exactly conversational, so it was only a matter of a few minutes before I resorted a costly phone call to the translation service that we normally use for foreign speaking detainees in custody.

UK Police – The Nation’s Sticking Plaster

Cutting a long story short, there had been an argument between the male I was speaking to and his wife, both of whom had been in the country less than two years, about her unacceptably independent attitude and reluctance to be a “dutiful wife”, (or in other words, to allow him to sleep with him whenever he wanted without complaint). Two other members of the family who were in the house at the time had attempted to intervene and been assaulted by the male. He had then given his wife a punch in the face for good measure and walked out into the garden to give her time to pack and leave as he instructed.

After gathering this information the male was arrested and the investigation began. It was, after all, a domestic incident and was therefore rated as more important than life itself according to force priorities.

Over the next two months, at huge expense, statements were obtained from the three adults in the house (with a Polish interpreter), the son of the family was interviewed on video (with a Polish interpreter), the suspect was interviewed twice (with a Polish interp….you get the idea) and denied everything, statements were transcribed by translators and the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service was sought. Anyone who might be able to estimate the cost of this is welcome to do so in the comments.

A decision to charge the male was made by the CPS and I began looking forward to a day in court.

After so much time and effort I was looking forward to getting a good result in court. Both defence and prosecution procured their own translators for the trial. All the witnesses came to court, as did the relevant Police Officers. True to form, even the officer who just completed the interview was required to attend despite the fact that his evidence was not contested and that he was meant to be on a day off!

We all sat in the prosecution witness room on the third floor of the court building for what seemed like hours while the courtroom was set up for the hearing before a bombshell was dropped. Following a short conference in Polish, the family members decided that they were now no longer willing to go through with the court case. They decided that what had been done so far by the Police and other agencies was enough to change the attitude of their wayward family member and informed the usher that they were going to leave.

Just like that the whole case collapsed. The defendant was released and was last seen ushering his wife and son assertively into their car in the court car park.

It frustrates me on several levels when this happens. Firstly, I am disappointed that the aggrieved parties, who had been so strong in taking this violent bully to court, had now completed such a comprehensive u-turn and allowed his reign over the household to continue and his crimes to go unpunished. Secondly, I am annoyed that so much time, effort and cash had been expended for absolutely no benefit to anyone, especially the victims.

Although things getting this far is not all that common, this story epitomizes the attitude of many that call Police Officers into their homes every day. It seems that a significant percentage of calls we get where a substantive offense is disclosed involving a friend or family member are intended to achieve a quick fix rather than a long-term solution. As soon as the officer arrives and provides the common sense and communication skills necessary to referee whatever dispute or fight prompted the call, then the willingness to co-operate with any ongoing action evaporates.

In the case of many domestic disputes there are prescriptive policies in place requiring Officers to take steps to protect victims and to prosecute offenders. These measures do not match up with the expectations of those involved. People expect us to turn up and stick a big plaster on their lives in ten minutes before disappearing again until the next time. I have on one occasion ended up in a fight with (and was actually injured by) a wife who didn’t want her husband arrested after she called us, screaming that he was threatening to kill her and had beaten her head against a wall.

That is not the way it works.

If you call Police to report that your husband, wife or other family member is attacking you please expect Police to deal with what is reported. You cannot simply allow us to remain there until your objectives are achieved and then leave. The cuffs will come out and those famous words will be spoken. If you have no intention of allowing anyone to investigate or prosecute what you are reporting then, with the greatest of respect, don’t call!

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