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Leveson review proposes sweeping efficiency reforms for justice system

Proposals include penalties for private security firm delays, longer court hours and more use of technology

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/About/General/2015/1/22/1421959957921/Serco-prison-van-leaving–011.jpg


Private security firms that delay delivering prisoners to court should be subject to stiff financial penalties, according to a judge-led review of the justice system.

Sir Brian Leveson’s recommendations for improving efficiency of the country’s outdated criminal proceedings include proposals for extending the hours of magistrates’ courts, expanding the use of video technology and providing more body cameras for police officers. Parliament, it is suggested, may also want to consider when defendants should have the right to opt for more expensive jury trials.

The report, commissioned by the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, will be a challenge for the Ministry of Justice given that it calls for transitional funds for transferring to new systems of working at a time of austerity.

Leveson, who chaired the inquiry into press standards, said the review’s purpose was to streamline criminal cases “thereby reducing the cost of criminal proceedings for all public bodies”.

It is also aimed at ensuring “proposed reductions in criminal legal aid can be justified on the basis that … less work will be required to be put into each case because considerable waste and inefficiency in the system … has been eliminated”.

Renegotiating contracts for delivering prisoners to court is one of Leveson’s most radical proposals. The prisoner escort custody service (Pecs) is costly and critical to the efficient functioning of the criminal courts, he noted.

It is supplied by two contractors – Serco, which operates in London and the East of England, and GeoAmey, which covers the remainder of England and Wales. Pecs covers movements between prisons, police stations and courts. There are around 850,000 prisoner movements a year in England and Wales at an average cost of £161.

“The present obligations on contractors to meet a 90% success rate, however, means that one in 10 prisoners may not be ready for court when they ought to be and yet the contractors will still be delivering to contract,” Leveson observed.

“This has a huge knock-on effect on the business of the court in those cases, particularly where one or more prisoner concerned is significantly late. Furthermore, under the present contract for those travelling more than 45 miles, arrival at or after the time that the court is due to start is not a breach of the delivery time …The cost of lost time to the court system appears to be ignored.

“I would urge those responsible to reconsider the terms of any future contract with prisoner movement providers. They must demand greater efficiency and properly manage performance of the contract.”

Remand inmates should be held closer to the courts where they are due to appear, Leveson said.

More flexible opening hours for magistrates courts should be examined to accommodate those who cannot attend normal daytime hearings, Leveson’s review suggests: “This must be one of the few public services which [has] failed to acknowledge the different ways that members of the public now live their lives.”

Enthusiasm for early morning, evening and weekend opening surfaced after the 2011 riots but has fallen into abeyance. “This possibility needs to be considered afresh,” Leveson declared. “We ought to establish the extent to which victims and witnesses will benefit from a more flexible approach to the hours that our courts sit.”

The review also supports greater use of video and conferencing technology to enable suspects to appear from prisons and police stations remotely, as well as video cameras mounted on police officers’ bodies or helmets.

In terms of jury trials, the review points out: “Jurors, required to give up their time to undertake that important civic duty not infrequently at considerable personal cost … are equally not infrequently concerned that their time is ‘wasted’ by what are perceived to be trivial cases.”

The MoJ has already arranged for investment in new courtroom technology but Leveson advised that more transitional funding should be given to HM Courts and Tribunal Service “to provide additional sitting days and available judges to dispose of the legacy work while at the same time processing new cases earlier and with greater efficacy and efficiency”.

Leveson said: “The changes I have recommended are all designed to streamline the way the investigation and prosecution of crime is approached without ever losing sight of the interests of justice.

“Our conduct of criminal trials was designed in the 19th century with many changes and reforms bolted on, especially over the last 30 years. The result is that it has become inefficient, time consuming and, as a result, very expensive.”

From the Guardian

Home Office–A Rule Unto Themselves? Surely Not

From Retired and Angry Blog

I won’t bore you for long today.

Basically, I made an FOI request to the Home Office asking for copies of Risk Assessments and Impact Assessments in relation to the previously announced 5% cut to Police Budgets.

They were due to answer today.

This is the response I have been given;

We are considering your request. Although the Act carries a presumption in favour of disclosure, it provides exemptions which may be used to withhold information in specified circumstances. Some of these exemptions, referred to as ‘qualified exemptions’, are subject to a public interest test. This test is used to balance the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in favour of withholding information. The Act allows us to exceed the 20 working day response target where we need to consider the public interest test fully.

The information you have requested is being considered under the exemption in section 35 (1)(a) of the Act, which provides that information can be withheld if it is likely to prejudice the policy making process and the delivery of effective government. This is a qualified exemption(s) and to consider the public interest fully we need to extend the 20 working day response period. We now aim to let you have a full response by 17 February 2015.

In the mean time you may find published reports about this subject matter useful. These include the Peel Assessment and the ‘Meeting the Challenge’ report, carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). Both these reports show that forces are successfully managing to balance their books while protecting the frontline and delivering reductions in crime and are taken into account by Ministers before they make their final decision. To access these reports please visit the following websites:

https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/our-work/peel-assessments/the-first-peel-assessment/

https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/our-work/value-for-money-inspections/policing-in-austerity-meeting-the-challenge/

Additionally, you may like to see the Provisional Police Grant Report and Written Ministerial Statement (WMS). Both these documents explain how the policing budget is calculated and how this calculation is used by Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to plan their budgets. Please view these documents at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/police-finance

Is it just me? Am I being mugged off? What I’m asking for is some reassurance that they have actually considered the consequences of these cuts, not how they work the bloody budgets out in the first place. Surely that IS in the Public Interest.

So, are HMIC party to this illusion that all is well and books are being balanced? Why would Uncle Tom feed Cruella anything other than the truth?

Now I sit and wait for another month and dare I anticipate that the Home Office will invoke the exemption and ultimately refuse like they normally do? Or am I the only one who wants to be satisfied that the risks have been suitably assessed.

More PCCs want tax hike to fund policing

Bedfordshire’s Olly Martins and North Wales’ Winston Roddick want to increase precept amount – but Dyfed Powys’ Christopher Salmon wants to reduce it.

A Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has become only the second in England to propose a referendum on increasing the chunk of council tax that goes towards funding the police.

Bedfordshire’s Labour PCC Olly Martins’ plan for a council tax precept hike of almost 16 per cent is likely to prove controversial since it goes well beyond the government imposed cap of 2 per cent – meaning a vote must be held.

He is consulting residents to find out whether they want to pay more for policing – and he says the cost of holding a referendum can only be justified if he can be “reasonably confident” the public will say yes.

A 15.8 per cent increase, amounting to an extra 48p per week for an average council tax Band D household, would fund an additional hundred police officers, Mr Martins (pictured) said.

He said it would also help fund increased management of prolific offenders and extra resources to fight cybercrime and child sexual exploitation.

Bedfordshire Police was warned last year by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary that it could go bust in as little as three years.

Residents split

Kevin Hurley, the independent PCC who holds the purse strings in Surrey, also wants to hike up council tax to avoid having to cut police numbers and is currently garnering the opinion of residents with help from pollsters YouGov.

He wants to raise the police share of residents’ council tax by 24 per cent and insists other PCCs are watching developments in his force area closely.

Mr Hurley told PoliceOracle.com: “The government does not understand that the most basic thing underpinning any liberal democracy and economy is maintaining law and order.”

And he said some PCCs were keeping huge amounts of money in reserve – something he branded “appalling”.

So far the vast majority of residents in Surrey appear to be in favour of a referendum being held, according to YouGov.

However, a minority – 32 per cent – say they would vote yes to paying more in tax, while 47 per cent say they would vote no.

The rest say they would either not vote or had not formed any opinion.

Bernard Rix, an expert on police governance, said holding a referendum on any local tax rise on the same date as the general election in May was sensible as it would mean such a poll would be more democratic and the costs lower.

He said: “It’s surprising there are only two PCCs that have said this so far.”

National picture

Local funding of the police via council tax is separate from national funding that comes via the Home Office.

Because matters concerning local taxation are devolved in Wales, Welsh PCCs can order unlimited council tax rises in their force areas – without putting them to the vote.

North Wales’ independent PCC Winston Roddick’s proposed rise of 3.44 per cent has warranted barely a mention in the media.

Meanwhile, Christopher Salmon, his Conservative counterpart in Dyfed Powys, wants to reduce the precept by 5 per cent.

While PCCs nationally are not all divided along party lines on this issue, it is notable that Hertfordshire’s David Lloyd – another Conservative – is so far the only PCC in England to propose that the amount residents pay towards funding the police should be frozen in the coming financial year.

Many others want below 2 per cent rises. Conservative Julia Mulligan, PCC for North Yorkshire, says she is “minded to implement a 1.99 per cent precept increase.”

Manchester’s Tony Lloyd and Liverpool’s Jane Kennedy also want precept rises of close to 2 per cent.

Under rules brought in by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles local authorities as well as PCCs are obliged to hold a referendum on any council tax rises that go above the 2 per cent threshold he imposed.
From Police Oracle

Past our limit: Met Fed’s anti-cuts campaign

Hard-hitting approach follows similar public awareness drive in Essex.


The chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation fears it will take an officer being killed or seriously injured for cuts to be halted.

Following yesterday’s launch of the Met Fed’s CutsHaveConsequences campaign, Chairman John Tully told PoliceOracle.com that something in the police service will break unless changes are made.

The three-month campaign – which includes a hard-hitting video (below) – follows on from a similar drive in Essex, aimed at informing the public of “dangerous” changes to policing.

“This is very much a London campaign but I know many other federations are thinking of doing something similar,” Mr Tully said.

“A national campaign would probably have had more impact but may lose some locality which is important in getting the message across. We are contacting all London MPs, assembly members and the Home Office to raise our concerns, and we urge the public to do the same.”

The video highlights the £1.4 million loss in funding which the Met has faced over the last four years.

“Neighbourhood policing is the key to everything and it is being decimated because officers have so many competing demands,” said Mr Tully.

“The connection with the community is being lost. There used to be one sergeant, three constables and two PSCOs on every ward in London, and now we are lucky if there is one sergeant covering two or three wards.

“They say crime is coming down, but that could be a result of 63 stations being closed and people not wanting to drive 15 miles to report something.”

While overall crime in London has reduced, violent crime – including rape, assaults and murder – rose by 22 per cent in the last year alone.

The impact of budget cuts on the safety of officers themselves is also underlined in the campaign, at a time when there is heightened awareness of the threat to them.

“Since the events in France and Belgium, senior officers have put extra measures in place but we have had feedback from officers saying they don’t feel this is sufficient,” added Mr Tully.

“In the main officers are walking down the street with body armour that is not ballistic proof and might have a baton and spray but if they are on their own they won’t have a taser.

“We recommended we have more double crewing but the Met have said we don’t need to do that yet. We asked for more taser availability which we have been given and for an increase in armoured patrols, to which they have agreed. But you have to remember there are still 750 fewer firearms officers in London than five years ago.”

The Met Police confirmed that it had reviewed the measures it takes to protect the safety of Met officers and the public, but confirmed that no decision has been taken to move automatically to double crewing.

“No decision has been taken to end single patrolling,” said a force spokesman.

“Instead senior officers across London have reviewed and will continue to review procedures as part of our established risk assessment process.

“Our experience of policing London and the UK tells us that our key focus should be on how to prevent attacks. The best way to do this is to engage even more widely with our communities to encourage them to pass on information about individuals who may be behaving in an unusual way or anything they have seen that might give rise for concern.”

Wellbeing of officers is also suffering as a result of budget cuts, Mr Tully added.

He said: “Some detectives have a workload of 20 plus crimes which is unsustainable – how can the number one crime get the same amount of attention as the number 20 crime?

“We are at our limit – in fact we are past it. We are only coping because of the ultimate professionalism of the people working the streets.”

Policing Minister Mike Penning said “there is no question that police will still have the resources to do their important work”.

He said: “The police are making their contribution to reducing the deficit and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary recently found that forces are successfully meeting the challenge of balancing their books while protecting the frontline and delivering reductions in crime.”
From Police Oracle

‘Politicians stupid to claim credit for falling crime’

Former Home Office minister Norman Baker airs outspoken views on crime rates, drugs and tackling online child abuse in an interview with PoliceOracle.com.


It is “stupid” for politicians to claim credit for falling crime, former Home Office minister Norman Baker (pictured) has said.

The Liberal Democrat, who quit his role in government amid a clash with the Home Secretary, said that since crime appeared to be falling across the world governments could not claim overall credit.

He revealed he takes a dim view of politicians who claim their interventions had prompted crime rates to fall, saying: “I thought it was a bit stupid when people did say that, whether in this government or the previous government.

“You can take steps, but for the government to say we have brought all crime down is probably over-egging it.”

Crime was falling everywhere, he said “and no one has got to the bottom of why”.

“I’m not saying governments aren’t without influence,” he added, “but I’m saying there is a societal trend which is occurring anyway.”

After resigning as a minister last year, Mr Baker complained that Home Secretary Theresa May had removed some recommendations from a report around drugs policy ahead of its publication.

A draft copy of the report, produced by civil servants, apparently proposed piloting an approach similar to the one adopted in Portugal, where drug use has been decriminalised.

Mr Baker later described working under the Home Secretary as “like walking through mud”.

He told PoliceOracle.com Mrs May’s “reluctance to delegate” was “tiresome” – but he added that she was “intelligent, committed and more liberal than she is sometimes given credit for”.

‘Treat them’

Mr Baker said the Portuguese approach to drugs helped addicts by treating them as patients and allowing police to focus on the “Mr Bigs”.

He said: “The implication of the hardline lobby is that the bigger the sentence, the less drug use there will be, which is absolutely untrue. There’s no evidence for that, and that’s what the civil service report said.”

The advocate of “evidence based policy” also praised Norfolk’s Chief Constable Simon Bailey, who was recently quoted by a national newspaper as saying that thousands of men who view child abuse images online should be treated by the NHS rather than sent to prison.

Mr Baker said: “Like drug users, treat them. He [CC Bailey] has told me that if we went after every person who is downloading child abuse images, the police would do nothing else.”

He called for more research to find out to whether downloading child abuse images was a “gateway” to physically abusing children.

He added that he would be interested to know “to what extent men downloading child images stops them assaulting children because they have a release, and to what extent it encourages them to go to the next stage.

“You have to research it.

“If it turned out that the vast majority of men that were downloading images didn’t then go on to abuse children in person – ok, they’re being abused where they are being filmed, in the Philippines or wherever – that would suggest to me that a bit more police time should be spent on going after those that do abuse children and a bit less time should be spent on those that download.

“If, on the other hand, it is a gateway thing, then clearly it needs to be nipped in the bud before it gets to children.”
From Police Oracle

Charlie Hebdo: Gun attack on French magazine kills 12

Gunmen have shot dead 12 people at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in an apparent militant Islamist attack.
Four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor, were among those killed, as well as two police officers.
A major police operation is under way to find three gunmen who fled by car.
President Francois Hollande said there was no doubt it had been a terrorist attack “of exceptional barbarity”.
The masked attackers opened fire with assault rifles in the office and exchanged shots with police in the street outside before escaping by car.
They later abandoned the car in Rue de Meaux, northern Paris, where they hijacked a second car.

Death threats
Witnesses said they heard the gunmen shouting “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great” in Arabic (“Allahu Akbar”).
The number of attackers was initially reported to be two, but French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve later said security services were hunting three “criminals”. He said that Paris had been placed on the highest alert.
Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, 47, had received death threats in the past and was living under police protection.
French media have named the three other cartoonists killed in the attack as Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski, as well as Charlie Hebdo contributor and French economist Bernard Maris.
The attack took place during the magazine’s daily editorial meeting.
At least four people were critically wounded in the attack.
The satirical weekly has courted controversy in the past with its irreverent take on news and current affairs. It was firebombed in November 2011 a day after it carried a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.

Global condemnation
The latest tweet on Charlie Hebdo’s account was a cartoon of the Islamic State militant group leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Charlie Hebdo’s website, which went offline during the attack, is showing the single image of “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie) on a black banner, referring to a hashtag that is trending on Twitter in solidarity with the victims.
People had been “murdered in a cowardly manner”, President Hollande told reporters at the scene. “We are threatened because we are a country of liberty,” he added, appealing for national unity.
French government officials are holding an emergency meeting, and President Hollande is due to give a televised address later.
Footage shot by an eyewitness outside the magazine’s office shows two armed men dressed in black approach a wounded police officer lying on a pavement. One of the men shoots the officer in the head, before both men are seen running back towards a black vehicle and driving away.
Eyewitnesses described seeing two black-hooded men entering the building carrying Kalashnikovs, with reports of up to 50 shots fired.
Gilles Boulanger, who works in the same building as the office, told French TV channel Itele: “There were several shots heard in the building from automatic weapons firing in all directions. So then we looked out of the window and saw the shooting was on Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, with the police. It was really upsetting. You’d think it was a war zone.”
Wandrille Lanos, a TV reporter who works across the road, was one of the first people to enter the Charlie Hebdo office after the attack.
“As we progressed into the office, we saw that the number of casualties was very high. There was a lot of people dead on the floor, and there was blood everywhere,” he told the BBC.
After the attack, which occurred at about 10:30 GMT, police warned French media outlets to be on alert and pay attention to security.
The country was already on the alert for Islamist militant attacks after several incidents just before Christmas.
Cars were driven at shoppers in two cities, Dijon and Nantes, and police were attacked by a man wielding a knife in Tours.
While the French government denied the attacks were linked, it announced plans to further raise security in public spaces, including the deployment of about 300 soldiers.
Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 sparking riots in Muslim countries, says it has stepped up security in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

BBC Online News

Police cuts are here to stay, says head of watchdog

Sir Tom Winsor

Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor said forces had mainly “done well” with 20% cuts in the past four years, and more savings were likely.

Newly-knighted Sir Tom said a “smaller service” would have to “work smarter”.

In December, the chief of the Met Police warned public safety would be at risk unless radical measures were taken to deal with funding cuts.
But speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, Sir Tom said: “Austerity is here to stay.
“The police have already made, and done it well in the main, cuts of 20% in the last four years and they are facing cuts of a further 5% next year.
“There will inevitably be a time where they can’t take any more but let us remember that measured crime has fallen dramatically – but so have the demands made on the police.”
‘Working smaller’
Asked if there was room for further cuts, Sir Tom said: “In some respects there are further efficiencies to be obtained, that is undoubtedly the case.
“They [police forces] need to work smarter because they will be working smaller.”
Sir Tom said forces had not done enough work to analyse new demands being made on them, particularly with regards to cyber crime.
He also said that while any crime reported to the police had to be taken seriously, there were some crimes that were “more serious than others”.
“Nobody would argue that shoplifting is as serious as a violent assault and therefore the police need to look for the crimes that matter most to people, that do greatest harms to communities – serious and organised crime, drugs, violent offences, the grooming and sexual exploitation of children,” he said.
Last month, Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said that unless police “act fast” and with “courage” to implement far-reaching reforms, the cuts would endanger public safety.
He suggested police forces in England and Wales should merge and share resources with other emergency services.
Sir Hugh Orde, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ president, has also recently warned that police forces were struggling to deal with reductions in funding.

BBC Online News

China: Fake cops guard government building

No doubt this story will give the present Home Secretary plenty of ideas – although in some senses, it’s already happening… Frown

A local government in north-eastern China has admitted to using security guards to pose as police officers, it’s been reported.

Despite the practice being illegal in China, the Jiamusi city government in Heilongjiang Province issued security guards with police uniforms and even assigned them a rank, Xinhua news agency reports. China’s People Police Law stipulates that police insignias and uniforms are for the exclusive use of the police force. But local government official Zhang Hongbin says the “officers” were brought in to cope with the growing number of complaints filed by the public. “Thousands of petitioners forcibly enter the city government building every year. The situation was out of control sometimes, even when guards were wearing police uniforms,” he says.

The government in Jiamusi had been using fake police officers since 2001, according to Xinhua. One guard told the agency “I’ve been using this police ID number and carrying a Class Three police rank for nearly seven years.” Since the revelation, city authorities have “confiscated” all the uniforms, a spokesman for the government told the Global Times, adding, “We haven’t heard about any punishment.” Some Chinese media have accused the government of abusing the police’s authority and using the guards to deter the public from lodging complaints. “This is an unwise and illegal way of avoiding the problem”, the Beijing Times reports.

BBC story

Bin lorry deaths: Glasgow crash killed five females and male

The six people who were killed by an out-of-control bin lorry in Glasgow city centre included five females and one male, police have confirmed.
The bodies have been removed from the scene and formal identification will take place later. The council bin lorry has also been removed.
Police said 10 others, including the driver, were injured.
The bin lorry crashed in George Square after careering from nearby Queen Street at about 14:30 on Monday.
Of the 10 casualties, four have since been discharged, while six others remain in hospital. Two casualties are in an Intensive Therapy Unit.
The bodies of the victims were removed from the scene overnight in a fleet of private ambulances.
A police investigation is continuing to establish the exact circumstances surrounding the crash.
It is known that the lorry struck a pedestrian outside the Gallery of Modern Art (Goma), then mounted the pavement and travelled hundreds of metres, hitting several others, before crashing into the Millennium Hotel outside Queen Street station.
Eyewitnesses said the lorry driver had been “slumped over his wheel”.
Glasgow City Council confirmed that three employees were in the lorry before the crash.
‘Simply devastating’
George Ieronymdis, owner of the Elia Greek Restaurant on George Square, said he had been told that some of the bin lorry’s crew were seen jumping from the vehicle and holding their heads in their hands, looking devastated.
Dozens of floral tributes have been placed near the scene, and prayers are due to be held by the Church of Scotland later.
Minister Alastair Duncan will be leading the prayers at nearby St George’s Tron Church from 11:30.
The church will be open from 10:00 until 16:00 “for those who wish to say a prayer in their own time and sign a book of condolence”.
Church of Scotland Moderator John Chalmers said: “The news from the city centre of Glasgow just a few days before Christmas is simply devastating.
“For the second year in a row, Glaswegians will have to dig deep into their reserves of compassion and sympathy as they support the families of those who have been killed and injured today.”
Roman Catholic Archbishop Philip Tartaglia will say mass for the victims at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow on Wednesday.
Police Scotland said there appeared to be nothing “sinister” about the crash and are still carrying out investigations at the scene.
The first minister told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “The emergency services have been on the scene all night.
“The bodies of those who sadly lost their lives have now been taken away from the scene. There will be a process of formal identification still to go through today.
“Clearly it is the priority of all those involved to find out what caused this incident and give the families of those involved the answers they are seeking.”

BBC News Online

Gunman kills two New York police officers

A gunman has shot dead two police officers sitting inside a patrol car in New York before killing himself.

The head of the New York police said the men had been “targeted for their uniform”. The gunman then ran into a subway station where he shot himself.

Earlier he had shot and injured his ex-girlfriend and had posted anti-police messages on social media.

President Barack Obama – who is on holiday in Hawaii – said he condemned the killings “unconditionally”.

“Officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day,” he said in a statement.
The killings come amid widespread dissatisfaction in relations between police and African Americans.

The gunman was a black man – named as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28 – while the two police officers, Liu Wenjin and Raphael Ramos, were Asian and Hispanic respectively.

Earlier this month, a grand jury decided not to indict a New York officer for the chokehold death of Eric Garner, a black man who died when white police officers tried to arrest him for selling cigarettes.

Last month, another grand jury also cleared a white officer in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, in Ferguson, Missouri.

Both decisions triggered nationwide protests.
New York police commissioner Bill Bratton said his department was looking at whether the suspect had attended any rallies.

Two officials told the Associated Press news agency that the gunman had also posted about shooting police in retaliation for the death of Mr Garner.

The mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, said anyone seeing postings indicating a threat to the police should report them.
‘Simply assassinated’

The officers were on duty in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn when they were shot on Saturday afternoon.

Mr Bratton said the officers had been shot with “no warning, no provocation – they were quite simply assassinated”.
He also said the suspect had wounded his former girlfriend earlier on Saturday in Baltimore and had made posts from her Instagram account.

“This may be my final post,” said one that included an image of a silver handgun.

The Rev Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist, said Mr Garner’s family had had no connection to the gunman and he denounced the violence.

“Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in connection with any violence or killing of police, is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases,” Rev Sharpton said.

The last fatal shooting of a New York police officer was in 2011.

The head of the New York police officers union, Patrick Lynch told the BBC: “There’s blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest. We tried to warn – it must not go on, it cannot be tolerated.”

BBC News Online

Battered to death for being a copper

PC Neil Doyle, 36, died after an early morning assault on a group of three officers near a city centre nightclub - just weeks before his honeymoon

PC Neil Doyle, 36, died after an early morning assault on a group of three officers near a city centre nightclub – just weeks before his honeymoon”

Detectives investigating the death of off-duty police constable Neil Doyle have arrested a man on suspicion of murder, Merseyside Police said tonight.

The 28-year-old suspect handed himself in to police this evening and is currently being interviewed by detectives, officers said.

Pc Doyle, a 36-year-old beat bobby, was set upon by three men in what his boss described as an unprovoked and vicious attack.

He may have been targeted because of his job.

Badly beaten, he lost consciousness and died in hospital. Two colleagues were also injured in the incident.

Police say it appears the gang of attackers knew their victims were off-duty officers. Sir Jon Murphy, Merseyside’s Chief Constable, said: ‘Constable Doyle was enjoying a Christmas night out with his work colleagues.

‘They were subjected to an apparently unprovoked and vicious attack by a group of males. There is no indication whatsoever that they were involved in any kind of argument or altercation earlier in the evening.

‘The officer I have spoken to has indicated that the individuals who approached them referred to them as police officers.

‘They then assaulted the officers, leaving two with nasty head injuries and resulting in the tragic death of Neil.’

The fight, which involved no weapons, broke out in Colquitt Street, central Liverpool, at 3.15am following the officers’ Christmas party at a pub.
The attackers vanished when it became clear that Mr Doyle was seriously hurt.

Officers and bouncers from a nearby club tried to revive him before paramedics arrived. The street remained cordoned off last night as forensics officers looked for clues.

Ryan McMahon, who owns the Aloha club outside which the attack happened, said his doormen told him the officers and their attackers appeared to know each other.

‘There were two groups of three men walking past Aloha when they started fighting each other,’ he said. ‘A couple of punches were thrown, then one of them stumbled over toward a car on the other side of the road – he didn’t fall down at first.

‘After a couple of minutes when he didn’t get up his mates went to help him.

‘Our doormen went over and tried to resuscitate him, performing CPR until the ambulance came. There were a lot of off-duty police officers there by that time.

‘Some female officers were really upset, screaming and shouting.’

The two off-duty officers who were with Mr Doyle needed hospital treatment – one for a fractured cheekbone and the other for a less serious facial injury.

Mr Doyle married only five months ago and he and wife Sarah, 37, had booked a belated honeymoon for the new year. Sir Jon said the constable was a patrol officer who had served with the force for ten years.

He had won a commendation for arresting three violent robbers.

The Chief Constable said it was a ‘sad day’ for Merseyside police and sent his ‘heartfelt condolences’ to Mrs Doyle and the officer’s family.

Flags were flown at half-mast at police stations across Merseyside as a mark of respect and Peter Singleton, chairman of the area’s Police Federation, said colleagues were devastated.

‘He was a good, well-liked, hard-working bobby who did his best to support the community,’ Mr Singleton said.

‘He had commendations from the force for his good work. Sometimes it seems hollow and false to say these words but he really was a good, skilled, dependable cop, who would always do his best for the public.

‘If you’re a sergeant, police constables like Mr Doyle are exactly what you want. He will be sorely missed.’

Mr Doyle’s wife, his mother, Theresa, 61, and brother, Greg, 42, were too upset to talk and were being comforted by friends and family last night.

One neighbour, Margaret Murphy, 61, said: ‘It’s such a shock. Neil was a lovely lad, very quiet and unassuming. I can’t get over it. I saw his wife and brother this morning, they were very upset.

‘They told me Neil had passed away after an incident in town. It’s so terrible, especially so close to Christmas.’

Another neighbour, Theresa Doyle, who is no relation, added: ‘Neil was a lovely neighbour, very polite.

‘He wasn’t the type to get into trouble – if anything I would guess he had stepped in and tried to solve a problem. He was a really good character. They kept their lives very private. To be honest you would never have known he was a police officer.

‘I just feel for Sarah now, and how she copes without him. It is such a shame. It is such sad news.’

Last night police said anyone with information should contact Merseyside police on freephone 0800 230 0600 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Daily Mail Online.

Police cuts ‘will endanger public’, says Met commissioner

Public safety will be at risk unless radical measures are taken to deal with funding cuts, Britain’s most senior policeman has warned.

Met Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said forces were facing “years of more austerity and shrinking budgets”, whoever is in power.

He said police forces in England and Wales should merge and share resources with other emergency services.

The prime minister’s spokesman said the current structure was the right one.

Writing in the Guardian, the Scotland Yard commissioner said that unless police and other public services across England and Wales “act fast” and with “courage” to implement far-reaching reforms, the cuts would endanger public safety.

He said local authorities, criminal justice agencies and the police should share support services – and all but core policing functions should be opened up to competition.

He said in urban areas like London police should link more closely with ambulance, fire and other services.

In the first half of Parliament, policing was dominated by the issue of cuts: How would the service cope with having its central government funding reduced by a fifth?

The response from most forces was to chop the number of officers and staff.

The question of cuts is back on the agenda, as forces face a further squeeze to the end of the decade.

There is growing support for the restructuring option favoured by Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. Sir Hugh Orde, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ president, and Irene Curtis of the Police Superintendents Association are among a number of policing leaders who see the virtue in fewer, bigger forces.

Labour is committed to some kind of re-organisation, but is proceeding cautiously, perhaps scarred by the previous doomed attempt in 2006.

The Conservatives remain opposed, put off by worries that police forces’ local identity and accountability will be threatened.

But tough spending decisions after the next election will keep the issue centre stage.

Sir Bernard also revisited the idea of police force mergers as a way to save money and develop a “common mission” against cyber crime.

“In England and Wales there are 43 forces. The smallest has 600 officers, the largest, the Met, 32,000. They are based on 1974 local government boundaries and in many cases emergency services are now the only county-wide services,” he said.

“Do criminals respect these county boundaries? No, they don’t. They seek markets with high population densities to sell drugs and steal property. They pass local and national borders with ease.

“We need to be as flexible and aggressive as they are. We do not need the boundaries that currently mark out the territory of chief constables or police and crime commissioners.”

Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said there were issues in terms of efficiencies and greater cooperation but the current set-up was the right approach “given the importance of retaining local accountability”.

The prime minister believes there is “more that can be done” on police forces working together and sharing technology and procurement services, the spokesman added.

Last week, the chief constable of Lincolnshire Police said his force could be “unviable” in three years if it had to make further cuts.

Chief Constable Neil Rhodes outlined his concerns in a letter to the home secretary. He said cuts to officer numbers, in response to a reported £10.4m budget shortfall, would mean the force would be unable to police effectively.

BBC Online

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