Not a new show, but a rather curious experience that happened to me a few years ago and one for which I have never received a satisfactory explanation. It’s a minor issue in comparison to some of the more notorious miscarriages of justice that our nation has been a party to. But it was as irritating as it was unnecessary and I rather suspect, given the current climate of our nation state, that more and more of my fellow citizens, if they haven’t done so already, will experience a similar encounter.
This is by necessity, an extensive article I’m afraid. But I believe it’s worth a read if you’re interested in learning about the machinations and mendacity of the CPS and British Police.
Luckily I had access to a barrister friend who was able to help me. Not everyone is that privileged, so I’d like to document what happened to me and offer advice should you find yourself in a similar predicament.
I was arrested in February 2005 and charged with common assault under section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. The alleged ‘victim’ was a man in his early seventies Ronald Purkiss, a neighbour of my mother’s.
On the 9th May 2006 (a mere fifteen months later) a trial eventually took place, after three postponements, at Worthing magistrate’s court where subsequently the case was dismissed at half time. I was not required to defend myself since, during the course of the trial, Ronald Purkiss had been exposed as a hopeless fraud and liar and the Prosecution had presented no evidence and no material witnesses to support him. I was awarded full costs, a sum of £12,079.48 courtesy of the taxpayer.
After reading a statement I had made to Sussex police on 1.2.05, the court accepted that I had lawfully escorted Ronald Purkiss from my mother’s property after he had refused to leave voluntarily. A fact he admitted to in court. My mother, also in her seventies, is a disabled widow who lives alone.
It is clear from reading the defence papers relating to the trial that both police and CPS failed in their obligations to adhere to the law and their respective Codes of Practice whilst preparing this case. There is evidence that the arresting officer PC Christopher Michael Goody CG004, was 'inventive' with his notes of investigation in order to create an impression that I had been uncooperative. In fact I had telephoned him and arranged to be interviewed by him.
It is significant that this officer, resigned from the police force several weeks before the trial took place.
In November 2006, I wrote to the then Chief Constable of Sussex, Mr. Joe Edwards, asking him to state upon what evidence, in accordance with the law and the police Codes of Practice, his officers had based their decision to charge me.
I also asked the Chief Constable to remove my private details from the police database. Under existing law, the Chief Constable is the only individual empowered to do so apparently and neither Parliament nor the Law Courts can influence this decision. My contention was that my arrest and the resulting charge and prosecution were wholly based upon a fabricated statement made by Ronald Purkiss (a criminal act in itself) and by the failure of police and CPS to apply the law during the course of their investigation, which of course, made the prosecution unlawful.
Mr. Edwards did write back, eventually after my MP had intervened, but while he was happy to support his officers in their prosecution of me, he was not prepared to state precisely upon what evidence this prosecution had been based. It goes without saying that the Chief Constable also refused to remove my details from the database and would not discuss the matter any further.
In all likelihood Sussex police knew from the moment I refused their ‘caution’ that they’d been sold a pup by Ronald Purkiss; but getting public sector workers to admit fallibility is difficult at the best of times. Getting policemen to admit that they'd been made fools of is next to impossible.
I also wrote to the CPS asking them to state upon what evidence, in accordance with the law and the Codes of Practice, the prosecuting lawyer Ms Jaqueline Staveley had based her decision to continue the prosecution. Their answers, while lengthy, have been evasive and have consistently failed to answer the question.
At first Mr. Nigel Creasy of Sussex CPS claimed that the evidence ‘was contained within the statement made by Mr. Purkiss’. When asked to clarify precisely which parts of this statement constituted the evidence, he replied that ‘there was nothing to suppose Mr. Purkiss hadn’t been telling the truth’; so confirmation there that this had been a prosecution based on hearsay.
When I pointed out to Ms Sarah Jane Gallagher, the head of Sussex CPS, that Mr. Creasy’s argument failed to take into account the absence of any injuries to Mr. Purkiss that would be consistent with his claim of having been assaulted, together with the fact that my own statement fundamentally undermined and contradicted his and that further Mr. Creasy had failed to show how Ms Staveley could reasonably ignore this evidence and set it aside, Ms Gallagher maintained that ‘CPS had no need of evidence at all’ .
This, apart from being bollocks of course, was a whole new argument and not one that Mr Creasy had originally fielded. Later when I asked Ms Gallagher to clarify, she added that my own statement had been, in part, evidence against me. This was yet another new position for the goalposts since Mr Creasy had made no mention of this either. In any event the court had already declared itself satisfied that nothing in my statement could be construed as unlawful or unreasonable.
In a letter to my MP Mr. Nick Herbert, Ms Gallagher also insisted that ‘the case against Mr. Taylor was that he had assaulted an elderly man, Mr. Ronald Purkiss’. Setting aside the prejudicial nature of Ms Gallagher’s reference to the ‘elderly’ Mr. Purkiss, she quite deliberately failed to acknowledge that the court had already agreed with the defence submission that there had, in fact, been no ‘case’ at all.
In a situation like this, where an authority has been negligent, I do not think it unreasonable of me to expect them to apologise for it. But there is no contrition with this lot. They are as unrepentant as they are unaccountable.
Edwards clung onto my DNA as a means of upholding my ‘guilt’ by suspicion, whilst Gallagher and her colleagues refuse to accept any responsibility for a scandalous waste of public funds. Never forget, it’s the tax payer, you, that’s had to shell out the twelve and half grand.
In 2006 Mr. Edward Leigh, the chairman of a parliamentary public accounts committee investigating the wastage of some £55m by police and Crown Prosecution Service through poorly prepared casework, declared that the CPS must “tackle the cultural resistance within the organization to 21st century working practices” I would suggest that the negative culture Mr. Leigh refers to is endemic and effectively cripples the objective conduct of both these two authorities.
What is utterly unacceptable is the fact that there are laws in place to prevent precisely this kind of anarchy from happening.
PACE and the police Codes of Practice requires the police to pursue all lines of inquiry and to thoroughly examine all available evidence. Sussex police failed to do this in my case.
Ronald Purkiss had no injuries consistent with his implausible claim of assault. By his own admission there had been ‘previous’ history with my mother, though he was careful to gloss over the details. My statement made very clear that Ronald Purkiss was ill-disposed towards my mother following a boundary dispute that he had started, but which had been resolved, through solicitors, to my mother’s complete satisfaction.
Sussex police quite deliberately chose not to interview my mother, a witness who appeared in both my statement and that of the alleged victim. This was unlawful. In addition, the custody sergeant didn’t trouble himself with viewing the evidence of my statement at all, before charging me. This too was unlawful.
The Code for Crown Prosecutors requires the CPS to thoroughly examine all available evidence and to ensure that all possible evidence is made available. Where police have failed to provide this or failed to act in accordance with the law, it is the responsibility of the CPS to advise that they do so.
In proceeding with a prosecution, the law requires the CPS to be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence in place to make a conviction likely in a court of law. Similarly the police are also required to ensure that sufficient evidence is in place for the same reason, before making a decision to charge.
At trial no evidence or witnesses were presented, apart from Ronald Purkiss who proceeded to embellish and exaggerate his wild allegations. It is clear that neither police nor CPS had the evidence they required for a lawful prosecution.
The laws are there. They exist for a reason and when police and CPS fail to obey them, anarchy prevails. Ronald Purkiss’ statement made on 14th December 2004 was a fabrication deliberately contrived to use the police to settle a score. The law and the Codes of Practice are designed to counter this. But they are of no use if both police and CPS ignore them.
The law has evolved in a way that makes it impossible for a citizen to hold CPS or police accountable for their failings. I am unable to prosecute Ronald Purkiss for his criminal act of false allegation against me since he did not bring the charge. Neither am I able to prosecute the police or CPS for their negligence. This is not an issue that was the result of an error of judgment. Mistakes are human. But when police and CPS deliberately fail to follow the law by which they are bound, they ought to be held to account for it.
The magistrates were the only part of this shoddy process who acted precisely in the manner that the law required them to and it is interesting to reflect, in this context, that it is the alleged ‘failures’ of the judiciary that are frequently subjected to criticism from that nest of vipers in the English parliament and their lackeys in the British press.
As a friend of mine observed, acquittals happen everyday and with the exception of the return of my DNA, I consider the matter now closed. But this was a hopelessly unsatisfactory experience and one that can probably be extrapolated across the country.
Neil Smith, a former police officer and Case Director with Sussex police; had this to say about how he saw his role:
“We want to ensure the percentage of people convicted or cautioned following an arrest increases”.
Now bear in mind that an arrest is not confirmation that a crime has been committed. It is merely the subjective action that a policeman is empowered to take if he believes a crime ‘may’ have occurred. It can and has been an arbitrary power that the police have frequently abused. It is for the courts to decide whether their actions were appropriate.
In my case an arrest was utterly unnecessary since I had contacted Goody and arranged to be interviewed by him. I cooperated fully with his inquiry. But it’s clear that police now take any opportunity to enlarge their ever expanding DNA database (unless you’re Lord Levy of course). The law, as it stands, allows them to do this and relies on their integrity not to abuse the power.
British police, however, are no longer about effective policing (if they ever were). They are driven by pressure from Parliament to ‘prove’ that they are tackling crime. This is evidenced through statistics. Each crime reported is a logged and recorded incident (regardless of whether it actually happened). Police are required to ensure that these negative statistics are countered by the positive statistics of rampant caution and conviction rates. Clearly the irksome little factor of ‘evidence’ won’t and sure enough doesn’t, feature very much in their deliberations.
It’s that simple. Cautions or convictions ‘prove’ that the evil-doers are being held to account for their evil-doing; ergo the police are fighting crime successfully and the Minister’s job is safe.
The Association of Chief Police Officers recently disclosed that it was considering asking ministers for powers of instant justice. Condemning this idea, David Davis, the former shadow Home Secretary, said: "We cannot bypass the court system. It is up to the justice system to scrutinise and take judicial decisions, not the police." Davis has it absolutely spot on.
So if you do find yourself arrested, in baffling circumstances, beware! You are about to be processed with extreme prejudice. The first piece of advice I’d offer is simply this; don’t talk to anyone without a solicitor present. Really, don't do it. All Police Stations have solicitors on duty at all times. They're called, appropriately enough, 'Duty Solicitors' and you have a right to see one, that's the law, don't waive that right.
Don’t imagine, as I did, that police will be impressed by a willingness to cooperate. Perhaps you’re in agreement with that specious piece of New Labour trite ‘if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear’. Allow me to disabuse you of that palpable bollocks. From the moment you are arrested, police are after a result against you. I think Neil Smith has made that very clear.
If you consider your actions to have been perfectly legitimate, have the strength of your convictions and do not be intimidated. Do not accept a caution as a bolt-hole out of trouble, however cheery the constable offering it to you. A caution is a criminal record. Even if it lapses after several years, they won’t hesitate to use it against you if it’s convenient for them to do so in the future.
Take my experience for example. In his statement to police Ronald Purkiss claimed that I had threatened to kill him. Threatening to kill is a far more serious crime than the common assault I was charged with and carries a nine year prison sentence. Yet no mention of this was made when Goody attempted to coerce me into accepting the caution. Had I taken the easy way out of trouble, as I believe Goody expected me to do, I should have unwittingly agreed to having committed a serious crime that might well have come back to compromise me later.
Curiously enough Sussex Police made no attempt to charge me with this offence. This was probably because to do so would have necessitated placing me before a Crown Court, an arena where shoddy police work was more likely to be exposed.
In my view a caution is just lazy policing, don’t accept it. Make them get off their indolent arses, stop watching that porn film, put down those two-for-one pasties and start doing the job you pay them to do, properly.
Do not settle for legal representation and legal aid through some local outfit. They’re paid a bare minimum. Mine frankly told me that he got six hundred quid from the state to defend me. That was why I wasn’t likely to meet him until the day of the trial! Compare that to the twelve and a half grand my new solicitors Bindmans ran up to do the same job and you can really appreciate the quality of defence that the state is prepared to give you.
CPS may try and rely on the statistical tendency of a magistrate’s court to find in their favour. This does not mean that the court will convict you regardless of the evidence, but it does mean that CPS has a very flabby attitude towards their legal obligations in dealing with defendants. Many documents that my defence was entitled to see simply failed to materialize. You must be represented by somebody who will not let them get away with this.
In my case I believe CPS also realised quite early on that they hadn’t a hope of getting a conviction. But rather than acknowledge this, I believe they indulged in delaying the trial. Regina v Andrew Taylor was postponed on no fewer than three occasions, each with a period of over five months in between. I am not convinced that there were legitimate reasons for any of these postponements.
The first trial was postponed because the police had not provided the CPS with all the necessary evidence. Since no evidence at all had been presented at trial, I was naturally curious to find out exactly what this ‘evidence’ could be. In my correspondence with the CPS I have subsequently learnt that it consisted of two sheets of paper on which the arresting officer confirmed his name. There was no explanation as to why it had taken over four months for these vital documents not to arrive.
The second postponement five months later was due to a priority case taking precedence over mine. It is possible that this was a genuine reason for postponing. But in view of what follows, I am less inclined to believe that.
The third postponement had originally been for the same reason, a priority case taking precedence. But when I took my new lawyers into court to challenge the decision, a different reason emerged. The police witness, the arresting officer PC Goody, wasn’t answering his e-mails apparently and was unavailable to attend the trial. Quite apart from the fact that Goody was not a witness to the alleged assault, CPS were also being a touch disingenuous since ‘Officer’ Goody had resigned from the police several weeks earlier.
I knew that at the time and I find it difficult to believe that CPS did not know it as well. So it would appear that they are not averse to trying to deceive even the court when it suits them.
Thankfully my barrister, the excellent Alistair Mackenzie of Doughty Street Chambers, was able to make short work of this feeble excuse for a postponement and that of the Clerk of Courts attempt to field the old priority case ruse again and the trial proceeded.
In all probability, CPS was attempting to get the case counted out under the Human Rights legislation. I understand that this requires them to bring an accused to trial within 2 years of the charge. Had they run it out of time, it would have allowed them the privilege of speculating about the probability of my 'guilt', whilst ducking out of the tiresome chore of having to prove it.
So, get a good lawyer. If you haven’t done what you’re accused of, cough up for a proper defence. You can’t afford not to. If you don’t have that kind of capital and I accept that most victims of this kind of shoddy police work probably won't, then go with the local dude but insist he instruct counsel. Don't let him do the trial himself. It’ll cost you, but a good reputation is important and defence barristers are more reasonably priced than you might think. If you are at trial because police and CPS have been lazy and indolent, you can feel fairly confident that a good barrister will sniff it out and expose it. My experience of CPS solicitors is that they're a pretty mediocre crew and don't relish facing a top-of-his-game barrister in court. Certainly Staveley was a no-show at my trial.
All the same whether you go high or low for a lawyer, you should prepare yourself for the price of defending your reputation. Though I was refunded my legal costs in full, I did not recover earnings lost to days spent attending solicitors and the court.
So something of a result there for Ronald Purkiss, that plus the distress he caused my mother for several months adds up to a big man in my book and how wonderful of Sussex police and CPS to facilitate his anarchy.
You may never find yourself in this predicament. Most people go their whole life without such an encounter. But bear in mind that this thing happened to my family. At the time of Ronald Purkiss' abusive trespass onto my mother's property, I had been playing pass the parcel with my three young daughters. My mother did not seek a confrontation with her neighbour. On the contrary, she had endured several years of provocation from him before this incident occurred. Nothing I did in the handling of Ronald Purkiss was unlawful or unreasonable as the court has confirmed. Yet it was my family who were subjected to the doddering duplicity of the state.
Sadly after giving the matter much sapient reflection, one can only conclude that police and CPS are excrement, the worst kind of public sector worker; mendacious, self-serving and utterly amoral.
Be warned. Be prepared.
*IAN TOMLINSON - SIMON HARWOOD - KEIR STARMER*
The recent decision by Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, not to prosecute PC Simon Harwood over the death of Ian Tomlinson has understandably created considerable public outrage.
Given the CPS's clear practice of bringing specious charges against ordinary people, as I have illustrated here, then Starmer's decision not to prosecute is unfathomable.
Paul Mendelle QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, has declared the decision to be legally unimpeachable. Mendelle may be correct in his assessment. But the issue here is not whether the law is being applied correctly but whether it is being applied evenly.
Starmer declared that there was an “irreconcilable conflict” between differing medical opinions on what caused the 47 year-olds death and that this meant that there was “no realistic prospect” of a conviction for the more serious charge of manslaughter.
The first post-mortem on Mr Tomlinson was conducted by Dr Mohmed Saeed Sulema
Patel who concluded that Mr Tomlinson had died of
coronary artery disease. The suggestion being that his death was unrelated to Harwood's 'alleged' assault upon him. Two further post-mortems, one at the request of Harwood's defence team, concluded that Tomlinson had died from internal bleeding caused by a blunt force trauma to the abdomen.
What Starmer has done here is to effectively pre-empt a decision by the Jury over Patel's competence. If the Jury had found his abilities wanting they could well have dismissed his evidence as unreliable. In a court of law the test for conviction is for beyond reasonable doubt, not for beyond all doubt whatsoever.
Lawyers have also questioned the time it took various bodies – from the CPS to the IPCC – to investigate the affair. I am all too familiar with the expedient manner in which Starmer delayed his investigation and exceeding the six-month statutory time limit for bringing a charge of common assault against Harwood was a quite deliberate ploy.
The whole affair stinks and those of us who have had first hand experience of the sophistry of the CPS are in no way surprised either by Starmer's decision or by the
with which he announced it.
From police, through CPS, to the judiciary, I would suggest that we have nothing left to us now but our refusal to co-operate with this confederacy of reprobates a moment longer.