What is a Police Force to do with falling crime figures? Not enough murder and property theft to go round the employees? Start shedding unionised employees? Accept lower pay? Eat more doughnuts? Learn to live with the fate of the Liverpool dockers? Or turn their hands to new or forgotten crimes to keep the figures up?
We were mildly amused when they started to occupy themselves with Keiran who had called Kyle’s Mum an old slag on Facebook, less amused when they started interrogating ageing celebrities on the grounds that there was a rumour they had once placed their penis on the office desk in full view of *gasp* a female of the species. They turned their backs on the abuse of young women in Rochdale and Oxford, and plucked the much easier fruit of specialising in ‘he said/she said’ from 40 and 50 years ago. With the gleeful assistance of the dying newspaper trade.
Nothing boosts the media trade like a good sex scandal involving a famous name. Acquittals were buried on page 14; ‘arrests’, ‘searches’ and ‘interviews’ were klaxoned across the front pages. So long as they picked on the shifty eyed, the eccentric, the never-married, the ‘known-to-be-gay-and-we-didn’t-agree-with-gay marriage-anyway’ they got away with it; mere mutterings in dark corners from concerned citizens.
Then they picked on Cliff Richard, pitchforked him in public on the 6pm news, and ten-fold a thousand lifelong fans marched across the cyberways in uproar, quickly joined by an army of young Christians. ‘Cliff should never have been treated like this’ they cried – and a thousand voices answered them – ‘you don’t think sexual allegations should be investigated – shame on you’. ‘No, no,’ cried Cliff’s supporters, ‘they should be investigated, but in secret, out of the public gaze, unless there really are charges to be put’.
There, right there, I part company with those voices.
I was tempted at one time to clamour for anonymity until charges were put – but then I realised that the police would merely charge their ‘chosen one’ with not having a dog licence, or having an image of their six year old niece on their computer – charges which could be cropped at a future date – and then carry on as before. Phoning the media with a ‘hot story’. Keeping themselves fully employed.
Let me tell you what happens when the Police ‘investigate’ in secret. When the full glare of publicity is withdrawn. When everything is carried out discretely behind closed doors.
Fear not, I am not about to transport you to Beria’s Russia, a land of unpronounceable names. Nor to post-war East Germany. We will be staying in the glorious countryside of Yorkshire. His name is John, a fine English name. Named after the King who signed Magna Carta and enshrined the right to judgment by a jury of your peers – not the local cop-shop. Irony be thy name.
When John was still a university student, he went to a ‘fetish club’ – run by students as it happens. He went with a fellow female student. It is not publicly recorded whether they enjoyed the visit or not; there were, however, no recorded complaints from either of them subsequently.
In July of 2014, John was accused by another woman of having ‘raped’ her. She was, she said, a friend of his. He had arrived at her house and they had had a ‘long conversation’ during which he had claimed that he had ‘raped, tortured and killed’ other women. After this ‘long conversation’ he had carried her up to her bed’. (No comment). After they had sex, he had appeared ‘elated, like he had won the lottery’.
After the alleged attack, she had got back into bed with the now sleeping figure of John, and had remained in contact with him, exchanging friendly messages on Facebook, as you do, for some weeks after this incident.
Not surprisingly, the jury was unable to agree whether this event constituted rape or not. John was sent for retrial.
In the retrial she claimed that during a session of ‘rough sex’ he had bitten her and scratched her. John denied having bitten her, but said that the scratch occurred during a massage after consensual sex. The jury acquitted him.
During the course of the retrial, it emerged that the Police now had John’s medical records, and they called in evidence a community psychiatric nurse, Kevin Holmes. Kevin said that he had been asked to speak to John, at John’s request via his GP.
John was troubled, it seems, by some of his sexual fantasies, and his inclination to discuss them with female partners. I am guessing that he wanted to know whether such thoughts were normal or likely to be acted upon – although he said that he had never acted upon them.
One would have thought that the young lady who allowed herself to be carried up to bed by a partner she remained in contact with, after he had claimed that he was in the habit of ‘raping, torturing and killing women’, would have been well advised to have a chat with young Kevin Holmes, but there is no record of her having done so.
Whatever; at the second trial the jury was able to agree that the incident did not comprise rape and John was acquitted of the charge. A free man, an innocent man. It was not the end of the matter.
For the police, now in possession of the record of John’s conversation with Kevin Holmes, applied for and got, an order forbidding John having sex with any person without giving them 24 hours notice. He wasn’t named on that notice. You would have been unaware, unless you were an avid reader of the local papers, that the person given this draconian order was the same man declared innocent. John O’Neill.
Behind closed doors, in secret, the police had decided that they didn’t agree with the jury, and brought in their own verdict.
Other conditions attached to this order included him having to hand over the PIN for his mobile phone to police, and not to use internet-connected devices that could not later be checked by officers. No Tinder before tea for John.
John decided, after taking legal advice, not to give them the PIN code as a point of principle, because he said the conditions of sexual risk orders were supposed to be prohibitive, not obligatory.
He was arrested for breaching the order and held in police custody overnight.
Breaches of the order could potentially land John in jail for five years. Before engaging in ‘any sexual activity’ – a definition which can include a simple hug! – John must disclose the details of any female including her name, address and date of birth at least 24 hours prior to any sexual activity taking place.
Whereupon, she will be presented with the police at her door, informing her that the man she shared a coffee with yesterday is a ‘dangerous sexual predator’. Yeah, she is bound to turn up to see the re-run of ‘Gone With The Wind’ in the back row of the local Odeon after such a visit…
The reason, the only reason, I can share this with you is because John himself asked a judge for permission for this to be made public. He has been on hunger strike since talking to a ‘London journalist’ and finding that the story could not be written because the order was an ‘anonymous order’.
Yesterday, District Judge Adrian Lower, sitting in York Magistrates Court, lifted that order.
It is really not a good idea to allow the Police to act in secret, no matter how badly you feel about the entirely innocent Paul Gambaccini or Cliff Richard.
What we really need is not anonymity for those accused of sex offences, but an open discussion as to whether we want the police to be in charge of our morality – and how we get out of the current position whereby the College of Policing, a private organisation, not regulated by parliament, has a free rein to decide how the police go about their business.
We need democratic control over our Police force – we can worry about the details later.
Admin: I am well aware, thank you, that there are two other ‘John O’Neill’s’ of the same age on the sex offender register. This is NOT the same man. This John O’Neill doesn’t have so much as a parking ticket to his name. So just curb your Googling enthusiasm in the comments and don’t make suggestions that the ‘John’ of which I write might have a darker sexual history than he does. Thank you.