Sunday, 4 April 2010

What Is The Public Interest?

A year after the event and Tony Smellie is found very much Not Guilty of assault at the post G20 gathering outside The Bank Of England. Hardly a whimper in the press on his inevitable aquittal other than he now faces discipline proceedings. Stand by for a written warning or words for not displaying your numerals Tony.

I've been relatively quiet on this as I was roundabouts on G20 but did come out in support of this officer and appeared to have called it right. To those who have a sulk on I will try and explain what was actually a rather technical case and it's implications. So let's look at three videos:

John Prescott gets egged and then punches the thrower who was stood in front of him laughing. Self defence? Well Prezzer gets the benefit of the doubt (obviously - who runs CPS?). He could of feared further attack and hit out in a pre-emptive blow. If I'm being objective he's in the clear and no prosecution would have been in the public interest.

The "lady prop" lands two knock-out punches in defence of his friend who was confronted by a yob who had prior to this picked on Spiderman. One of those punches was to an associate who appears to be trying to control his mate from starting trouble. The two follow up kicks were not in defence and strictly speaking illegal in law and you could argue that the punch to the associate was unnecessary and an assault. Again that was a pre-emptive strike. Common sense dictates that no prosecution should follow, because the yobs started it and any conviction would not be in the public interest.

PS Smellie acting in defence of others in facing a crowd alone with Ms Fisher leading the way. You can hear plenty of verbal warnings and he escalates the use of force. A clearance swipe connects with her face and still she comes back for more. The infamous baton strikes then follow and these form the case against him.

The use of force is taught within the officer safety model. You have to run through a thought process

Intelligence - Threat Assessment - Tactical Options - Action

Well he properly in my view cranked it up from verbal commands, to a clearance swipe with verbal commands until he draws his baton. It would appear that the prosecutors believe he shouldn't have gone to strike and expected him to adopt a ready stance (baton held over shoulder) with more verbals. This is a very thin line that they expected him to walk and I was surprised he was summonsed.

Two independent members of the public who were reasonable people present at the scene were called as prosecution witnesses? then give evidence that the force used was reasonable.

Other people still have the same views they held on first seeing the footage of this incident even after the acquittal. I agree it's not pretty but put yourselves in that position and I can say you'd never know how you'd react. The people featured in the video clips all have one thing in common. At the time they believed they were doing the right thing and didn't have a guilty mind.

One of them was treated differently and that was PS Smellie who was not permitted the benefit of the doubt due to the public interest considerations and the media storm that followed G20. It was a poor decision by the CPS and PS Smellie was sacrificed on the alter of public satisfaction.

A dangerous precedent has been set. I'm not currently public order trained but was expected to return to the fray last year. I kept myself out of the way awaiting the result of this trial. Will I be back? I doubt it - even though I'd stand behind the line these days it's not worth the risk of having every decision scrutinised by lawyers deciding what is proportionate. I stood up for PS Smellie because he was innocent .. I noted the lack of support from senior management who were weak. My personal view but I tell it the way I see it just as I did after G20.


MTG said...

Few of us had the depth of knowledge to appreciate the delicate work of wonderfully intricate stitching on the Emperor's suit - until you pointed it out.

Tom said...


To whit do you refer. The balanced application of law to us, MOP, or a rabid expression of law to OUR police.

Other than some interesting references to a 'fairy story' I fail to see your intellectual precedent to Viscount Sankey and his 'Golden Web' speech.

We are all, regardless of position entitled to the protection of the Law. Including an overworked and tired police service.

As you are, by your own ignorance, bereft of any knowledge here why do you not shut the f..k up, and enjoy the site?


MTG said...

I imagine you smeared in chocolate Tom and how much wiser it would have been to regulate the intake today!

The good news is that the returning hypertension and anxiety will get you another month's sick leave.


Blue Eyes said...

I disagree with you on one thing, Mr Stressed. I think with such a "moral panic" case it is right that the facts were test in court. I know that must have been horrific for Mr Smellie but there is trust to be upheld at all times. If he had not been put on the stand Dr Melvin and his cohorts would have shouted WHITEWASH! just as we all did when Prescott and Blair entered into their respective jousts.

When I first saw the media coverage I had the same reaction that many lefties did, but with the time to reflect on what I might have done in the same situation (which surely should be the test) Mr Smellie comes out as not having done anything beyond the pail.

Sometimes justice takes its sweet time and claims its victims. In the longer term maybe we can all learn from this. As a mere taxpayer and peace- and freedom-loving citizen I hope that society can come to some conclusion about when it is right for the peace-keepers to suppress those who would prefer to have chaos reigning.

It's a very tight rope indeed.

Anonymous said...

I am not uniform, but I am a sworn officer in a specialist role.
My observations, and insight into this matter would probably not be welcomed by the top brass.

The backhanded "swipe" may well have been lawful according to your rules of conduct, but it did look very bad on TV. The public were not impressed by the sight of a copper giving a woman a backhander across her face. The media whipped up a storm, because of the public's "interest" in the incident, and a distaste for the sight of a male striking a female in the face. That did not get a mention in the legal action against him. The focus was on the baton strike and the bruise it left on Ms Fisher's leg. The court case was a PR exercise for the Met.

As you quite rightly point out, Sgt Smellie was sacrificed on the alter of public satisfaction. Because the bosses were keen to be seen doing the right thing, after all the bad publicity about Jean Charles de M....and the drive to improve "public confidence".

The lower ranks ALWAYS get "sacrificed" by the ruling elite, be they police chiefs or politicians. The exception to this norm is in the case of Ali D, who was stitched up and falsely accused, because he challenged the bosses.

Top brass manipulated the case of Sgt Smellie to give the appearance of "doing the right thing". It was a distraction to deflect attention away from far more serious matters they would prefer remained swept under the rug.

Bits of the scandal have been reported in the press recently....the scandal of millions of pounds of anti terrorism budget, wasted on expensive apartments, which were never used....because there was NO NEED for them. MP's who have misled the House of Commons and the Security Committee, regarding the REAL level of threat from terrorists, to justify unnecessary, draconian laws. There have been mistakes, abuses of power and a disregard of vital, proven accurate Intelligence warnings, in records held by bosses at the Met, and in the Security Services. People who should have known better, have acted AGAINST the best interest of the public and national security.

Operation Beelzebub - codename Lawrence - Royal Protection Officer. You could not make it up.

MTG said...

Blue's naive creativity saw him briefly adhering to one of those backroom civilian jobs where propaganda is turbocharged to spare the Met damage by truth.

He is the least concerned with facts the instant his fingers make contact with the keyboard, bless him.

Hogday said...

If Sgt Smellie's actions were not within public order/defence tactical doctrine then surely an internal case will follow. If Sgt Smellie WAS following public order policy and defence training then why was there not more comment from the senior command on this point? After all, this is where the training and tactical policy guidelines are laid down. Will the senior spokesperson please step up to the microphone.

Stressed Out Cop said...

Blue - If every disputed use of force went to court there would be an awful lot of suspended plod.

CPS / IPCC (Both controlled by NUlabor lackies but supposed to be independent) showed their true colours again.

MR HD - Deflected nicely from their own mis-management - what was it? We will deal robustly with troublemakers .. the silence sickens me.