By Andrew Brons.
Wow! We have discovered that police officers sometimes (not always?) tell porkies about the people whom they encounter.
We have it from the mouth of David Cameron no less, ex-Eton College, former (perhaps current) supporter of the claw-hammer-wielding and metal-dart-throwing, UAF and, oh yes, Prime Minister too, that police officers had told lies about his former colleague and chum, the former Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell. What utter cads, upstarts, bounders and plebs to tell untruths about their patricians and betters!
Of course, had Mr. Cameron been an ordinary person like the rest of us, he would have known, for years, that lying about their victims is what police officers do. Dogs bark, cats miaow and police officers tell lies to secure convictions.
Years ago, in 1983, I was Chairman of the (1980s version of the) National Front. However, I was also a local activist; I did not shirk doing routine work with my local unit or adjoining units.
I was Chairman of the most disapproved-of party in the country and I did not have any convictions. That would have to change!
I was standing in the pedestrian precinct in Leeds with three of my colleagues – all from Leeds Branch – on a bleak October Saturday morning, selling or trying to sell National Front News. Three of us were standing together and chatting to each other and the fourth was standing a few yards to our right. We were standing next to some bollards, so we were not making an obstruction. We were not even shouting the name of our paper; we were simply standing waiting for people to approach us and some did.
A police officer approached us and told us to split up, which we did – I moved a few yards to my left but he insisted that I should move further. “How far?”, I asked and he said, “All the way down there”. I said, “In that case I’ll pack up and go home,” and started to pack away my papers. He responded by saying, “You’re nicked”. I said, “What for?; The case of Christie v. Leachinsky held that you must tell me the reason for my arrest”. He replied: “Don’t tell me the law; I’m a barrister too”. I was not a barrister and I had not, of course, claimed to be one. However, I did teach Law and about police powers, in particular.
He took me all the way to Briggate and my colleagues followed me. One colleague, Paul Vessey asked what he should do, so I said, “Ring my wife and get her to call the (named) Bradford solicitor”. The officer then arrested that colleague.
We were put into a police van and I asked him repeatedly what the reason for my arrest was. He said, “If you don’t shut up, I’ll charge you under the Public Order Act”.
We were taken to Millgarth Police Station and I repeated my request for the reason for my arrest but received no answer.
After spending several hours in a cell, interrupted only by a short interview with my solicitor, I was released and told that I would indeed be charged under the Public Order Act but I was given no details.
It was only several weeks later that I received a summons with two charges: one under the Public Order Act 1936; and the other under the Justices of the Peace Act 1361 (providing for a binding-over order). My solicitor said that this was an implied offer of a plea-bargain. I would accept a binding-over and the Prosecution (then the police – the CPS had not been established) would drop the breach of the peace under the Public Order Act. However, I refused, because I had done nothing wrong. I still had a touching faith in British justice. How naïve!
The prosecution’s case was bizarre: the police officer said that he had heard shouts of White Power (a British Movement slogan that we were hardly likely to have been chanting) National Front and Kill the Jews (Yes you did read that correctly!). However, neither I nor any of my colleagues had those words attributed to us. If the last words had been attributed to us, we would have faced a (potentially fair) Crown Court trial. They were mentioned simply to demonise us. The police officer said that I had sworn at him using obscene language and calling him an inferior being. The language sounded as if it had been stolen from the Daleks’ script in an episode of Dr.Who. The idea that I would speak to anybody in that way beggars belief. The idea that I would address a police officer in such a way is literally incredible. It would be tantamount to saying, “Please arrest me”. I was hardly going to seek prosecution that could very easily have brought about my dismissal. Indeed it would have done so had it not been for some swift. footwork from the Principal and the Chairman of the Further Education Sub-Committee.
It should be remembered that there had been a campaign by left-wing students mainly from other colleges to lose me my job over 1981/1982. This prosecution was simply another attempt to achieve the same end by a different means.
The prosecution called a shop assistant from a local shop whose account was almost identical to our true account of what happened. I and my three colleagues gave clear corroborating evidence and so did a lady who was a member of the public. In addition, my College Principal and a colleague who was Social Tutor and liaised with our many overseas students, attended to give character evidence on my behalf.
The Stipendiary Magistrate conceded that I had probably not used the obscene language (which was tantamount to saying that the police officer had not given accurate evidence) but decided to find us guilty nevertheless and fine us £50 each.
The courts of the state were not going to concede that the Chairman of the National Front had faced fabricated charges. That case was a case of identity theft as clear-cut as if goods had been purchased on my credit card.
If Mr. Andrew Mitchell had been a senior member of some small radical party that would have been his fate. There is one law for well-connected members of the Political Class and another for radicals opposed to it. If only I had fostered a cosy relationship with the Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher……………