Monday, 9 February 2009

Assault PC

As an aside to my last post - I wasn't exaggerating.

Good on him for stepping up. I would be interested to know if the many witnesses helped the brave officer who had got involved, despite having no officer safety kit or way of getting back up.

I would also be interested to know if he'll be so keen to get involved next time...

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is interesting you ask the question "will he be so keen next time"
unfortunately he may have no choice, if he's travelling on his warrant card ( meaning free travel, something the train companies in the South East offer ) if the conductor has seen his "ticket", he may be asked to sort situations like this out.

But good on him for standing up to them

Blue Eyes said...

A very similar thing happened to a mate of mine. A gang on a train were kicking up trouble, he asked them to calm down there being other people on the train etc. and they turned on him. Luckily for him the train guard had radioed ahead to the next station - Gatwick Airport - so the train was met by several airport (armed!) officers. :-))

Area Trace No Search said...

Anon - you're right, we have a similar arrangement in the Met and I've also ended up involved after briefing it.

I'm sure he WILL get involved, but reckon he might be more than a little reluctant.

The Blue Light Run said...

We've all been there. Off duty intervention is not nice. Without a radio, baton or stabby it can be positively terrifying. But generally most officers will pitch in, even if it only means calling for backup on your mobile first!

An interesting story from the states here: http://privateofficernews.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/woman-aids-police-with-her-own-personal-taser-wwwprivateofficercom/ . I want Santa to visit me before the next shift please.

2 Robins said...

As an MOP the law/whole area seems unclear. The principle is clear...

One blog (this one?) told a story where an off-duty policeman showed his badge to a fighting officer who said Yep ok mate & they both fought the group.


How would the policeman react if a MOP started wading in delivering punches to the mob?

Would the MOP be likely to be brought up on affray? (even if the officer didn't ask for help?)
Does the MOP become liable for injuries etc?

Can the MOP claim self-defence/citizens arrest?

Perhaps if these points were clearer then MOP might have a bit more confidence about intervening...

Edwin Greenwood said...

2 robins captures the MOP's dilemma nicely.

Apart from the physical danger, particularly for one untrained in the arts of self-defence, in the current social climate, drenched as it is in litigiousness, risk aversion and safety-elfery, there is always the niggling fear lurking at the back of your mind that if you intervene you will end up being prosecuted yourself.

But you right in that the lack of solidarity from the public is depressing. As an MOP (and in the absence of police officers), I have allowed myself to get involved in dealing with toerags in the past. Not only do you get absolutely no support from other people, but you also find yourself tainted by association.

I recall one occasion when a young man, clearly both high and pissed, suddenly took it into his head to wander round the Tube carriage verbally abusing female passengers. I rounded him up and ejected him from the train at the next station. I wasn't expecting a round of applause, but I really wasn't ready for being shunned by the other passengers, who moved down the carriage to get away from me.

There was also the time when Connex South Eastern introduced "security guards" onto its trains. Unwilling to pay a decent wage, they could only recruit unfit and elderly people who were presumably desperate for a job. They were a source of considerable hilarity to the SE London toerag and fare-evading community. On one occasion, a couple of seriously pissed middle-aged vagrants got on the train. One fell asleep in a vestibule and the other fell asleep seated next to a female passenger. The security patrol promptly took refuge down the other end of the train. When the female passenger reached her station, I bodily lifted the drunk sitting next to her out of the way so that she could get out. I dumped the drunk on the floor. He was not happy.

All the other passengers treated me like a leper. That kind of experience does rather blunt your instincts towards social solidarity just a little.

Fee said...

I've only 'got involved' once - a bunch of stroppy kids were mouthing off to a bus driver who was telling them to get off the bus.

I knew three of them and stood up to point out that fact. They skedaddled pretty quick when I started phoning the ringleader's mum. I called her regardless, and was assured that punishment would be swift and severe!

I'd normally not get involved, being all of five foot two and female. Probably more of a hindrance than a help in a fight, anyway.

Edwin Greenwood said...

I'd normally not get involved, being all of five foot two and female. Probably more of a hindrance than a help in a fight, anyway.

I don't know about that, Fee. Being 5'2" and female can be an advantage when dealing with large stroppy males. You can say things to them which, coming from another male, even a 60 year old like me, would be regarded as a fighting challenge requiring at the very least a smack in the mouth to be administered.

A friend tells the tale of a huge no-nonsense geezer on a train who had the volume on his headphones up so loud that people in the next county were grumbling, never mind just the passengers in the same carriage. No bloke in his right mind would have tackled him. Then a young woman gets on the train, marches straight up to Mr Geezer, pulls the headphones aside so she can bellow in his ear, then when she has finished berating him, releases the cans so they slap painfully against his head. Mr Geezer is somewhat taken aback by the experience, but turns down the volume.

Metcountymounty said...

2 Robins - If I'm off duty, or on duty in uniform and am involved in a violent arrest and ANYONE tries to help me out then I will be nothing but thankful because it hardly ever happens. If anyone ever suggested nicking them afterwards I would more than happily tear them a new one regardless of rank - we could well and truly kiss goodbye to any support from the public ever again if they did that because it would be on the front page of every national newspaper by the next morning.

I have NEVER seen or heard of anyone ever being arrested after assisting a Police officer as there is enough legislation to justify their assistance (common law, S.3 criminal law act for a start) and even a duty to help out considering that failing to assist an officer is actually a criminal offence anyway.

Met Police officers get free travel up to 70 miles outside of London because the Met pays the association of train operating services (ATOS) for it, the only condition being that we are on duty and are required to assist the guard when asked, which we would be legally obliged to do anyway. Police officers help out so much on the trains that the train staffs own union fully supported continuing the concession for another five years because of the protection it provides their staff.

On average I get asked to help out a couple of times a month, usually with waking people up (most of whom are faking it and respond rather well to a flick in the eye or knuckle in the mandibular angle) occasionally to get details from someone for non payment or to forcibly remove people from the train and occasionally to search/detain for drugs or theft offences.

Hibbo said...

As several people have mentioned, and MCM has attempted to rebuke; the reason people are unwilling to intervene in situations like this is that they know they will likely be arrested for their troubles. All it takes is for the officer to be short of detections, or the gaffer at the nick to be pushing for promotion, or the thugs in question having a (fully legally-aided obviously) lawyer who will seek charges against the helpful chap.

Assume both parties end up before the mags (thug & helper), on what I would imagine to be the same, if not very similar charges; both get community service (as I understand is standard from mags) and a £200 fine: The thug will not bother with the community service and pay the fine a quid a week out of his benefits whilst the helper will have a big chunk of his wage gone and will face a massive disruption to his working & family life.

I'm sorry MCM, but due to the very nature of the modern police, the public find it very hard to believe putting oneself in danger like this would result in a "cheers mate, I really appreciated that" are long gone.

Shame, isn't it?

PS. For the record, if I did see a copper getting a kicking, I think my heart would override my head and I would step in and do whatever I could - then face the consequences later.

Hogday said...

I can count the number of times a mop came to my assistance over the course of my 30 yrs service on one hand. MCM is right when pointing out the legal duty of a mop to assist a police officer when called upon to do so. One case i do recall getting help was in the West End, I was slowly being strangled by my own radio cord trying to arrest a real fighting nutter. Out of dozens of able bodied onlookers no one stepped up. Suddenly I could breath again and saw the nutter being bent in all sorts of positions by a huge black guy. Turned out my `assistant` was a bloke I'd arrested 3 weeks earlier for highway obstruction (hot doggie seller). Bloody nice bloke. I must've treated him ok. I never, ever expected any help from the public. When it came it was out of the blue. As for today and asking myself if I'd step up to assist police being overpowered? answer `Yes` if I possibly could.

As for going witness to a crime/incident? - well I've seen what the system does to the victims, let alone witnesses, so I would never blame anyone for keeping schtum and if they'd tried it once, and experienced the total demoralisation of being treated abysmally and hung out to dry, there wouldn't be a second time. QED?

WeePeeCee said...

Ugh. I had to do this not too long ago and afterwards just sat and thought how bloody LUCKY I'd been.
I was on public transport and three teenagers got on, racially abused one passenger and then marched up and down the train threatening everyone who looked at them.
I'd been drinking so called 999 when it started to look as though violence was imminent. One of the group saw me on the phone and waved a very large golfing umbrella at me, pointy metal end towards my face. I already had my hand on my warrant card in my bag so pulled it out and shouted 'PUT THAT DOWN'. I think I scared the crap out of him tbh and the three of them offered hasty apologies to everyone and legged it at the next station. It was almost cute, the way they reacted, but I thank my lucky stars it didn't go wrong because I'd have been mincemeat.

Paul said...

It's an interesting one because I'd like to say straight up that I would be the guy who stands up against this sort of thing, but in reality it depends on the situation. Idiots mouthing off on public transport is one thing, but an actual attack is something else.

I will say that if i saw anything like the sort of incident shown in the clip below I'd be sh**ting myself but still try and wade in, as I couldn't live with myself afterwards if I didn't. I'm also not cynical enough to think any copper you've just helped fight off a bunch of thugs will then turn round and try to nick you.

I'm a young guy and I'm confident that my group of friends would also do the same. It's a shame that you don't see more of the good sides of people I guess.

Hibbo said...

I'm also not cynical enough to think any copper you've just helped fight off a bunch of thugs will then turn round and try to nick you.

Give it a few years mate, your cynicism will increase. I admire your bravado, but they've all got detections targets to meet, remember.

Anonymous said...

The idea that you will be arrested for the sake of a detection is overly cynical in my opinion. I'm not saying a blind eye would be turned if the saviour turned up with an offensive weapon/knife or Class A drugs fell out of his pocket in the scuffle but any help offered in affecting an arrest is covered by statute.

Anonymous said...

Hibbo,
Speaking as someone who has been assisted by MOP on a few occasions whilst scrapping on the streets, I am nothing but grateful to them for their assistance.
I have NEVER experienced or heard of a colleague arresting a MOP who has assisted them.
The only press releases I have seen in relation to "have-a-go" heroes getting arrested usually relate to people attempting unlawful citizens arrests or attempting to "take the law into their own hands" in some form or another.

The police power of arrest is very different from that of MOP's and the term "citizens arrest" covers a very narrow remit.

You always seem to bang on about not helping the police because all we are going to do is nick you to hit some target or other. In my experience this is a complete load of rubbish. (I doubt that my reassurance will placate you - your mind appears made up. All I can reiterate is that I have never heard or seen of an example in over 5 years of front line policing in a major force.)

TheBinarySurfer said...

Missed this one i think. Ouch.

That's the problem in a situation where you're outnumbered - beyond about 3-1 training just doesn't help much (not that many coppers have much martial arts practice or similar nowadays).

The best thing to do in that situation would be to forget about being a copper and start thinking about mob mentality (given a choice between maybe a reprimand and some time in intensive care i know which i'll choose).

Which means if you're getting badly hurt, you pick the nearest one and do something so nasty to him the rest of them want none of it anymore.

Grab the testicles and double-twist hard, grab a pinky+ break it then start wiggling it. You get the idea - the sky's the limit etc.

Basically just make everyone but the person you're on go "fuck that i'm out of here".

It allowed me to walk out of a 4-1 situation a few years back. I had the joy of pulling a bloke off a girl who he was punching the crap out of. Next thing i know i have 4 people hitting me (turns out they were a couple and two of his mates were nearby). Nobody wants to come near you when Joe Scrote that you've got hold of is squealing like a stuck pig.

Hibbo - get off the bandwagon mate. I'm sure out there in the whole of the UK there are a few (2-3 maybe?) coppers who MIGHT arrest you for that kind of help but the odds are astronomical, not to mention they'd be ordered to drop it for fear of bad press the second anyone above sergeant heard of it.

Border, No Trace said...

MCM, with respect: correct me if I’m wrong, but is it not the CPS that decides who and what to charge? So if they opt to charge, what can you do about it? And while so far no one might have been charged after assisting a police officer, there’s always a first time in this upside-down world of ours: in 1987 Eric Butler was the first person to be convicted for carrying an offensive weapon in respect of a swordstick he used to defend himself when attacked by two thugs on the Tube. Swordsticks were only made illegal the following year; so Mr Butler, respectable citizen and 56 year old BP executive, was carrying a legal weapon when subject to an unprovoked assault; he was still arrested, charged and convicted.

Interesting that failing to assist an officer is a criminal offence. Up to at least 1915 (last edition of Dicey’s Constitution) the public was legally obliged to ‘stop the commission of a felony’ and to ‘arrest the felon’, and ‘[f]or the advancement of public justice … every man is legally justified in using, and indeed is often bound to use, force, which may … amount to the infliction of death.’ Fairly clear on our duty back then, when the police were ‘only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence’—and of course the public were allowed to be armed, and often were. Nothing like a loaded .455 Webley to even the odds.

But now? Anonymous illustrates the problem: ‘I’m not saying a blind eye would be turned if the saviour turned up with an offensive weapon/knife’. So, was I to try evening the (in this case at least 4-1) odds by reaching for my Swiss Army Knife or other suitable implement, I apparently do indeed risk being arrested and charged.

MCM and BinarySurfer, you note the bad publicity angle—but the prospect of bad publicity did not prevent Eric Butler, Linda Walker, Tony Martin, Roger Dorrington, Barry-Lee Hastings, Brett Osborn and Paul Yarwood (to name just some that spring to mind) being arrested, charged and suffering from cautions to prison for doing what in earlier, saner times would have been regarded as only their public duty.

Metcountymounty said...

Border - No one is going to be charged by the Police on instruction of the CPS if they are not arrested in the first place. While there have been people arrested, charged and convicted in instances where they considered themselves to be acting in self defence, there are thousands more for each one who are never even arrested but you never hear about it!! How many times do you think we turn up to jobs where someone has been detained by the public, home owner or security and has CLEARLY been given a good slapping? As long as the person detaining them doesn't go way over the top and hand us a heaving bleeding mass then the chances of them getting arrested is absolutely minimal no matter what the Daily Wail says.

Border, No Trace said...

Fair enough, MCM, and thank you for taking the time to clarify.

Perhaps worth noting that some of the people I listed pleaded guilty, I think mistakenly (Barry-Lee Hastings didn’t though, and was convicted of manslaughter by a jury for killing a career criminal burgling his wife’s home; 5 years, reduced to 3 on appeal).

Fascinating: ‘the Queen’s subjects should assist the officers of the law, when duly required to do so, in preserving the public peace’, R v Brown (1841). Thus, ‘innocent bystanders caught up in a breach of the peace are to be regarded as potential allies of the police officers who are trying to suppress the violence’ and ‘[i]f, without any lawful excuse, they refuse to give it, they are guilty of an offence.’ What is the penalty, and when was the last time someone was so convicted, or even charged? I am genuinely interested.

Metcountymounty said...

Border - from the Police legal database:

"Refusing to assist a constable when he is endeavouring to maintain the peace in the execution of his duty is a little used offence at common law.

At one time all residents of the United Kingdom were responsible for upholding the law but, with the passing of time, this obligation has been eroded and is now treated as merely a moral or civic obligation, as was reflected until recently in the PACE Code of Practice for the Detention, Treatment and Questioning of Persons by the Police ("Detention Code") para. 1B.

The offence is:

Refusing to aid or assist a constable in the execution of his duty of maintaining or restoring the Queen's Peace when called upon to do so, if that person is physically capable of rendering such help and has no lawful excuse for so refusing.

This would appear to be the only definition of the offence and is a result of the case of R v Brown (1841). It was held in that case that, when the defendant was requested to assist an officer to quell a riot it was necessary to prove that the constable had witnessed a breach of the peace being committed, that it was reasonably necessary for the officer to call on the defendant for his assistance and that the defendant had no physical reason or lawful excuse for his refusal.

In R v Sherlock (1866) it was stated that refusing to assist a constable in the execution of his duty and prevent him being assaulted by the persons in his custody in order to facilitate their escape was sufficient without having to show how the arrest had become lawful. It is also sufficient to show that the person refused to assist without having to show whether or not he did, in fact, assist.

In R v Waugh (1956) a London Transport ticket collector was convicted for refusing to assist a police constable who was struggling to detain a suspect.

The scope of a citizen's duty to assist the police seems to be limited by the conditions specified in R v Brown above. There has been no indication in any of the cases that a person's duty to assist extends beyond preserving the peace. Indeed, the courts have firmly and repeatedly stated that it is neither an offence of itself nor an obstruction of the police in the execution of their duty to refuse to help with police inquiries: Rice v. Connolly [1966] 2 Q.B. 414. That general statement is now be subject to various specific statutory duties to report suspicion of crimes and give information such as in relation to drug trafficking and terrorism and the proceeds of crime.

Anybody who assaults a person assisting a constable in such circumstances may be charged under section 89 of the Police Act 1996.

Note: Public officers, such as police officers, also have a duty to carry out their duties, and wilful refusal or neglect can be an offence. See R v. Dytham [1979] Q.B. 722; R v Bowden [1995] 4 All ER 505"

Section 89 of the Police act is resist/assault/obstruct a constable, for resisting which this would (if ever) be charged as, the maximum fine is one month custodial and up to level 3 fine on the standard scale which is £1k.

Border, No Trace said...

Thank you MCM, and duly noted; greatly appreciate your trouble. Paraphrasing F.E. Smith’s admonition to a judge, I may be none the wiser but I am far better informed.

The above, along with Dicey’s description of our former duties, well illustrates the partnership that once existed between the police and the public, as described in Peel’s 7th principle; a shame that this seems to be the last remnant of that partnership and, like so many laws, is being allowed to lapse through lack of enforcement.

(Coup d’├ętat now…)

thinblueline said...

What also I note is that you have to remember even if a person is arrested , we can decide to place a file before the cps or not.
It is not a given..

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm a taxi driver in an officially "Impoverished Town" in the SE of England.In the early hours over the weekend I've seen all the crap the local Force has to put up with (and which we have to take back to their Council Swamps).I did help out once,(could'nt believe it when the "wiggy chap" let him off,even his own Brief loathed him !!!)and would help again.

OT, recently one of the Traffic Chaps came to our office on an unrelated matter and said "By the way,thanks for getting the scumbags out of the town center quickly at the weekends,we appriciate it".You would'nt believe how much that sentence meant to us drivers and our office staff !,remember we have to deal with the scumbags alone and un-armed !.

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