Friday, 15 May 2009

Crime, justice and policing: some mongoose updates

Here are some updates on stories we've covered here in the Chronicles in the last few weeks, brought to you by the gloriousness that is Benicio del Toro as he keeps my company on this Friday night in the crappiness that is The Hunted.

Back in February, I commented on the sloppy and purposely inflammatory reporting on the I'Akobi Maloney inquest. Three weeks ago, a verdict returned concerning the young man's death determined 'death by misadventure' as the cause, absolving local police of any wrongdoing.

A verdict of misadventure, as distinct from one of accidental death, indicates some "deliberate but lawful human act which has unexpectedly taken a turn that leads to death".
Interestingly, the coroner found that "Rastafrians [were] being profiled by the police, and [...] that the Royal Barbados Police Force needed to examine this problem". She also found that "Maloney did not commit suicide and that he was not engaged in any homosexual activities". Because clearly, the idea that he may have been gay is as important as whether his death was a result of foul play. The fact is, as ridiculous as this sounds as a finding of a coroner's inquest, it was probably declared in good faith as a way of 'preserving the memory' of the deceased. Such is the state of homophobia in Barbados, that an official inquiry feels compelled to clear victims of accusations of homosexuality.

Maloney's family remains unsatisfied with the verdict, and issued a written statement to that effect.
But the family said they were satisfied that the coroner had cleared I'Akobi's name from being associated with any homosexual activity.
So there's that.

In more news of possible police misconduct, this time here in London, there has been no loss of momentum concerning the Ian Tomlinson G20 protest incident. Since then, we've learnt that members of the Met police may have embedded themselves within the group of penned in G20 protesters in order to incite them to violence. In the meantime, the Tomlinson inquiry gets underway by examining claims that the Met police deliberately misled the public over the events surrounding Tomlinson's death - charges which, if proven, could bring sanctions separate from those associated with the death itself.

Scotland Yard, in reviewing its policing of demonstrations following the G20 protests, is therefore questioning whether "London needs harsher, European-style methods that could include the use of water cannon. " So after a man has died, a woman has been attacked by a police officer and thousands have been left feeling dissatisfied and exploited by police conduct during the protests, we're considering whether we should blast people away with water cannons in future demonstrations. Do you see how that makes perfect sense? Because it does.

More on the Tomlinson case


And finally, following new research suggesting that Britain has the lowest rape conviction rate in Europe, a statistic reported here in discussing police handling of the Worboys and Reid rape cases, a policing standards watchdog has undertaken an initiative consulting rape victims on why they feel that they are being failed by the criminal justice system.

The study’s author, Liz Kelly, an expert on sexual violence who has advised senior police and the Home Office, criticises a “culture of scepticism” among officers and prosecutors and says that too many people are wedded to the stereotype of the rapist as a violent stranger.

The project to ask victims about their own experiences will be conducted next year and is part of a nationwide audit of police forces and Crown Prosecution Service performance. It is a significant departure for HMIC, which has focused previously on policing procedures and performance. In another joint initiative by the Home Office and Association of Chief Police Officers, a group known as the rape support programme will begin touring the country this month advising police forces on how to implement the latest guidance on rape investigations.

Dave Gee, the former detective chief superintendent who heads the programme, said that Britain’s low conviction rates were partly due to poor evidence gathering and “indifferent attitudes” towards rape by police. “Too often, because of the negative mind at the outset, the case is undermined rather than built up,” he said.

I'm encouraged by this step. I'm anxious to see how it will be implemented and utilized, and what kinds of trends it will uncover.

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