Tag Archives: Metropolitan Police

How the Angry Brigade’s anarchists helped create the UK’s Bomb Squad

Angry anarchist Stuart Christie

This morning, Stuart Christie (who knows about such things) commented on a 2015 blog of mine entitled The Angry Brigade, British anarchists – the real bombers were never arrested?

Stuart’s comment was:


What complete and utter bollocks from your friend ‘Sam Taylor’. The four people arrested at 359 Amhurst Road had only recently moved there, in the spring of 1971, and were living quietly and clandestinely keeping off the radar, the identities of at least two of them having been discovered by the police and recently published in Hue and Cry. They were never a ‘collective’ in any sense of the word. ‘Sam’s’ account is a concoction of urban myths and befuddled memories.


Stuart told me this afternoon he has “nothing really to add, just trying to put that little canard to bed”.

But he sent me a copy of Edward Heath Made Me Angry, the third party of his trilogy memoir, with permission to quote/extract from it.

For those who don’t or can’t quite remember that time, I think this section from Stuart’s book gives a good flavour.

Part 3 of Stuart’s fascinating memoir


What was loosely called the ‘Angry Brigade’ had received its baptism on 22 May the previous year with the discovery of a bomb in the foundations of the new high security police station in Paddington. This had been followed on 30 August by a bomb at the Putney home of Sir John Waldron, the Commissioner of Police. 

Following the bomb attack on his home, Sir John had made it the top priority to capture those responsible and ordered a complete reorganisation of the Special Branch. Ferguson Smith, the head of Special Branch, was promoted to the rank of Deputy Assistant Commissioner and the heads of its three main sections – Operations, Ports and Administration – to Commander. For Waldron it was now something personal.

I now knew why Palmer-Hall had asked such apparently irrelevant questions when he was interviewing me about the First of May Group attacks on Iberia Airlines at Heathrow. He had mentioned Roehampton and the West End, places nowhere near Heathrow.

On 8 September, a week after Waldron’s house had been targeted, the Chelsea home of the new Conservative Attorney General, Sir Peter Rawlinson QC, had also been bombed. He, too, had been successful in suppressing the news. It was Rawlinson who had defined the Tory no-holds-barred policy on ‘law and order’ in a pre-election speech to the Society of Conservative Lawyers. His speech was the opening engagement of a new class war — the Tory equivalent of the Confederate forces firing on Fort Sumter on 12 April 1861.

One can understand why Robert Carr might have been bitter. This was where ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ came in. They were the signatories on the letter claiming responsibility for the attack on his house. Rawlinson’s bomb had been claimed by the ‘Wild Bunch.’ Albert Meltzer had also been asked why people would use those names when carrying out ‘outrages.’ ‘What names should they use – their own?’ he replied.

Stuart was cleared in 1972 of being part of the Angry Brigade

Before Carr’s house was bombed, only the police and a few news editors had heard of the Angry Brigade. But the name had been used a month earlier in a note to the underground newspaper International Times (IT) claiming responsibility for a machine-gun attack on the Spanish Embassy on the night of 4 December. The machine-gun used, a Beretta M1938-42, was later shown to have been the same one used in the First of May Group attack on the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square three years earlier. Overnight, the ‘Angry Brigade’ had become headline news — and every pundit had his own explanation as to its origin.

How the name ‘The Angry Brigade’ came about, will probably never be known with certainty. It doesn’t really matter. Fiction writers and academics have tried to slot in the Angry Brigade with the student movement or middle-class dropout hippies. One writer wrote a fantasy novel called The Angry Brigade, which he claimed was written from taped interviews with them, which he later destroyed. He, too, portrayed the Angry Brigade as student dropouts – caricatures of the caricatures. On top of this, they were all on drugs.

The names ‘Angry Brigade,’ like ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,’ and the ‘Wild Bunch’ were intended to be light-heartedly ironic. They could equally have used ‘William Brown and the Outlaws.’ The names were chosen, presumably, in an attempt to avoid the quasi-military or political pretentiousness of those used by other action-oriented groups of the times. And although I was never present when any of the communiqués were written, I always imagined the surreal telegraphese of the language of the communiqués to have been inspired by the Jack the Ripper ‘Dear Boss’ letters, and written in surroundings similar to that depicted in Ilya Repin’s famous painting of the Zaporozhie Cossacks Writing a Mocking Letter to the Turkish Sultan.

The Carr bombing brought massive pressure to bear on Scotland Yard from the Cabinet Office. The investigation, led by Detective Chief Superintendent Roy Habershon under his regional senior officer, Commander Dace, was given top priority. With this new authority, Habershon immediately recruited a team of around 30 officers from the Flying Squad and the Special Branch, a group which soon became known as the ‘Bomb Squad.’


 

Stuart Christie’s mugshots in General Franco’s Fascist Spain

BACKGROUND: Stuart Christie was accused of being part of the Angry Brigade but, in a 1972 trial, he was acquitted of related charges.

Before that, back in 1964, he had been arrested in Spain for possession of explosives, allegedly to assassinate Spain’s Fascist head of state General Franco. He faced a military trial and possible execution by garotte but was, instead, sentenced to twenty years in prison.

He was released after three years, according to the Spanish authorities, after a plea to them from his mother.

He has written about this time in his book Granny Made Me an Anarchist: General Franco, The Angry Brigade and Me. Back in 2010, investigative journalist Duncan Campbell and Republican novelist Ronan Bennett‘s screenplay based on the book was on ‘the Brit List’ – the prestigious annual list of “Best Unproduced Screenplays from the UK“.

There is currently a 72-minute documentary about The Angry Brigade on YouTube. I can’t guarantee the facts are true…

 

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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist’s Ex-Wife Pulls Gun From Vagina While Arguing About Aliens During Sex Act

The Sun newspaper’s headline yesterday

Sun newspaper’s headline yesterday

I try to be original in this blog and to tell short (or sometimes not-so-short) stories which have not appeared elsewhere. I was going to post a totally different blog today, but what was published yesterday was too good to miss today.

I went into London for most of the day.

When I arrived at the railway station in the morning, I was greeted by the front page of the Sun newspaper boasting the headline HELL FREEZES OVER.

This referred to Arctic temperatures in the small American town of Hell in Michigan and, according to National Public Radio in the US, this event had caused headline writers to rejoice worldwide.

Their Google News search of the phrase HELL FREEZES OVER early yesterday morning turned up 3,980 results in news outlets.

Yesterday’s Evening Standard report

Yesterday’s Evening Standard

Yesterday afternoon, I got a copy of the London Evening Standard, where another eye-catching headline proclaimed: POLICE DID ALTER CRIME FIGURES SAYS MET CHIEF.

This referred to fact that Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police force had admitted that their crime figures were faked and that he had misrepresented to a Parliamentary committee of MPs the findings of a report that he had “forgotten” he himself had written…

The policeman who revealed to MPs that the Met’s official figures had been understated by 25% on sexual offences and had been similarly faked on burglary and other crimes is – inevitably – currently facing a disciplinary hearing by the Metropolitan Police for misconduct.

When I got home late last night, though, I saw on the Smoking Gun website a story that will take some beating in the annals of eye-popping and deserves a mention.

It involves the ex-wife of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy, author of The Road and No Country for Old Men.

He has, in the past, been described as “publicity shy”.

He must be having a bad week.

Jennifer McCarthy in a police mugshot

Jennifer McCarthy in Santa Fe police mugshot

Last Saturday morning, his ex-wife Jennifer McCarthy was with her new 53-year-old boyfriend at her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They were having an argument about aliens from outer space. Like one does.

According to Jennifer, they started to yell at each other. As we all know, arguments about aliens from outer space can be passionate affairs.

The boyfriend told her not to touch him again… She touched him on his shoulder with her index finger “to aggravate him”.

According to the boyfriend, after they shouted at each other, she left the house. When she returned a little later, she went into her bedroom and emerged “wearing lingerie and a silver handgun in her vagina”. According to the police report, she then proceeded to “have inner course with the gun”. I am not sure if this is a mis-print or something people actually do when they have a silver gun wedged in their vagina.

At this point, someone said: “Who is crazy – you or me?” It is not clear – from the censored copy of the police report – which of the two said this and, frankly, it could have just as reasonably been said by either. At any rate, Jennifer became so annoyed that she stopped having “inner course” with the gun, pulled it out of her vagina and pointed it at the boyfriend’s head.

The police “statement of probable cause"

Deputy Zook’s “statement of probable cause”

According to his statement to the police, the boyfriend was then “in fear that Jennifer was going to pull the trigger so he grabbed the gun from her and put the gun in the toilet.”

Jennifer, not deterred by this, went into the bathroom to retrieve the gun, so obviously – as one would – the boyfriend took the gun out of the toilet and put it in the trash can outside.

When a policeman arrived – Deputy Chris Zook – he said he retrieved the handgun and “put it in a safe location”. Alas, Deputy Zook does not specify in his report exactly where he put it. One can only surmise.

Jennifer McCarthy was arrested by Deputy Zook on a  charge of “aggravated assault on a household member”.

What the exact legal definition of a “member” might be in a case like this, I can barely dare to imagine. And, given Deputy Zook’s suspect spelling of words, one can only be relieved that he did not mention Cormac McCarthy’s highly-acclaimed No Country for Old Men.

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Vaginal knitting and seven new morals which I learnt in the last seven days

The last seven days have been a week of oddity and surrealism…

Blackfriars station proudly proclaims its modernity

Blackfriars station proudly proclaims solar power, but is cold

LAST THURSDAY

I am at the new Blackfriars station, which spans the River Thames. It cost millions and took forever to build. There are solar panels built into the roof. A large ad proudly says: The biggest solar bridge in the world. Generating up to 50% of the station’s energy.

Yet, on the side of the platforms, the glass only reaches halfway up to the roof, allowing gales to blow in over the top from the Thames on both sides at head level. It will be Arctic in midwinter.

Moral: Even people who know what they are doing do not know what they are doing.

Freedom Pass - You can come but you can’t go

Freedom Pass – You can come but, for some, you cannot go

FRIDAY

I get around. The London transport area is divided into six zones. I know two people. Both are over 60 years old. One lives in Peckham, South East London. One lives in Elstree in the north west, which is in Zone 6, within the M25 orbital motorway which encircles London.

Because he is over 60+, the person in Peckham can get a Freedom Pass which allows him free travel within London. The 60+ person in Elstree cannot get a Freedom pass because he lives in Elstree, which is in London’s Zone 6 but is postally in Hertfordshire not a London borough. So the 60+ person in Peckham can visit the person in Elstree for free. The 60+ person in Elstree has to pay £8.90 to visit the person in Peckham. On the same trains.

Moral: Even well-meaning bureaucracy will bugger you. 

Greenwich Christmas tree netting 1

Human Christmas netting: first insert your human in the tube

SATURDAY

I am in Greenwich, in a rush to go somewhere. As I pass a collection of Christmas trees being sold on the pavement, I notice a group of people are putting one of their friends into a Christmas tree netting machine to take photographs. Very funny, I think. I take two photos quickly on my iPhone and hurry on.

Greenwich Christmas tree netting 2

Human Christmas netting: then push him in

I later think: Perhaps they actually did put him through and netted him up. I should have stayed to take the third picture.

Later still, I hear that his friends did indeed truss him up in a net and he was last seen hopping along the road.

Moral: Always hope for a climax, even if it is late coming.

SUNDAY

I am phoned by a market research company “on behalf of the Metropolitan Police” wanting to ask me questions related to “social research”. I ask: “Are you cold-calling me?” – “Yes,” the man replies.

Telephone Preference Service logo

TPS will protect you against SOME calls

I am registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) so that companies are not allowed to cold call me.

“What law allows you to cold call me?” I ask.

“We do not need to act under any law,” replies the man.

“So you are telling me you can act outside the law?”

“No”

“So you are telling me that any market research company can phone me up and ask me questions without me asking them to?”

“We are not doing market research; we are doing social research,” said the man.

Émile Durkheim, early social researcher

Émile Durkheim, early social researcher… Perhaps turning in his grave due to bullshit

I later find out from a Facebook Friend that social research companies “are actually required by law to only call randomly generated numbers, so that survey results cannot be skewed.” He had worked for a social research company and told me: “I don’t now how many times I had to explain that to someone as they swore down the phone at me about being on TPS (by company policy I wasn’t allowed to put the phone down unless they did first.) In the case of social research where it is important that no bias appear in the results, as said, it is the law that the numbers have to be randomly generated. Therefore TPS cannot apply, and these companies are exempt.”

It appears that the TPS covers sales and marketing calls but not calls carried out by market research companies who are doing social not market research. So a market research company doing marketing research cannot call you but a market research company doing social research can.

I had asked the man on the phone: ”So any social research company can phone me up and ask me questions which I have to answer?”

“It is voluntary,” he told me.

“So fuck off, then,” I told him and hung up. As I now understand it, I should not have hung up because, if I did not, he could not end the call and would have to still be holding on, however long it took.

Moral: The law is an ass out of which turds emerge.

StPancrasChristmasTree2013

A safe picture of St Pancras station in London

MONDAY

I am at St Pancras station and see that the police who occasionally meander around the station carrying sub-machine guns are now doing so in threes. This seems a bit excessive. They also walk close together, Surely this makes them an easier single target? I want to take a picture of the police officers, but decide it might be unwise.

About one minute after this, I go into the Gents toilet. A man dressed as a banana is telling a man at the hand drying machine that using the hand drier spreads germs into the air. I want to take a picture of the man wearing the banana suit in the Gents toilet, but decide it might be unwise.

Moral: Bananas always have comic potential, especially in toilets.

MargaretThatcherQueenSoho_flyer

Gay girl Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho

TUESDAY

I see Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho at Theatre 503 in Battersea. It is described as “a drag comedy Christmas musical extravaganza”. For me, as a heterosexual man, this does not bode well. But it is absolutely gobsmackingly good with jaw-dropping levels of production and direction. Amazing. You should see it. The script whizzes along. The production and direction are out of this world. Amazing for a Fringe show. Staggering.

Moral: The old and new meanings of the word Gay can sometimes coincide. 

Il Puma Londinese - whatever that means

Il Puma Londinese – whatever that means

YESTERDAY

Comedian Giacinto Palmieri persuades me to go see a show at an Italian-language fortnightly comedy club in London’s Soho called Il Puma Londinese Lab or, more fully, Laboratorio di Cabaret – Il Puma Londinese. I neither speak nor understand Italian. Giacinto tells me I should go because he knows I like new experiences. Within reason. Buggery and long mime shows are beyond my limitations.

I have directed Czech TV voice-overs in Prague and Danish/Norwegian/Swedish TV voice-overs in London. Usually, with European languages, the intonations are the same even if you don’t understand the words. In North Korea, they might as well be talking Martian and I suspect they often are. North Korean TV announcers have a breathless excitement because (I presume) they are overwhelmed by the honour of living in such historic times ruled by such godlike people. But back to Italian comedy.

Romina Puma warms up the audience last night

Romina Puma warms up her Soho audience last night

Il Puma Londinese was tremendously enjoyable. It was started and has been run for the last two years by the energetic Romina Puma (not to be confused with Canadian Puma Zuma who runs the Lost Cabaret comedy evenings). Romina Puma could enthuse the inhabitants of a mortuary into being a joyous comedy audience up for a night of fun (although I would advise her against this).

Who cares if it sounds racist or xenophobic or cliché – Italians always sound excitable and exciting when they speak because there are more syllables spoken per second than in average English delivery; and the up-and-down variation in tone tends to be greater. It is in the nature of the spoken language.

Il Puma Londinese ended in a sing-song

Il Puma Londinese ended in a very festive sing-song italiano

Last night, there were three English speaking acts sandwiched in the packed Italian bill at Il Puma Londinese. The equally packed audience included a group of Spaniards who enjoyed it as much as I did.

I even picked-up on a few Italian words which I could half-understand so that I half-knew what was being talked about. The words Nigelissima, Coke and vaginal knitting stood out.

I may have mis-heard that last phrase.

Although perhaps not.

The audience laughed a lot.

Moral: Italians and Italian comedy clubs are fun. But listen carefully.

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Is Rupert Murdoch really any dirtier than anyone else in the British media?

The whole News International scandal has spiralled into some ridiculously insane combination of conspiracy theory and witch hunt. It has become an excuse for drooling Ed Miliband – the man with the mesmerising mouth – to get more TV airtime and to leer at the camera in an increasingly unappealing way. I seem to remember it was the Labour not the current Conservative government sucking up to Rupert Murdoch’s empire 2005-2010

I have no love for the Metropolitan Police who have been deeply corrupt since way before the Richardson Gang were ever rumoured to have a Met Assistant Commissioner in their back pocket.

But, yesterday morning, I woke up to the sound of the Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson getting attacked by former London Mayor ‘Red Ken’ Livingston because it was reported in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times that he (Stephenson) had received five weeks of free hospitality (worth £12,000) from Champneys health spa while recovering from the removal of a pre-cancerous tumour in his leg at a time when the News of the World’s now-arrested former Deputy Editor Neil Wallis was doing PR both for the Met and Champneys.

In fact, the boss of Champneys was a personal friend of Stephenson. Why the hell would he check who handled PR for Champneys?

Perhaps the Met Commissioner should not go around accepting £12,000 gifts – even if ‘accepting gifts’ is a long-established tradition of Met officers – but the swirling implications were that it was all somehow part of the phone hacking scandal.

Then I switched on the TV to find John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee which is due to question former News of the World editor Rebekah née Wade now Brooks tomorrow. He was being asked if he was going to resign as chairman of the committee because flame-haired Rebekah was a Facebook Friend of his.

Hellfire! If Facebook Friends count for anything, I could never review a comedy gig and would get arrested as an accessory after the fact in many a dubious minor crime.

The fragrant Rebekah had already been arrested.

And then, yesterday afternoon, Sir Paul Stephenson resigned!

We are now at a point where the UK’s largest-selling newspaper has been closed; the UK’s most powerful newspaper executive has been arrested; the UK’s most important police officer has resigned; and there is a smell of Witch Hunt in the air.

It feels like Westminster politicians – recently exposed by the press in the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal – are gleefully taking their revenge while Open Season lasts. And the media are playing dog-bites-dog in the Rupert Murdoch morality stakes.

But, as someone tweeted, in the recent Twitter flurry of Shakespearean Murdoch quotes – Let he who is without PIN hack the first phone…

What and where is the line you don’t cross in journalism and PR?

The News of the World clearly crossed it.

Erasing the voicemail messages of missing (later known to be murdered) 13 year-old Milly Dowler, collecting the telephone numbers of dead British soldiers’ families, 7/7 terrorist bombing victims and so on… perhaps, in the US, even trying to get the personal phone numbers of 9/11 victims. That is not acceptable.

But presumably most people would accept phone hacking, secretly recording and secretly filming is entirely acceptable to expose some people’s criminal acts: murderers, paedophiles and fraudsters, for example.

When it comes to celebrities, it is only slightly more iffy; but most people probably reckon invasion of privacy comes with being a celeb… and they enjoy reading the resultant titillation.

So where exactly does the line lie?

It is like PR in showbusiness and the media.

Where is the line?

In the early 1970s, there was a sex-for-airplay scandal revealed by the News of the World. Janie Jones was supplying prostitutes to BBC Radio 1 DJs on behalf of record labels wanting their artists’ records to be played on air.

On BBC TV’s Top of the Pops (which had varied producers over the years) it was often assumed ‘perks’ were required if you wanted your rising but not yet mega-famous group to appear on the make-or-break chart show.

Where is the line? A gift of a bottle of booze? Supplying cocaine (or ‘flowers’, as I think many record companies called it on their lists of expenses)? Prostitutes? Blackmail?

When BBC TV, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 or Sky buy a major blockbuster movie, the distributors tend to tell them they can only have it if they also buy a bundle of less-good movies as part of the deal. That feels like good marketing by the distributors, rather than blackmail or corruption.

It is equally common for agents, managers and PR people to tell TV producers that, if they want an ‘A’ list star on their show, then they will also have to have a lesser, up-and-coming ‘D’ list starlet on the show. I think most people would accept that as a strong negotiating stance.

There is the case of a famous, high-rating TV chat show where the producer asked a PR person for major star A as a guest on the show. It would have been a coup for the show. The PR said, “Well, if you want A on the show, it would be nice if you could also put X on the show.”

X was a struggling starlet.

The chat show producer said No – because she wasn’t really right for the show and it would, in a way, have lowered the show’s perceived standard in guests.

It was then implied conversationally that “we wouldn’t want the photographs to be made public, would we?”

Every week, that particular PR person turned up at recordings of the show with different lovely girls on his arm – sometimes three girls – a blonde, a brunette and a redhead. The TV producer was a bit of a philanderer; it was for him to choose whether he wanted the blonde, the brunette or the redhead. Or two of them. Or all three. After the show, they would all go back to a London flat where there were mirrors on the walls.

Yes, indeedy…

You and I can see as clear as crystal that there were cameras behind the mirrors. The producer was obviously more of a philanderer than a great thinker.

He thought the mirrors were just sexy.

It was reminiscent of British film star Diana Dors, who used to hold orgies at her house. On  one occasion the great British comedian Bob Monkhouse ended up in bed with some girl or other and heard a rustling behind a mirror. He discovered it was Diana Dors and her chums looking on: something they liked to do.

As did the PR in this case.

Whatever the reason, X the struggling starlet did appear on the high-rating TV chat show.

Had the PR person crossed the line? Or was it just strong negotiating?

If she scratches your back, you may have to scratch mine.

It is not a lone case.

There are even rumours of a British PR person who has photos on the walls of his private office of famous people caught in flagrante.

It shows he is powerful.

The rumours run that he also has naked photos of an ex-member of the Royal Family.

True? Or just a strong negotiating position?

Where is the line?

Is Rupert Murdoch really any dirtier than anyone else in the British media?

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Why is taxpayers’ money being spent helping policemen become comics?

(This blog was also published in The Huffington Post)

We are in an economic recession. Even without that, life is tough enough for the aspiring stand-up comedian without policemen trying to muscle their way into the act.

Yesterday, the Metropolitan Police’s Assistant Commissioner John Yates and former Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman were questioned by the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee about the fact they had claimed there was nothing to investigate when News International papers were accused of phone hacking.

In 2009, John Yates carried out an ‘investigation’ into a previous 2006 phone hacking investigation. His ‘in-depth’ investigation lasted a whole eight hours (presumably including a lunch break) after which he decided there was nothing to investigate.

He had not bothered to examine several bin bags of incriminating paperwork seized from the home of private detective Glenn Mulcaire nor read the 11,000 pages of evidence held inside Scotland Yard which included the fact that both future Prime Minister Gordon Brown and future Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne had been hacked.

His defence yesterday for what, on the face of it, was a breathtaking lack of investigation was that he could not investigate the allegations against News International properly because News International would not co-operate with him.

This is a bit like saying that the police could not investigate the Yorkshire Ripper killings because the Yorkshire Ripper would not send them information incriminating himself. If I ever commit a major bank robbery, I would want John Yates to be the investigating officer.

John Yates is Scotland Yard’s new head of counter-terrorism and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson says that Yates “currently undertakes one of the most difficult jobs in UK policing and is doing an outstanding job leading our fight against terrorism.”

I don’t know if I am alone in finding that this – far from reassuring me – makes me feel even more uneasy and unsafe. Presumably he would have difficulty investigating a planned terrorist attack if al-Qaida did not co-operate with his investigations.

We value tradition in Britain. The Metropolitan Police appear to be continuing a long tradition of being staffed by would-be dodgy double-glazing salesmen. Though I have to be careful because I would not want to be sued for defamation by dodgy double-glazing salesmen who might object to being compared to the Met.

Andy Hayman – whom Commons committee member Lorraine Fullbrook called “a dodgy geezer” – was in charge of the original phone hacking enquiry at the Met.

While ‘investigating’ the accusations against News International papers of phone hacking, Hayman (who had wanted to be a journalist when he was younger) had dinners with News International executives (one wonders if he would have dinners with bank robbers while investigating alleged bank robberies) and, on retiring from the Met after reported ‘controversy about his expenses’, he was given work by News International – writing for The Times.

An article in today’s Independent describes the Hogarthian scene in the House of Commons’ committee room yesterday:

When Ms Fullbrook asked him (Andy Hayman) whether he’d ever taken money from a paper in return for information, he threw his arms into the air, as in a Feydeau farce: “I can’t believe you asked that!” And: “I can’t let you get away with that! Taking money?” He was gasping; speechless; eyes bulging. Julian Huppert had observed mildly: “Other policemen have.” Hayman cried something about his integrity and seemed on the point of scrabbling at his chest. The whole room was laughing – at, not with; scornful, down-the-rabbit-hole laughter at a figure who not long ago was defending 90 days of detention without charge. He was, in Keith Vaz’s words: “More Clouseau than Columbo.”

Last week, the London Evening Standard claimed that “Assistant Commissioners Andy Hayman and John Yates were both scared the News of the World would expose them for allegedly cheating on their wives if they asked difficult questions of the Sunday tabloid.”

Previously, Labour MP Tom Watson had used parliamentary privilege to say: “John Yates’s review of the (private detective Glenn) Mulcaire evidence was not an oversight. Like Andy Hayman, he chose not to act, he misled parliament.”

In a blog back in February, I mentioned that Margaret Thatcher’s solicitor – a partner in a major law firm – once told me he would never put a Metropolitan Police officer in the witness stand without corroborating evidence because you could never be certain a Met officer was telling the truth.

Likewise, the owner of a prominent detective agency who employs ex-SAS troopers etc, told me he never employs ex-policemen because you can never trust them.

I am not particularly outraged that the News of the World was hacking into people’s phones – they allegedly bugged both John Yates and Andy Hayman’s phones while the dynamic duo were allegedly investigating the News of the World for phone hacking – I am not even surprised that a policeman was flogging the Royal Family’s personal phone and contact details if he was paid enough – but I am outraged that the taxpayer appears to be footing the bill for policeman apparently attempting to build their performance skills for a future career in stand-up comedy should this ‘police job thing’ not work out.

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News of the World. Forget the hacks. It’s The Bill you always have to pay.

I have worked as a researcher and sub-editor for BBC TV News (via their old Ceefax teletext service) and, briefly, in the newsrooms at Anglia TV, Granada TV and ITN. I have known a lot of journalists. But even I was shocked by the News of the World and other tabloids’ amorality.

I don’t mean the telephone hacking scandal which has now seen Rupert Murdoch close down Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper.

I mean the cheap Killer Bitch movie and Katie Price’s ex-husband Alex Reid being caught on camera with his trousers down.

Police corruption comes later in this blog.

In what must have been a moment of madness I financed Killer Bitch without reading the script (look, it was cheap) and I was away at the Edinburgh Fringe for weeks when shooting started.

While I was away, a sex scene was shot between Alex Reid and the lead actress, the director’s girlfriend/partner.

Alex Reid’s chum/manager asked the director if it was OK to have a photographer on set that day – not to take photos of the sex scene itself but just of Alex arriving, being on-set, being glamorous. The director said Yes.

And, of course, when the sex scene happened, click-click-click and off in a corner Alex’s photographer goes to e-mail out his photos.

What the director didn’t know was that the manager guy had, all week, been playing-off the News of the World against The People to get a higher price for the sex scene pictures. The People ran their photos on the cover and in an “exclusive” double-page spread that Sunday.

But the News of the World, unknown to anyone else, had secretly set up a hidden camera in the grotto where filming took place. They took their own photos and ran a single-page ’spoiler’ about “sickening footage” in the “vile and degrading hardcore porn film” in which Alex had been involved in a “disgusting rape”.

In fact, it wasn’t a rape scene at all. Never was. Never scripted as rape (I read that bit later); wasn’t shot as rape; wasn’t edited as rape. I saw the uncut footage when I came back from Edinburgh and it simply wasn’t rape.

But, bizarrely, journalists often believe what they read in tabloid newspapers, so this story about the vile rape scene in a hardcore porn movie (which is wasn’t) quickly spread across the world, sometimes using the same words the original News of the World had used.

The movie, which had only just started shooting and which was months away from being edited, was reviled as “violent porn” by The Times of India, a “vile and degrading movie” on Australia’s Perth Now website and “violent, aggressive… icky stuff” by TheHollyoodGossip.com. Back home, totally unseen, the Daily Mirror slammed it as “a sick movie” with “vile scenes…stomach churning”

Fair enough. Good publicity for a small film, though sadly much too early to profit from.

Two weeks later, The People ran a new cover story and two-page spread about how Alex Reid had “returned” to the Killer Bitch set “to shoot more torrid outdoor sex shots”. This had never happened. It was a complete fiction. But The People had detailed descriptions, actual photos from this supposed second sex scene (they were re-cycled from the original scene) and they even had a direct quote from the director saying, “I can confirm that Alex filmed these scenes within the last seven days”.

The director told me not only that The People had never talked to him about this alleged re-shoot but, at that point in time, he had never actually talked to anyone at the newspaper about the film ever.

Obviously, you expect to be mis-quoted and have your words twisted by newspapers. Now, it seems, it’s common to simply make up entirely fictional stories.

The New York Daily News correctly reported that “the film’s producers don’t seem bothered by the publicity.”

Fair enough. Publicity is publicity.

But just as the Stephen Lawrence affair, to my mind, was not about racism but about police corruption – an investigating policeman was paid-off by the father of one of the accused – the current News of the World scandal is not about phone hacking but about endemic police corruption.

Two days ago, I saw a Sky News double interview with, on the one hand, Brian Paddick, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and on the other ex News of the World journalist Paul McMullan.

McMullan could be seen almost literally biting his tongue off after he said that, if you were investigating police corruption, the only way to find out the facts was to talk to other policemen. As they might lose their jobs by dishing the dirt on fellow officers, they could not be expected to do this for free or for a few pounds and it was not unreasonable to pay them £20,000 or £30,000.

This figure was picked up by the interviewer.

Brian Paddick, who was basically defending the Met, said this was terrible but “clearly everyone has their price”.

This is an interesting thing to say because it is an acceptance by a former senior Met officer that, if the price is high enough, any Metropolitan policeman can be bought.

Yesterday’s London Evening Standard led on a story that “Corrupt Met police received more than £100,000 in unlawful payments from senior journalists and executives at the News of the World.

It also claimed that two senior Scotland Yard detectives investigating the phone hacking scandal held back: “Assistant Commissioners Andy Hayman and John Yates were both scared the News of the World would expose them for allegedly cheating on their wives if they asked difficult questions of the Sunday tabloid.”

Today’s Guardian says: “Some police sources suggested there was no evidence yet that officers had actually received the payments and what would also be investigated was whether the journalists involved had kept the money themselves.”

Obviously some Met officer here, limbering up for a career as a stand-up comic.

Police in the UK taking bribes? Shock! horror! – And the Pope is a Catholic?

The system-wide corruption within the Metropolitan Police in the 1960s was supposedly partially cleaned-up.

Bollocks.

On 4th December 1997, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon gave evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee and said there were around 100-250 corrupt officers in the Met. By “corrupt” he meant seriously corrupt – they dealt drugs, helped arrange armed robberies etc.

Condon is also the man who coined the phrase “noble cause corruption” – the idea that some police justifiably ‘bend the rules’ to get a conviction when officers ‘know’ the accused is guilty but do not have enough proof to convict. So it could be seen by some as “noble” to plant evidence, lie under oath and generally ‘fit up’ any ‘known villains’ when there is no actual evidence which would prove their guilt.

In Stoke Newington the police did, indeed, ‘fit up’ guilty drug dealers who would not otherwise have been imprisoned. But their motive was not to ‘clean up’ the area but to clear away the opposition as police officers were themselves dealing hard drugs. Whether this comes within Sir Paul Condon’s definition of “noble cause corruption” I am not sure.

In 1998, the Telegraph got hold of (and one wonders how) a confidential document containing the minutes of a meeting organised by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS). It quoted this police document as saying: “corrupt officers exist throughout the UK police service… Corruption may have reached ‘Level 2’, the situation which occurs in some third world countries.”

I once asked someone who had managed a ‘massage parlour’ – in other words, a brothel – how he had avoided getting raided by the police. He looked at me as if I was mad:

“Cos we fucking paid the Old Bill and gave them free services,” he said.

In Britain today, it remains a fact of life – as it always has been throughout my life – that you always have to pay The Bill.

Last night’s TV news shows reported that today the police would arrest former News of the World editor Andy Coulson. Now where would they have got that story from? Only the police would know. And today he was arrested.

Was the tip-off paid-for or was it just a nudge-nudge case of You do me a favour; I’ll do you a favour?

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The English court system? Don’t make me laugh. Tell the very dead Stefan Kiszko it works…

Today I was supposed to be starting jury service in St Albans but, a week or so ago, they told me I had been cancelled because they had “too many people”.

The same thing happened last year. I was cancelled due to too many people.

So, this time because, as they said, they’d “messed me around”, rather than automatically re-schedule me, they gave me the choice of either being rescheduled again or being excused jury service completely this time round.

I chose to be excused.

I was in two minds about the whole thing anyway.

On the one hand, it would have been interesting to see the jury system (not) work first hand. One person I know who served on a jury in South London told me it was virtual anarchy with jury members not understanding or not being interested in large swathes of evidence and one jury member repeatedly turning up late for the deliberations on innocence or guilt because she “didn’t think it was important”.

On the other hand, I would have been very loathe myself to find any accused person guilty because there is no telling what is being hidden, lied about and distorted in the presentation to the jury. The object of the English court system is not to find out who committed the crime but to decide which of two highly-paid advocates – Defence or Prosecution lawyer – presents their evidence better and hides evidence better. It is like judging an ice-skating competition with imprisonment as the top prize.

Plus, I would not want to convict on uncorroborated police evidence.

Margaret Thatcher’s solicitor – a partner in a major law firm – told me he would never put a Metropolitan Police officer in the witness stand without corroborating evidence because you could never be certain a Met officer was telling the truth.

Likewise, the owner of a prominent detective agency who employs ex-SAS troopers etc, told me he never employs ex-policemen because you can never trust them.

The story of the framing by West Yorkshire Police of Stefan Kiszko, his disgraceful trial and his wrongful imprisonment for 16 years should be taught to every schoolkid in the UK.

It is an illustration of the English court system, not an exception.

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