Tag Archives: police corruption

Copstick in Kenya: “They have huge sticks. They have huge guns. AK-47s.”

A couple of days ago, I posted diary extracts from Kate Copstick in Kenya, where her Mama Biashara charity gives seed money to impoverished people wanting to start self-sustaining businesses. It also gives medical aid and advice to those people whom other charities overlook.

These are edited extracts. Fuller versions are posted on Copstick’s Facebook page.


SUNDAY

Kate Copstick working for Mama Biashara charity  in Kenya

I risk electrocution and plug my phone in to charge, close to where the torrential rain is coming through the roof. On the TV is a loud, happy-clappy, interminable church service and from outside comes the more restrained call from many mosques around the city. Around all the Goddy places the terrible, terrible shit goes on.

Doris is in agony with all her bites. I promise we will get bicarbonate of soda and make her less itchy. To be fair, I am horrified to note, I am catching up fast on the unsightly bump front. My back looks like a couple of pounds of mince and my left side feels like the bottom of a football boot. I check the symptoms of Dengue Fever again. The buggering things are like Ninjas here. I have neither seen nor heard one. In Nairobi you at least hear the little bastards. Here – nothing until the lumps and bumps catch fire.

We get a tuk tuk to the ferry and join the sea of people (no pun intended) waiting for the crossing. It is free and fast and unsettlingly efficient for Kenya. We get a matatu and reach Chungwe, our medical location.

The villagers are suspicious at first. None of the people Doris had spoken to have turned up but we soon have a massive crowd. All the de-wormers go, we hand out kids’ cod liver oil and there are loads of coughs and colds, a man with possible malaria, some UTIs, a man who had had bloody poo and was turned away from the hospital because he had no money, a load of rashes and a worrying little girl of two with itching and pain ‘down there’ and diarrhoea.

We are out in the open and there is nowhere private to go. I ask the mother if ‘someone’ might have done ‘something bad’. She looks blank. But she has a husband. And a brother. We are coming back on Tuesday. So I give her stuff for the itching and a mild kaolin mix for the trots and we will see her then, somewhere private.

There is a LOT of malnutrition here. Kids who look like babies turn out to be three years old. So Tuesday will also be about nutrition

MONDAY

Doris, one of Mama Biashara’s key helpers

More torrential rain and a sad sight as I get out of bed to find two humongous cockroaches, apparently dead, lying on their backs on the beautifully clean floor of my room. I hope it is not an omen, as I scratch my ever-increasing number of lumps and bumps. We are meeting Vicky for an update on All Things Coastal.

I need to get some dosh out and finish my research on the law regarding the behaviour of the police in ‘Ho Central’. We are heading back there and I want to have a leaflet for the girls, explaining their rights. Not that the police respect their rights, but it will be a help.

The flooding is quite bad, with the extra frisson that, if the lake on the road has a pothole in it, the water suddenly doubles or triples in depth and you are, well, almost literally up shit creek without a paddle.

We are dropped at the City Mall where we are joined by Vicky. Her update is a delight. The fumigators from last time are ‘fumigating everything’. And now have three groups. Life on Lamu in the poor areas has been ‘transformed’.

People have electricity, they have food and the men are no longer idle. Everyone is doing business. Unfortunately, the men are less keen on sharing the money they have with their wives. So another 60 of the older ladies have asked for funding. Vicky reckons that 20 is the ideal number for a group and so one group wants to sell eggs (hard boiled with kachumbari: they are a phenomenally popular snack), another to make samosas and the third to sell Smokies – a popular sausage sold by the roadside as a snack. The 60 ladies are kicked-off in business for about £350. Hoorah!

The flooding is still crippling transport to and from the island. People drown with monotonous regularity. On the boat Vicky came on, one woman was swept overboard and the fisherman had to save her by casting their fishing net overboard and landing her like a big fish.

We get a tuk tuk out to Mtwapa. It is raining again. We set up and talk to the ladies in ‘our’ bar. They are impressed by the leaflets and by what we are telling them. We go walkabout. The next big group of girls work out of a sort of lodging house. Well, brothel. The girls rent a room and then they are freelance agents. They do not believe what we are telling them. The rain gets heavy. So we go inside the house.

We soon have a big group. And they are excited. We explain about being ready to film whenever the police swoop. Film them in their criminal activities. The women understand about the loitering aspect. But, they tell us, if there is no-one outside, the police just come into their rooms, and demand 3,000 to leave, and this is not even when the girls have a client. We get through to them though. And we are in the middle of arranging a big meeting when there are shrieks from outside.

We rush out. A big jeep has parked there. About ten huge men in army combat gear are dragging girls into it. They have huge sticks the thickness of baseball bats but maybe four feet long. They also have huge guns. AK-47s. It is like a vicious, violent, heavily-armed version of the Childcatcher. It is horrifying to watch and they do it without compunction.

In two months, five sex workers have been murdered. Some of the placards read: SEX WORKERS – DON’T KILL THEM

In the back of the jeep, two of them are laughing. The women are manhandled with appalling ferocity. It is stunningly shocking. I am maybe twenty feet from the jeep, staring open mouthed in horror.

The big guy at the back with the AK-47 just grins at me as they drive off. Doris is devastated.

She is having immediate flashbacks to her own days on the streets. She is genuinely traumatised.

We hand out as many leaflets as we can and talk with one of the girls who escaped the men. Doris and I go back to base and do some handing out of douches and diclofenac gel and Flagyl and advice. We more or less have the matatu back to town to ourselves. And it is so relaxing. Half eleven and all is completely safe.

We get a tuk tuk from town and do not even have to bargain. At midnight in Nairobi any taxi driver would be demanding 2,000 for our trip across the bridge and into the never-ending jam. Our lovely tuk tuk man asked for 350.

I take my ever-increasing collection of pink lumpy bumpy bits to bed and scratch myself to sleep.


… CONTINUED HERE

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Hell created by half of a comedy duo, a rollerskating pop star & 108 Jaffa Cakes

Rich rose - the man who put the lit into clitoris

Rich Rose. The Man who put the lit into clitoris

So I got an email from Rich Rose of comedy duo Ellis & Rose.

“A friend of mine and I,” it said, “have written the pilot for a sitcom. It’s called Hell and is set in a grubby Soho sex shop. It’s being filmed from 5th-9th January at 3 Mills Studios and we were wondering if you would like to pay a visit to the set.”

So that was why, yesterday afternoon, I was in East London surrounded by dildos and accidentally walked through a vagina.

“It’s a full-length 25 minute sitcom pilot,” Rich told me yesterday, “divided down into five 5-minute webisodes which we are going to put online this summer.”

“So five climaxes,” I said.

Rich looked at me and said nothing.

“And potentially a series,” said Rich’s friend and co-writer David Ralf.

“Are you both appearing in Hitchcock-type cameos?” I asked.

“David’s cameo,” explained Rich, “is him standing in the shop scratching his nuts in a tracksuit.”

“So good clean stuff,” I said.

“In it’s current incarnation,” said David, “I’m not sure that any mainstream television studio would, eh…”

The crew look at a playback on the first day’s shooting

The crew look at a playback during the first day’s shooting

Ofcom would shit a brick,” said Rich.

“Are you going to have any nudity?” I asked hopefully.

“There’s a lot of doll nudity,” David told me. “I’m not sure how doll nudity goes over.”

“And you walked through the giant vulva,” Rich added.

“I did?” I asked, surprised.

“The curtains,” explained David.

“I feel soiled,” I said. “If you want vaginas, you want Martin Soan, supplier of large scale vaginas to stage and screen. Some of them sing.”

“Really?” asked Rich.

“Really,” I told him. “So what’s the plot of Hell?”

“A hopeless romantic,” explained David, “finds himself working in a Soho sex shop, a grubby little den which is subject to all the pressures and changes in the area. And he embarks upon a sexual odyssey.”

“Well,” said Rich, “he is forcefully coerced into a sexual odyssey by the assistant manager of Hell.”

“The message is very wholesome,” said David.

“No it isn’t,” said Rich.

“Yes it is,” said David.

11889691_10153688371917652_8095588971395795554_n“So what’s the message?” Rich asked.

“Well,” replied David, “what does the central character learn at the end?”

“Don’t slip on lube?” suggested Rich.

“I think,” said David, “we may have taken different things away from this whole writing process.”

“What do you think the message is?” I asked David.

“The central character learns about himself. He is a very repressed individual and his only outlet for intimacy is idealised rom-com romance and I think he learns about other ways to express himself.”

“Also,” added Rich, “there are loads of dildos. Try to emphasise that, John. Loads of dildos.

“Yes,” agreed David, “maybe go with that.”

“You crowdfunded it,” I said.

“We assumed we could make it for £8,000,” said Rich.

“Which we raised,” said David. “Then we went to Koto Films who raised more and now the budget is more than twice that, with Jack Plummer of Koto Films directing. We are doing it at a level that I think has surprised us. A higher quality level. A huge number of people have given a huge amount of time and energy.”

Producer Holly Harris with writer David Ralf

Producer Holly Harris with writer David Ralf

Producer Holly Harris of Koto Films told me: “A friend of a friend has lent us some fetish wear she collects. So many of our props are quite expensive and we just would not have been able to get such an amazing variety of different things on set if it wasn’t for her generosity.”

“How – indeed, why –  did you come up with the idea?” I asked Rich. “Just because sex always sells?”

“I thought of it,” he told me, “when I was leaving university in 2011. I was being driven home back to Purley and we passed a sex shop in quite a pleasant suburban area – not in Purley. My initial thought was How funny would it be to do a sitcom set in a sex shop in a leafy, cheery, suburban area? But that didn’t really work.”

“When we first worked on the script together,” explained David, “the shops we went to – for research purposes, of course – were all in Soho.”

“We had to visit many, many shops,” explained Rich. “We are professionals.”

Development - Hell went through many script changes

Development. Hell had many script changes

“And then,” said David, “we gave Koto Films what now turns out to have been a very, very early draft.”

“It’s been taken apart and put back together again,” said Rich.

“And Koto have made it look much better than we ever imagined it,” added David.

“And the crew?” I asked.

“It was amazing,” Holly Harris told me, “to see so many people come out of the woodwork who have some kind of relationship with the adult industry. Our art director’s mother is a sex therapist who spent 18 months in Spain running a strip club. Our construction managers are also drag queens.”

“And the central female character?” I asked.

“Is Crystal Hart, the manager of the shop,” David told me. “She is an ex-pornstar turned small-business woman.”

“Played by?” I asked.

Saffron Sprackling,” said David, “who fronted the 199os band Republica. She was and is an actress. She was in Starlight Express.

“So she can roller-skate,” I said.

“Yes,” said David. “This morning she was telling me about rollerskating around Soho in the old days.”

“In the streets of Soho?” I asked.

“Yes. She knew people who owned exactly the sort of shops we are portraying in the show and they used to have police among their clientele. But the police had to raid the shops every now and then, to keep up appearances. So they would ring ahead whenever they were going to raid the shop and Saffron would leave the theatre where she was performing Starlight Express, pick up a bag which she assumed was full of cash and held on to it until they gave the all clear and then she returned it to the shop. Hence the roller-skates.”

“So she roller-skated through the streets of Soho?” I asked.

“I believe so,” said David.

“Saffron has a very strong gay and lesbian following,” Holly told me.

one of the most important items in the production...

Dissected: One of the most important parts of the production

“I will have to get more Jaffa Cakes,” David mused as I left the studio.

“Because?” I asked.

“Because the crew have eaten 108 Jaffa Cakes in two days.”

This afternoon, Koto issued their first press release about the production, saying: Hell is a grubby story with a warm heart.

David Ralf is quoted as saying: “A sex shop is the last place most people want to admit to going to for research. But we found a world of independent Soho sex shops with dedicated and friendly staff, mind-bending products, and a rich and fascinating history in an area of London that’s changing fast.”

Rich Rose is quoted as saying: “So we kept some of that stuff and crammed the rest full of dirty jokes.”

I think that pretty much covers it.

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Police corruption according to a Grouchy Club comedy critic & a blogger

Kate Copstick and I expressed our views at The Grouchy Club

Kate Copstick and I expressed our views at The Grouchy Club

Yesterday’s blog was two brief extracts from the first Grouchy Club “mostly comedy” weekly podcast with Kate Copstick and me.

Before Copstick was an actress or TV personality or comedy critic or ran the Mama Biashara charity, she was a lawyer in Scotland – an Advocate. During the podcast, I asked her why she changed careers. Was it because she got fed up with trying to get guilty clients found innocent?


COPSTICK
Exactly the opposite. I stopped being a lawyer because I sat one too many times in a court where members of, for example, the Serious Crimes Squad lied in their teeth.

JOHN
This is in Glasgow?

COPSTICK
In Glasgow and Edinburgh. I realised that Law is just a big posh boys’ game where your accent will always matter and money will always matter and everything other than innocence or guilt will always matter and I was on a very fine knife-edge between thinking… well, I did… I thought: If they’re going to lie, then I’ll lie – and that is the slippery slope.

JOHN
Well, the only people who lie more than lawyers and solicitors and barristers are the p…

COPSTICK
The police, yes.

JOHN
… and, bizarrely, all the criminals I’ve met have actually been terribly honest.

COPSTICK
Well exactly. The most frightening people I met – ever – were members of the Serious Crimes Squad in the Glasgow police.

JOHN
Does the Serious Crime Squad still exist? – I think the London one was dismantled because it was so corrupt (in fact, it was the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad).

COPSTICK
I sincerely hope not. (It does.) There was a code – It’s ridiculous – It’s all that Oh no! We only slit the throats of the bad guys – But there always seemed to me to be a kind of a code of honour…

JOHN
Among thieves?

COPSTICK
Among thieves and murderers and armed robbers. I would have been a terrible… I’m a far too emotional and shouty and not-watching-my-mouth person to be a decent lawyer.

JOHN
I’ve always found criminals are very upset by injustice, which is bizarre.

COPSTICK
Yes. Absolutely.

JOHN
They commit crimes and, if they get caught, fair enough: that’s part of the game.

COPSTICK
Yes.

JOHN
But if a genuine injustice is done, they get terribly uppity about it…

COPSTICK
Absolutely.

JOHN
… whereas a policeman just thinks that is part of the game.

COPSTICK
Those in charge of the system are the ones in whose interest it is to keep the system corrupt.

JOHN
If proof were needed, this is an example of how this podcast might not always be comedy.

COPSTICK
Well, indeed.


The Grouchy Club’s first 43-minute weekly audio podcast is available to hear HEREwith a 10-minute video extract on YouTube. The Grouchy Club will be live at London’s Jewish Comedy Day this coming Sunday.

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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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