The Scots Law Student

The SLS : Life and trials of learning law in Scotland

Month: July, 2010

“We don’t have to have a law”

No photos - Jules Mattsson C 2010

The police have once again displayed their enviable ability to be very quotable while saying Bond villain ominous things. The current one is a 16 year freelance photojournalist who was photographing a major parade that was walking down a high street. It’s a situation that is so public, so common and so clearly photograph-able that stopping someone doing it is a bit ridiculous.

The worst thing I took from that was when the photographer was almost arrested for swearing (at 5:55 in the video). Because the police officer had pushed him down some stairs. That’s a modern version of the classic “breaking a policeman’s foot with your face”.

He did really pretty well there. It’s hard to keep as calm as that in these situations, especially if you’re getting poked, grabbed, shoved and implicitly accused of crimes ranging from spying (taking photos of the military) to child abuse (taking photos of children) to terrorism (annoying the police) by a large group of people with weapons, a reputation of this sort of thing and state backing. This wouldn’t even be an story if he hadn’t managed to record it.

You don’t really want to talk to the police, because it doesn’t benefit you to do so. The very best that will happen to you after talking to the police is that you’ll continue to do what you were already doing and not be arrested, but if the police are restricting your rights like this you’re really faced with no option but to question what they’re doing. The police need authority to do anything, that’s how civil liberties work – if something’s not a crime it’s not a crime to do it. There’s an element of creating a paper trial in these situations – you want some extra proof of what happened because you don’t want to end up with your word against a police officer. Ask them if you’re detained, what law they’re enforcing and if you’re free to go. Definitely try to get their names, numbers etc so that you can identify them later. I do wonder what would happen if you said you want to take a photo of the officer because it will let you identify the officer when you complain but that is why you want a photo of the officer if possible. It’s not illegal to photograph/film police officers and the IPCC has refused to investigate complaints, even quite serious ones, where the officer can’t be identified by the person making the complaint.

The officer in this story changed his story constantly and, although it is possible the 16 year old Jules was a spy or a child abuser or a terrorist or behaving antisocially or blocking traffic, the odds of him being all five at the same time are seriously pretty unlikely. If you’re doing something wrong the police can arrest you for that, they don’t five different things. The police should have identified what he was doing wrong at least before they pushed him down the stairs if not before they spoke to him to begin with.

Luckily there’s an audio recording, there’s photos of the officers, there’s a whole lot of press coverage (Independent). There were four figure settlements paid to photographers for similar police misconduct the day before. It should be reasonably easy for him to get this sorted out. I do wish him luck.

The sad thing to remember is that the substantial settlement he is almost certain to get from the police for this incident comes straight out of tax payer funds. This is wrong. Make the officer pay it – it’s their fault after all. The police officers who are doing their jobs correctly and are protecting the public can spend the money they aren’t paying out when they mess up from their budgets on new ways to protect tax payers (and students).



Ian Tomlinson investigation whitewash

What already was one of the most ridiculously obvious cases of systemic governmental wagon circling we’ve seen in recent years got even more ridiculous this week.

The police officer who shoved Ian Tomlinson to the ground minutes before his death has escaped any responsibility for his actions. This is despite widespread public outrage, a video of the event, three post-mortems and a 15 month long investigation by the CPS. It’s nice that the government are spending so much taxpayer money on this but they really shouldn’t have bothered – we’ve not seen any return on it. The Guardian has uncovered more evidence than they have.

The decision by the CPS not to do anything about the attack is pretty rotten, to say the least, because they say that they have investigated the evidence and there is no hope of proving the manslaughter case beyond reasonable doubt. Fair enough, some people say, but we’ve got a video of him being shoved to the ground – what about trying him for assault? No, say the CPS, because the 6 month time bar for that charge has passed. Lots of people say, why didn’t the CPS bring the assault charge within the 6 month limit then? Because, say the CPS, they couldn’t because of an ongoing investigation into the incident… by the CPS.

If the CPS are mentioned a lot in that paragraph it’s because they’ve been instrumental in making this tragedy into the farce it now is.

The family of Ian Tomlinson are now collecting money to do it themselves. In the monumentally unlikely event that they are allowed to have a private (not public) prosecution (it would very possibly be the only one we will see in our lifetimes – there have only ever been two in Scotland and they’re not much more common down south) they would present their evidence to a jury instead. It will be horrendously expensive for them, it’s possibly the most expensive court action there is, and it seems to be the only way it will ever get to a trial.

The authorities have done a poor job with this case and if they really have to mess it up the very least they should expect is to have to resign when they get called on how badly their mess stinks.


German police officer allowe d to get dressed on work time.

In a rather ballsy employment action a German police officer has successfully won the right to get paid for dressing himself before work.

The idea is that police officers are required to wear a uniform to do their duties and that putting on that uniform takes time. It is estimated that it takes an officer about 15 minutes to suit up for work, that adds up to months along the lifetime of an officer. It’s about a week (45-50 hours) a year that he should either get as annual leave or paid worktime says an administrative court in Münster.

I’m against the idea of unpaid overtime myself too but this seems quite remarkable as a concept. It seems wrong to only cover people who have to put on a uniform in the morning before going to work and not people who just have to wear clothes when working. The quantum also seems to work on the basis of how long it takes you to get ready so, for example, an employee who wears a three piece suit would spend slightly longer than someone who wears a two piece suit and thereby is due slightly more money from their employer. I think as a precedent there’s really quite a lot you could do with this one.

This action is actually extremely serious – there’s a union behind this one and they’re using this as a test case with thousands of related actions to follow should the police waive their appeal or lose again. It would cost the German state a fortune if this goes through.

In summary to all my German readers – there is suddenly an economic case for wearing a scarf to work every day and you should immediately stop wearing slip on shoes.