back to article Police slam internet justice - then use it themselves

Police and the courts are losing their patience with overenthusiastic net citizens, whose "helpful" sleuthing has caused trials to be abandoned and wasted tens of thousands from the public purse. The police, however, seem a little less fastidious about protecting due process where they feel a little local publicity will do them …

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Hmm

Do as we say, not as we do.

Erg. Where have I heard that before?

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old habits, new media

This is hardly new on the part of the police - for years they've been using the media to prop up accusations or denigrate suspects, for example when they fall back on the 'child pr0n on the computer' charge when everything else has failed. It's funny how in cases like the Forest Gate shooting of a 'terrorist' suspect, later downgraded to 'child pr0n suspect', later downgraded to 'uh, we got nothing guv', the police are quick to accuse in all sorts of media outlets, but then rather more reticent about coming forwards and saying they got it wrong.

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You've got to remember

The attitude of the police to the public is a case of 'do as you're fucking well told!'

The attitude of the police themselves is 'we'll do as we fucking well like!'

This not a case of one law for us, one for them. It's more like, all of the laws for us, none for them.

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Stop

Computer says Go To Jail

Just wait 'til the judicial system is run by bots, a bit like car insurance and loan applications, you may never see a judge or a jury, the system just has to crawl over the internet and make a "judgment" before an email is sent to the police to come and take you to prison.

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Megaphone

Title!

Might actually end up being more of a Criminal Justice System than the Criminal Legal System we have in place now.

I would rather have my case heard by a dispassionate, unemotional, uninvolved, unbiased machine that looks at facts rather than a Human, biased, emotional Judge who has had a bad day or didn't get any the night before.

I know of several cases where the defendants were found guilty due to emotional bias on the part of the jurors and judge, and a prosecutor with his own agenda, only to be cleared years later (one case 20 years later) when someone actually looked at the hard evidence in the case and saw there was no way the defendants could be guilty of what they had been charged with.

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Just look...

... at the Birmingham Six - a truly awful story of incompetence and bias in the whole legal system.

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Birmingham Six

Was it?

Bombs had exploded, people were injured and dead. The IRA were blamed (although I couldn't be arsed looking up to see if they admitted it or not) and the Authorities needed people to blame. So they picked up 6 Irish lads, prosecuted them on the flimsiest of evidence and Justice Was Done.

It seems to me that the police and the legal system were very competent. Just not very fair. But that's OK because They started it. Bad sportsmanship. A ruthless minority of people seem to have forgotten good old-fashioned virtues. They just can't stand seeing the other fellow win. If these people would just play the game.

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Anonymous Coward

There are two sides to every story

Is this a problem of people wanting to know too much or of old laws incapable of addressing the modern world?

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Happy

@Mark_T

If you by "old laws incapable of addressing the modern world" mean that the juror's/victim's/witness' Googling/Facebooking is just a thing of the modern world that the judicial system should accept, you are IMHO very wrong.

They must never be allowed to investigate by themselves, Internet-based or otherwise. When a victim or witness has to ID a suspected perpetrator among many potential in a line-up, all these potential suspects are presented in as much a neutral and equal way as at all possible. If the victim starts investigating himself then he already has an idea from which his investigation starts, and he is thus prejudiced against the subject of this investigation.

And a juror's job is to consider the guilt or innocence based only on what the court presents. There's a reason certain things are inadmissible in court, things that are not presented to the jury at all. The same goes with things that the jurors are explicitly instructed to ignore.

Letting people investigate by themselves would erode the legal rights of the innocent-until-proven-guilty suspects.

(I do not commend the MET's actions described in this article. And IANAL.)

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Boffin

In a sense...

... it is old law failing to keep up with modern developments. It has been easy for an individual to do "investigative" work on their own behalf for at least a hundred years. The internet has just made it *very* easy. For some time it has been clear that, in the interests of justice, anonymity* should be the default for all those involved in a crime investigation (accused, witnesses, lawyers, police, etc) unless and until a conviction has been secured, unless there is an overriding public interest in breaching the anonymity (such as finding witnesses to corroborate one side or the other). The public interest would be assessed by a judge not involved in the case. This would mean all the people involved being referred to by bland, standardised pseudonyms (e.g Mr A, Ms B) during all public proceedings, and court artists would be unable to show the faces of anyone involved until after any conviction was secured.

It would not be difficult to do this - it just needs some will from those whose job it should be to protect justice.

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FAIL

Half-truth

"If the victim starts investigating himself then he already has an idea from which his investigation starts, and he is thus prejudiced against the subject of this investigation."

And how this differs from police who already _knows_ the guilty one, they only need to find some evidence, or in case nothing found, publish the details of the person they think is guilty and make evidence afterwards?

Or drop the case, as the "guilty one" was already on the front page of every newspaper and got punished without any trial anyway.

In my opinion, there is no difference and police as an organization is total nazi for doing stunts like that whenever they feel like it, essentially when they feel that someone is guilty but they can't'prove it. Immediately alternate punishment: Publicity: Name, addess,picture, job, phone number, everything.

The Police _always_ gets their man, legally or illegally. Guilty? Who cares, as long we nailed him!

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maybe....

if the pigs werent so FUCKING USELESS themselves they might get more sympathy.

i get burgled: 1 month later someone comes to wipe for prints! genius!

i park my car and find when i come back that someone had scraped all down the side with a white van. right infront of some police cameras i report it - nothing ever happens even tho this happened 10m infront of a camera.

the police in this country are useless wankers, more obsessed by trying to catch you doing 35 in a 30 that anything else.

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Flame

Adapt or GTFO

Their first complaint about jurors not doing their own research, I agree with... but that's nothing new. Here in the states - sorry I'm not too familiar with how juries work in the UK - there have always been problems with Jurors watching news stories or reading articles about the trial they are sitting in on, which typically leads to their dismissal or a mistrial. A jury should only be judging based on what is presented in court. Blaming this pre-existing condition on teh interwebz is ill-informed.

The second complaint about victims finding their own perps online thereby invalidating a photo or some other type of "pick them out of a lineup" challenge... on that all I can really say is WOW, are these officers completely batshit retarded? It's possible that the lineup is some sort of procedural requirement I guess, but this still makes no sense. What they're ultimately complaining about is the public doing their job - which is not a new phenomenon either.

Strangely enough my friend's car was stolen the night before last. He went online to check his toll records and saw that it had exited off the tollway in a neighboring city at 3 AM. He informed the investigating officer, who - we suspect - contacted the neighboring city's police department, who put out an APB on his vehicle and it was found within roughly 14 hours of being stolen. I raise this issue for one point only - the officer investigating the issue did not get all pissed off about the victim helping out his investigation. We were able to provide useful information that would have taken him much longer to find - assuming he ever looked where and how we looked to begin with - and it helped him solve the case. In this case everybody wins.

For the sexual assault/rape case referenced in the article I can see how both the victim and her friend repeatedly looking at the perp's Facebook page could make the prosecution more difficult, but telling an assault/rape victim to sit around and do nothing while the cops go off and do their thing is somewhat offensive - as is the coppers whinging about it after the fact like 11 year old girls.

They need to grow up or GTFO

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Happy

So they posted the names and

... and photos, and datse of birth of sex workers

... only things missing ...

contact phone numbers ....

charges levied

ratings by punters

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Pint

Re : So they posted the names and

Well our formet Home Secretary, Wacky Jaqui, seemed to recommend a site called Punternet for this sort of detail.

Or so I'm informed of course.

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Am i the only one...

Who doesn't see how looking at a picture of the woman's attacker on FB mean they couldn't do an identity parade?

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Happy

It's because...

... it could be argued that they are recognising the suspect purely from the photos and not from the actual incident. Seeing as there would be doubt, it's impossible to convict with absolute certainty.

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Joke

,,, bit of a problem...

its stupid.... are they trying to say that recignising anyone in any other way than a police controlled lineup does not count?

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FAIL

But...

Doesn't that also rule all photos or surveillance footage useless if you actually saw what happened or who did it?

In which case the UK has millions of CCTV cameras for no bloody reason

And it's then the stupidest thing iv ever heard

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Re:,,, bit of a problem...

Your joke icon confuses me.

Anyway,

"are they trying to say that recignising anyone in any other way than a police controlled lineup does not count?"

No, they're trying to say staring at a picture for long enough will convince you you know the person in it.

If you see someone in the street and think "that was him", you phone the police and say "I think I saw the guy that did it."

Same with an on-line picture. You see it, you report it. You don't keep going back to the picture, or you overwrite your memory of the attacker with the memory of the picture. Clearly the person looks similar, which means that if it is the wrong person, you're going to end up forgetting what the actual perpetrator looked like.

And a Facebook mugshot is not generally of good enough quality to identify someone.

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not unlike painting a target on their backs,

Or on their, er, front bottoms.

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Paris Hilton

Hmmm...

Sex workers...their pics, with faces obscured, but otherwise... recognisable from other details.

Paris, because her pics are recognisable from other details as well.

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Police hypocrisy again

"ACPO guidelines clearly state that working with the media on operations can assist in the prevention and detection of crime."

The police will work with the media on their own terms, but are often hostile to news reporting and photographers in general, as so many recent cases show. Just another case of police hypocrisy.

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Joke

Pictures on the Met site

Oh, I have seen this site, in fact, there seem to be an awful lot of them, with phones and prices too.

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FAIL

End of Cragslist personals

Hey guys, forget Craigslist ! Just go to the Met's website and you can pick TRUE professionals !

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Anonymous Coward

I think it's clear what people want

A little transparency with regards to the evidence, how it was collected, who collected it and why exactly it is relevant. Maybe even present some proof that someone who isn't corrupt and/or a retard actually DID bother to look for evidence in the first place.

If people were confident in the ability of officials to do their damn jobs, you wouldn't get jurors running around trying to do it for them.

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Anonymous Coward

We are given justice...

It doesn't really matter what people want. One must differentiate between "the law" and "justice". That "the law" and "justice" may coincide is a happy accident when it does.

A trial is about jurors weighing the evidence presented not about the jurors finding additional supportive or otherwise information and having their evaluation of the legal evidence potentially corrupted. The juror is to form an opinion on the evidence presented. If they think the evidence is flawed then they are entitled to weigh that in their opinion. If a juror shares obviously information with others pertaining to the case or evidence presented, that they have otherwise acquired, then there are issues. By argument in the (confidential) jury room they may influence other to their way of thinking with regard to the evidence so that a collective opinion can be formed.

If I were dumb enough to publicly blab that I had made my own investigations then I might well expect to put a case at risk.

While I don't necessarily trust the police/officials I don't piss off a skunk and not expect to get smelly, do I?

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Joke

Object confusion

"the police raided two Polish women who were selling sex from their home "

Is it just me or does that sentence amalgamate two really odd-sounding turns of phrase?

The first one sounds like the police actually went inside the women, and the second part conjures up an image of some kind of take-away..!

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Joke

What's a "title"?

In the Chicago area, "Polish take-out" has a completely different connotation.

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Anonymous Coward

... Police told us:

"ACPO guidelines ....

I wonder why these four initials make me more concerned each time I come across them?

Still, I am sure that a Limited company run by Senior plods, building a database of almost all vehicle movements in the country whilst not being subject to FOI laws can only be a good thing.

Perhaps it is time that the government reigned these buggers in.

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Big Brother

Photographers

How did the 'News of the Screws' photographers manage to take photographs in London without getting held under Section 444(2) of the terrorism Act?

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Flame

AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

"First up is the case of six "persistent" sex workers who, the Met told us, had "rejected a raft of supportive measures aimed at helping them change their behaviour". The police decided that there was nothing else for it than to apply for Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) against the individuals involved – and then to place their pictures, full names and dates of birth up on the Met’s website. In this case, the pics were up for a month, which is the length of time the police considered "appropriate"."

So, these six people were effectively punished for declining the "help" that the State tried to push on them?

Are we really a free country, or do we just pretend to be one?

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Boffin

Are we dealing with two slightly different situations here?

Given the absence of any charges, I think that the media publishing pictures in the second case described here is a bit out of order - even if faces were obscured. However, it seems to me that's more of a media issue than a Police one. I don't have any problem with the media being given access to Police operations (quis custodiet and all that) but if they take photographs of someone who isn't subsequently charged then I don't think those pictures should be published at all.

Meanwhile, the ASBO case could be very different - IF it is the case that the pictures were published after the ASBO had been granted. And the critical word there is the last one - "granted".

Whether you love 'em or loathe 'em, the Police can't just pull an ASBO out of their collective backsides. While there may not be a trial as most people think of one, ASBOs are still granted by the Courts. Although it is a civil process rather than a criminal one, the applicant still has to prove (to a standard that is essentially the same as that in a criminal action) that the person upon whom the ASBO is to be served has been guilty of anti-social behaviour and that an ASBO is an appropriate way to deal with the matter. Generally speaking, ASBO applications tend to receive careful consideration since they can be quite complex (sometimes involving hundreds of pages of statements and other evidence that must all be considered) and everyone in the Court tends to be aware of the Human Rights implications involved.

If the ASBO is then granted, it isn't unheard of for those involved to have their picture(s) published. That's part of the price you pay for doing the stuff that landed you with the ASBO in the first place.

In fact, given some of the - shall we say - "interesting" ASBO cases that the more muck-raking elements of the press sometimes rant about ("OAP given ASBO for some minor thing or other" etc.) I often wonder just how much of the story they have left out in order to make their political point du jour.

Of course, whether ASBOs actually work is a different question and I'm not even going to get started on that one...

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Media on ops

Sadly there is the problem of differing timescales here. The media want to get their story in the public eye immediately whereas the police/CPS could take weeks or even months to decide whether or not to go to trial. By the time that happens the media would be looking to 're-visit their expose of local police done good' or whatever.

If they were to be told that they could not publish until any potential case had gone to court and a verdict handed down then I somehow doubt there would be much uptake from the 4th estate (or whatever they call themselves these days).

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Flame

ASBO is fully automatic: You apply one, you get one.

"Whether you love 'em or loathe 'em, the Police can't just pull an ASBO out of their collective backsides."

Yes they can. All they need is a story to present to judge and presto, you have a ASBO.

Applies to anyone and anywhere (At least in UK).

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WTF?

It's the electronic version of the 'Perp Parade'

Recently China has instructed it's police to stop the practice of marching convicted prostitutes through their communities streets.

Yet the English Plod seek to emulate them on web sites.

The Chinese, along with other countries, continue to publish full details and photographs of AIDS/HIV carriers on their police station notice boards.

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Even worse...

At least the Chinese stuck to *convicted* prostitutes.

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Alert

useless police...

true story...

I had a horrible little street urchin come into my house through the back door and relive me of possession of my mobile phone which was in the kitchen.

When I noticed the phone missing, I called it so I could find where I left it.... surprisingly a young girl answered my phone... when I demanded she bring it back she hung up...

At the time I had a service where the details of the call were available almost instantly online. I got the list of numbers she had called and began calling the numbers to find out who it was called them. Through a stroke of luck one of the people she had called was a relative of my niece. (Fathers side of the family) She told me exactly who it was who had called her from my number and where she lived.

I went around to the house, the kids mother claimed she had not seen her daughter with a mobile phone so as far as she was concerned that was the end of it..

with a little bit more digging, I found the name and address of another person she called, which happens to be her next door neighbor... off to the police i went with my info...

I presented the police a printout of the list of numbers she had called from my phone, the pages out of a phonebook with the names and address of two people she called. a witness who was prepared to give evidence that she had called her from my mobile phone (and had the call logs on her phone to back it up). The name and address of a witness who was prepared to give evidence that he had seen the girl hanging around outside at the time and seen her running away shortly before the time of the first calls on my logs.

Can anyone guess what the police did?

NOTHING...... they did not contact any of the witnesses, any of the people that she called, they did actually go around to her house 4 days later. No search warrant no nothing.... just asked her mother about the phone, (she denied any knowledge of anything).

I was one mobile phone down, she got away scot free and the police did nothing... I handed it to them on a plate; they had minimal work to do. All they had to do was verify what i had given them already.

And people wonder why there is no faith in the police force any more...

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WTF?

Sorry, there are many who have absolute belief in Plod infallibility ...

most of the members of the Plod and judges do.

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Unhappy

Reply to the "Useless police" comment

I can sympathioze with what you experienced: my then 12 year old son was the victim of an unprovoked beating up on his way back from school just over 18months ago. Because he is Chinese in an area noted for its BNP activity, some aspects of what happened and what were said to him before and during the assault may have had racist overtones. What seemed to us to be particularly serious was the fact that he was knocked to the ground and kicked in the face that smashed his glasses, though he didn't receive any cuts from this. We knew who had done it, as he attended the same school as our son, and he admitted he had done it to the school the next day after I rang them up.

The police came to see us at my request, and decided to do absolutely nothing. They did say a "community support officer" would call round in a few days, but one never did, and no amount of chasing them up could get one to attend. That made it extremely difficult to get a crime number from them, which would have at least allowed us to claim for replacement glasses via our insurance: ideally I wanted to find out who it was so that I could take the kid or his parents through the small claims court to get the price of the glasses back via that route as well as try to demonstrate that, in the absence of police action, bad behaviour as directed towards my son, should have consequences. But no luck.

The whole episode was disheartening, and made my wife and son disillusioned with staying in the UK at all. Given other related incidents which officials seem not to consider important enough to deal with, they became so disillusioned that now, 18 months later, we have relocated back to China.

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Unhappy

@ Qu Dawei

I'm so sorry to hear your story. I wish you all the best for the future, and hope that you don't consider all of us in the same light as the scum that attacked your son, and the uniformed scum that did not deal with the attack appropriately.

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Just one little thing..

Your spelling..

Surely , instead of

"And people wonder why there is no faith in the police force any more..."

You meant to say;

"And people wonder why there is no faith in the policeFARCE any more..."

A small but succint difference.

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Anonymous Coward

In most areas of the US Prostitution is illegal... how is it over there?

I actually thought that prostitution was legal over there. Now maybe you have to do it out of a proper store front and not a house and maybe you need licenses these ladies didn't have. What is the deal over in the UK? Legal or illegal?

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Paris Hilton

tis a grey area

Its a legal grey area if i recall correctly.

Outright selling of sex is illegal either by the person in question or a 3rd party.

But selling time isnt, what happens inside that timeframe is then a private affair between two consenting adults that has nothing to do with any financial transaction.

Or so i recall from various reports on our rather antiquated laws on the whole thing

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Silver badge

Re: Prostitution Legality

Up until recently, the UK laws on prostitution were fairly sensible, Prostitution itself is legal. But there are a number of laws surrounding it that basically have to do with decency and institutionalised prostitution. For example, you're free to sell sex with yourself, but not free to solicit from the street corner. And you're only allowed to profit from it directly - i.e. you're the one prostituting yourself. The moment that some "boyfriend" is living off your earnings, they're breaking the law. There are also some slightly fiddly laws about more than one prostitute working from the same place. I.e. if you're working out of your flat, visiting hotels, etc. you're fine. If there are several of you in one building for the purpose, then there are laws to do with it that are beyond the scope of a very short post. I'm not commenting on enforcement here, but the laws are generally fairly sensible, imo.

All this got a bit of an overhaul recently under the New Labour government which introduced some extra bits on top of this such as putting the burden of proving a girl hadn't been "trafficked" on the client. These laws are a bit messy and I'm not sure they're very well thought out, but I don't recall all the details.

That's the case in the UK though, anyway. Several European countries are laxer on the issue still.

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Big Brother

Double standards from the plod?

Double? Is that all? they should at least have shot the photographers as terrorists, whilst claiming the sex workers they'd photographed were under-age.

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Grenade

More on people doing their own investigating

On a similar theme, there has been a story in the Norwegian media recently who sent the police details from the anti-theft software on his (stolen) mac which not only sends emails, but pictures of who is using it! The latest I heard was that one of his mates even saw the woman pictured using it on a bus ans still the police did nothing.

At what stage can you take the "law" into your own hands to retrieve stolen property?

[Hand grenade - one way of taking the law into your own hands]

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ASBO's??

shirley they should have got "Pro Social Behavior Orders"?

no pun intended.

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