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article imageOp-Ed: We are above the law - a new low in police arrogance

By Alexander Baron     Oct 30, 2011 in Crime
London - The new Police Commissioner claims it is perfectly legal and acceptable for police spies to use false identities in court. This begs the question, is there any illegal act the police aren't allowed to commit?
Here is a not so trick question, if you were facing a murder charge, which of the following would you rather be:
Male, female, rich, poor, black, white, atheist, Christian, Jew, Moslem. Police officer.
If you didn't choose the last option, read this article then choose again.
The current furore over undercover policing began with the most unlikely looking police officer you ever saw. His name - his real name - is Mark Kennedy. Tattoos down both arms and ear rings in both ears, no, you would certainly not credit this guy with being an actual police officer. At a push he or almost anyone could be a registered informant but actual, rozzer, pig, filth...never in a zillion years.
The appellation “filth” is a double entendre; at times, the police do a filthy job, and to this end they need to have dirty, suspicious, filthy minds. Doreen Lawrence didn't understand this, that is why she accused them of racism for investigating a possible drug connection in the murder of her son.
The senior officers who investigated the deaths of five members of the Bamber family didn't understand this either, fortunately, some junior officers and relatives of the victims did, which is why Jeremy Bamber was brought to book, and is still in prison today.
Too often though, the filth lies not in the filthy nature of the job, but in the underhand practices used to obtain the convictions of both the guilty and the innocent. One such practice involves lying to or wilfully misleading suspects about the true nature of the evidence or non-evidence against them. Another involves simply lying and lying and lying.
What are we to make of the Police Commissioner's recent claim that it is perfectly acceptable for undercover police officers to use fake identities in court?
His actual claim was “There's no law that says it can't happen. The fact that someone has concealed their identity doesn't mean the crime didn't happen. In absolute terms, the criminal law does not make a crime of it. If you are dealing with more serious crimes, we have to seek all options.”
Boy, is he wrong. Has he forgotten that little bit at the beginning where the witness swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
And as to “If you are dealing with more serious crimes, we have to seek all options.”
Does that include fabricating evidence? Planting a gun at a suspect's premises, perhaps? Notice the man said all options, not all legal options.
There are big problems with any criminal case that involves undercover police officers and informants. Big problems for defendants, that is. Following a Court of Appeal ruling in 1969, the Home Office issued a circular called Informants Who Take Part In Crime, which set out guidelines for running informants. It was to be assumed these would also apply to undercover police officers and other law enforcement agents. One thing they should most definitely not do is incite crimes.
In May 2008, a white convert to Islamism was planting a bomb in a restaurant toilet when it exploded in his face. He survived the blast and was later sentenced to life imprisonment with a tariff of 18 years. Nicky Reilly or Mohamed Abdulaziz Rashid Saeed-Alim to give him his Moslem name, had been radicalised over the Internet. If the man or men who had brainwashed him were found and brought within the jurisdiction of the English courts, they could have expected similar sentences. Yet when the FBI set up an entrapment operation against John Delorean, set up the crime from scratch, it was him and only him who ended up in the dock.
Take a look at this footage of undercover police agents provocateurs in Canada caught in the act by an alert trade unionist. Consider the entrapment of Randy Weaver and the murder of his wife by agents of so-called law enforcement, and heed the words of Weaver's lawyer after his acquittal: “A jury today has said that you can't kill somebody just because you wear badges, then cover those homicides by prosecuting the innocent.”
Clearly our current Police Commissioner would beg to differ, because if the police are not subject to the rule of law, this is what can and will happen. His statement is all the more foolish because at this current moment Commander Ali Dizaei is out on bail pending a retrial after his convictions for misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice were quashed; the sole ground of Dizaei's successful appeal is that the principal witness against him gave a false name to the authorities.
In the United States in particular there is strong evidence of ongoing entrapment, incitement and other sting operations against Moslems by the FBI and others. It remains to be seen if the purpose of this is to stoke up the conditions at home that would soften public opinion to bombing Iran, to stoke up fear for some other reason, or simply for the sheer hell of it. It is well known that every man has his price, and it has never been difficult for those with enough money or nous to find people who for money, out of ideology or desperation will engage in virtually any activity, legal or otherwise, for sufficient reward, which may not be expressed in dollars, pounds, or any regular currency.
Just because the police do it, doesn't make it legal, and if police officers are permitted to lie under oath with impunity, to give false names when testifying against an accused and then disappear into the morning mist, the rule of law will surely be usurped, and justice will inevitably be corrupted. If Bernard Hogan-Howe doesn't understand that simple principle, he shouldn't be Commissioner, in fact he shouldn't even be a policeman.
One tiny caveat, there have been times recently though not apparently in the past, when witnesses have been permitted to testify anonymously, or as in the case of witness protection programmes, they have been given new identities. An extreme case of this sort of protection though from a different angle is the case of convicted child killers Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. These youths, now men, were given new identities because not to do so was not an alternative; their lives would have been jeopardised by revealing their true identities. But, in the rare cases where people have testified in court anonymously or pseudonymously, there has been no attempt to mislead either the court or the public; everyone was aware that the people concerned were not who they were named as, and that their names were tokens. This is an entirely different scenario from a man or woman who is given a new identity for the specific purpose of infiltrating a criminal gang, or as in the case of Mark Kennedy, a perfectly legal organisation, for the express purpose of building a case against suspects, in the words of Commissioner Hogan-Howe by seeking “all options [legal or otherwise].”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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