Following Osborne’s triumphant releasing of pensioners to unlock their annuity contracts to spend how they will, there were many siren voices raised that that risked exposing many vulnerable elderly people to crooks and scammers selling dud investment projects as the road to riches. The results have turned out even worse than feared. City of London police are now having to wage a huge campaign against the use of some of the Square Mile’s most prestigious addresses as a cover for scams purporting to sell overseas land for investment as well as wine, diamonds, etc. Police say such scams cost mostly elderly and vulnerable people at least £1.7bn last year, with fraudsters typically returning to their victims a second timein the guise of ‘asset recovery specialists’ who pursue lost money for a fee. Read more “Osborne’s giveaways come back to haunt him” »
Accountability in Britain has reached a new nadir today. The report that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPPC) refuses to investigate claims of police criminality at the mass picket at Orgreave during the 1984-5 miners’ strike really stinks. They have already found evidence that police officers assaulted miners and then perverted the course of justice, committing perjury in later prosecutions which still failed. Even senior officers of the South Yorkshire police admit the perjury, but did not want it made public – who are they to block the course of justice? The IPCC in their report today try to dump blame on them for being complicit – so why is the IPCC now seeking to withdraw from the case? Read more “Are the IPPC and the DPP fit for purpose?” »
The horror of the story now emerging about Bradford City’s Valley Parade ground conflagration that killed 56 football fans shocks even those hardened by the constant drip-feed of scandals that have numbed the national consciousness as accountability is dumbed down by an over-powerful self-interested and self-protective Establishment. The book just published 30 years later by Martin Fletcher, who escaped the fire aged 12, casts a lurid light on the way that the disaster, if not hushed up, was certainly not properly investigated. The inquiry before High Court judge Popplewell was held only 3 weeks after the disaster and only lasted 5 days before deciding it was caused by a match or cigarette.
It failed to uncover, what Fletcher has painstakingly discovered, that the owner of the football ground at that time, Stafford Heginbotham, had had fires at no less than 9 buildings he owned or controlled over a period of 18 years. He received insurance payouts of £27m at today’s money value, including £2.74m from his Bradford firms. Moreover, at the time of the Bradford City ground blaze, he had been in desperate financial trouble, and had been told just 2 days earlier that it would cost £2m to bring the ground up to required safety standards. Was the fire then just an accident, and why was it dealt with so superficially? Read more “Only a radical government will overturn the Establishment scandals of the last decades” »
So today the Independent Police Complaints Commission has cleared armed police officers of any wrongdoing over the killing of Mark Duggan over 3 years ago, following an inquest verdict of lawful killing a year ago. However the police officer who fired the fatal shots refused to be interviewed by the IPCC; why could he not be compelled to answer questions? A week ago it was decided that no further action would be taken after the child sex abuse victims in Rochdale were repeatedly let down by police officers, one of whom retired to escape prosecution; why is retirement allowed to preempt prosecution?
For 40 years, it is now alleged, investigations into a high-level paedophile ring in Westminster were halted and evidence suppressed to protect senior MPs and police officers. For a decade industrial-scale phone-hacking at the News of the World was brushed aside by the police for fear of Murdoch. Still no-one has been held to account for the illegal shooting of Jean-Charles Menezes in July 2005, or for the calculated deception used by undercover police officers against environmental activists, or even for the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 football fans died because of policing errors. But of course it’s not just the police. Read more “Corruption, secrecy, non-accountability are rampant in Britain: how that should be put right” »
It was originally assumed that blacklisting was a secret tool used by construction companies – Balfour Beatty, Costain, McAlpine, Skanska, Carillion, Kier and over 30 others – to keep out people they didn’t want. To achieve this the euphemistically named Consulting Association over 16 years (1993-2009) complied a database on thousands of construction workers who were denied a job if it was reported that they were trade union activists or had expressed concern about health and safety standards or had simply been the victims of derogatory gossip, thus destroying their livelihood for sometimes 30 or more years for reasons kept secret for the worker himself. This scandal may finally be exposed in the High Court this year, though nearly half of the 3,213 persons with Consulting Association files on them have still not yet been traced. But the latest evidence now emerging indicates two other sinister trends: the extensive involvement of the police and security services and the inclusion on the blacklists of several persons in public life who have had no connection whatever with the construction industry. Read more “How far did blacklisting extend outside construction?” »
John Reid was right: the Home Office was “not fit for purpose”. We’ve now learnt it still isn’t. The NAO report into the huge Home Office muddle over deportation of foreign criminals is a textbook of persisting ineptitude which points the finger directly at the Home Secretary, Theresa May. It’s not as though she wasn’t warned. This issue brought down Charles Clarke in 2006 when it was revealed that on his watch the Home Office failed even to consider deportation of some of the 10,000 foreign prisoners who account for one-eighth of the inmates of jails in England and Wales. When Clarke was Home Secretary, his department released 1,013 foreign nationals without considering the option of deportation. When Clarke was sacked, Reid took over and the number deported doubled to over 5,600 in 2008-9. May followed, vowing to tackle the ‘scandal’ amid the usual Tory tabloid noise about the Human Rights Act preventing the removal of foreign criminals. May talked tough, but the latest revelations will go a long way to shredding her reputation for sound and competent control of the benighted Home Office.
The NAO report uncovered the disturbing fact that 1 in 6 foreign offenders living in the community (760 out of 4,200) has absconded, including 58 described as dangerous who have been missing since 2010 – an issue tragically brought to public attention by the murder of Alice Gross for which the main suspect was the Latvian killer Arnis Zalkalns. It also found that police were negligent in not conducting overseas criminal record checks on more than two-thirds of arrested foreign criminals. But the most staggering discovery was that the number of Home Office staff had been increased nearly 10-fold to deal with the problem, yet the number of foreign prisoners had increased since 2010 from 10,230 to 10,650. Even more lethally for May’s reputation the number removed from the UK actually fell for 5,600 to 5,100 last year.
Cameron typically tried to blame this mess on human rights legislation. But the NAO report makes absolutely clear that no more than 100 out of 5,000 deportations a year 2%) are blocked over the right to family life. The overwhelming reasons were the failure of Home Office officials to fill in the necessary forms, failure to get the papers where they were needed, and failure even to book the plane tickets that were required. Even worse, the NAO report revealed a regular breakdown in communications between the Prison Service and the UK Border Agency – a failure that still appears to be continuing. Even when they do talk to each other, they apparently still get it wrong. The NAO found that when the Prison Service did tell the Home Office that a criminal had been jailed, the form either had the wrong date for earliest possible release or it was missing altogether.
In days past all this would have been enough for the Minister responsible either to resign or be sacked. Even in these present times when nobody seems to be held accountable for anything, the incompetence displayed here is so egregious that May should either go or be forced out.
The security services are getting desperate. Over the last 4 years they, and their political figurehead May, have tried time and time again to push mass surveillance through Parliament. Whenever a security scare arises or a trial of alleged terrorists or belated arrests over a drugs scandal, the cry is always foisted on the public that what we need is a comprehensive snoopers’ charter which will record all the communications of all the citizens in the UK. No mention of the fact that they have already been doing this for over a decade through GCHQ’s Tempora and Bullrun programmes as Snowden revealed, and what they desperately want now is to legitimize their illegal activities. No mention that they already infiltrating our smartphones via the Dreamy Smurf programme which can turn them on even when we’ve switched them off. No mention that Nosey Smurf can turn on the microphone in a mobile remotely to listen in to our conversations, nor of Tracker Smurf which can track our location in real time. Read more “Despite Snowden May won’t take no for any answer over mass surveillance” »
Amid all the hysteria over the referendum a few other events are worth noting below the radar, though obviously on a much lesser scale. Two appointments and one non-dismissal have been notable in this last week alone, though these are only the latest examples of a long decline in proper accountability in this country. After a string of well-known public figures had all turned down the post of the government’s choice to chair the BBC Trust, Rona Fairhead agreed to accept it. It is a position requiring a lot of sensitive handling after the Savile abuse saga, controversies over executive payoffs of £369m, and a failed digital media venture. Yet Fairhead declared that whilst she would ‘prioritise’ her job as the BBC’s chief regulator (so that’s all right then), she would also cling on to her non-executive roles at HSBC and the US multinational Pepsi – quite likely the terms she exacted from the government to take up the job at all. This is clearly unacceptable. We urgently need a Code of Conduct for all top posts in the public sector which requires them to concentrate exclusively on their very important role in the public interest – or else they shouldn’t be eligible for such a crucial full-time post. Read more “Rona Fairhead to chair BBC Trust shows appointments system needs big shake-up” »
I never expected, having called for bankers, doctors, business executives, MPs, police, media to be held to account for serious wrongdoing by sacking and/or prison in the worst cases (my website 23 August), that the imperative for such accountability would be so quickly manifested. On 26 August Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, was finally forced to apologise, three and a half years late, that one of his officers sprayed CS gas at close range into the faces of campaigners protesting against tax avoidance by Boots in Oxford Street, causing (as he admitted) intense pain, fear and panic. For years the Met. failed to properly investigate this incident in January 2011 involving the use of CS gas in a very crowded area in central London, and were only forced to respond when the protesters, UKUncut, finally sued the police in court. The deficit in accountability is stark. An apology wrung out of the Police Commissioner over 3 years late is wholly inadequate. Why wasn’t an investigation immediately undertaken and a full written apology made and compensation paid to each of the protesters sprayed? And why wasn’t the policeman concerned immediately dismissed from the service and disqualified from any police service in future? Read more “Where’s accountability over Shaun Wright, Rotherham child care, police apology 3 years late?” »