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Thursday, 1 April 2010

Comment on Smellie Acquittal

[This is a personal piece reflecting the views of one fitwatcher]


Sergeant Smellie’s acquittal yesterday at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, whilst disappointing, is hardly surprising. Many Fitwatchers know Smellie from his days as AB42 when he was often deployed in a FIT capacity and was frequently nasty, smug and aggressive, and whilst his attack upon Nicky Fisher wasn’t pleasant or justifiable, it was far from the worst of the G20 assaults.



However, the reality is the court was never going to believe Nicky Fisher over Smellie when she didn’t bother turning up for court. Under these circumstances it is surprising the trial even went ahead – if I was facing charges of assaulting a police officer and the cop didn’t show up, I would expect the case to be dropped, and I suspect only political expediency ensured the case’s progression.


Smellie’s defence, whilst smattered with bullshit, was credible enough to pass the beyond reasonable doubt test of British justice especially when two prosecution witnesses testified unfavourably reagarding Fisher’s behaviour. There may be conspiracy theories as to why the prosecution called witnesses who undermined their case, but I suspect it may be nothing more than an inept, lazy Crown Prosecution Service to blame.


Unfortunately, this case has acted as a smokescreen meaning the important questions were not asked and the right people not challenged. Smellie was following orders to clear the road and was doing so in the manner he was trained. Only following orders is not a defence under any circumstances, but attempting to prosecute Smellie without seeking to blame the officers who gave the orders is meaningless. Equally, prosecuting him for following his training in acting like a violent thug is meaningless without questioning his training and deployment.

Meanwhile there has been no justice for Ian Tomlinson. The identity of the police officer who attacked him is still unknown, and the FIT officers involved, Discombe and Palfry are still policing our protests. Of the 212 complaints forwarded to the IPCC none have had any kind of meaningful resolution.


Perhaps the only good which can come out of this debacle is lack of faith in the system. Real change will only occur when we stop relying on public/political bodies to fight our battles for us. It is down to ordinary people everywhere to hold the police to account, and this will only happen when we stop playing the victim and start fighting back.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this excellent comment. The only question I would have is why you would assume that the prosecution would have called witnesses harmful to their case by mistake. In the absence of further information, it is likely on the balance of probabilities that this was done out of the same motive of political expediency as caused the trial to go ahead. Still, it's a small point. Overall, great post.

--Stephen

FIT Watch said...

Thanks for the comment.

The lazy and inept comment was purely based on personal experience. I've had many cases and know many cases which have been dropped due to to the inadequacies of the CPS.

Furthermore, it is something the police frequently moan about themselves.

Anonymous said...

The Police and the CPS necessarily work together. They get to know each other. The police know the spin they want to put on things,and the CPS smile and nod and accept this. To them the defendant'witness/protester is an outsider. While they may appear to be different entities, they are both working to 'uphold the law' and its servants (themselves).

It's not that long ago that the police were debarred from being the prosecutors themselves due to blatant 'irregularities', and the CPS created. Hand in hand, no surprises.

The real story of 2nd of April was this, which received hardly any mainstream media comment at all.

http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/uk/met+police+to+pay+g20+protest+compensation/3587057

Anonymous said...

p.s. for 'intelligence' in the above report, read FIT.

Police intelligence, an oxymoron!

Anonymous said...

we stop playing the victim and start fighting back

Sound interesting...

Anonymous said...

Re PC Smellie...
There are many disparate occurrences of police officers abusing their powers and fitting up the innocent-if these were all collated together into a nationwide database they would show there is a good case to prove that Britain is a police state

Anonymous said...

V. Good comment. The Smellie-Fisher incident got masses of publicity for obvious reasons but certainly drew the focus from more serious issues. An acquittal is therefore a doubly-bad result.

There is no reason why, despite the acquittal, Smellie shouldn't still face internal police disciplinary action, but I'm not holding my breath.

Anonymous said...

What internal police actions? The actions he took have been deemed Proportionate, Lawful, accountable and Necessary. He used approved equipment and approved officer safety actions. He covered the conflict management model and has been totally open with the DPS, IPCC,Court etc

You cant just say, "Because she was a woman!" That is irrelevant in this day and age. Lets see what happens May Day……Nothing..As Per

Oh and 1636, That link does not seem to work, fyi.

PPS Good to see some debate on Fitwatch, I think they must have been onHoliday or something!

Anonymous said...

The fact that Sgt Smellie was acquitted shows that in the opinion of the judge it was not proven beyond reasonable doubt that the force he used was not reasonable. The verdict of the criminal trial does not go beyond that. It does not follow that he has not breached the police Code of Conduct.

As a matter of regulatory law, the board in an internal police disciplinary hearing would be entitled to make its own findings about breach of the Code independently of the criminal verdict. Moreover, Nicola Fisher could still be called as a witness in any internal disciplinary hearing (though she would have to agree to attend).

Obviously, a severe breach of the Code can amount to gross misconduct for which Smellie could be dismissed or face some lesser sanction. Whether the police will actually bring internal proceedings is another matter...

spot on said...

05.21 - the link does work if you copy and paste into your browser.

now settle down to watch

'Police and courts out of control'

courtesy of the BBC.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzGGoM4zHpI

spot on said...

now I await Jonsparta or the other cops on here to explain-:

1. Exactly WHICH cops decided to withhold evidence of crimes which they had in their possession until the very last minute.

2. Why the defence in all these cases were debarred from sharing relevant evidence.

Anonymous said...

JohnSparta ( Who knows how to use the three shells!)

07.22 LOB
12.45 Mucho Thanko Amigo
12.52 You makea no sense!

Defence can keep cards help till the last minute. Prosecution must show theirs

Fighting Fit said...

The 'story of 2nd April' referred to above is this:

The Metropolitan Police are facing a compensation bill of £250,000, after admitting a raid on a climate change group the day after the G20 protests in London last April was illegal.
Police burst into the Convergence Centre in east London carrying taser guns, and handcuffed protesters face down.
The Met Commissioner admitted it was unlawful to arrest, search them, and force them to be recorded on film, but he refused to apologise to the protestors.
This was the day after the big city G20 demonstrations. A large convoy and a heavy handed police presence took up positions around a disused office block.
Senior officers claimed intelligence had picked out some of the more violent protestors who overnight had used the building as a squat.
As police burst in, the majority of the 70 demonstrators simply sat down. There was no resistance.
One person was caught behind a door and threatened. Another officer trained a 50,000 volt taser weapon on the group sitting down. They had come prepared for trouble but there was none.
Today the Metropolitan Police Commissioner agreed to pay £3,000 compensation each to two of those demonstrators and admitted the operation was unlawful because there were no reasonable grounds for suspicion.
Stephen Grosz, the claimants' lawyer, told Channel 4 News: "We did ask for an apology (from the commissioner), we asked first of all for a public apology to be made to all those who had been arrested. That was turned down.
"We then asked whether we could have a private apology addressed to the two individuals whom the Commissioner recognised had been unlawfully arrested, but no apology was forthcoming."
The Met response was to say admitting liability is enough.
The raid was also armed with photos of suspects from the previous day. Every protestor was filmed by an officer from FIT, or the Forward Intelligence Team, but what forced the Met to concede was that not one of them, contrary to intelligence, matched any of the photos.
"The deal we have negotiated with them is they will recover, will use their best endeavours to recover all the copies of the video that they made and that they will destroy them," Mr Grosz said.
"They will keep an original which will be under seal in store, and they will keep one copy of the DVD, which is a copy of the original. And as and when people settle their claims their images will be removed from that copy.
The Met's now facing a bill for at least a quarter of a million pounds if all 70 demonstrators lodge compensation claims against this illegal police operation, which was described one of the successful claimants as over the top, unnecessary and disproportionate.

Anonymous said...

14.49: "07.22 LOB" why?

Anonymous said...

Your comment is legal mumbo jumbo. In the real world why would the DPS or IPCC go against what the judge has said. If he has covered all his actions, which it appears he has then can you imagine the up roar from the Federation and the rank and file officers. To appease the screaming left, the MET could issue, 'Words of advise' Which basically means F all. It has no effect on a orificer and he could choose just to say, " Yea, Cheers Guv!"

You are looking to much into it fella!

Anonymous said...

Re: 11.42: As I said in my post, I didn't think internal action would actually be brought, just that it was possible to do if the Met wanted to. As to *why* it should: Sgt Smellie has clearly brought down the reputation of the force so should face sanctions (nobody can sensibly argue with that). Bad policing does not have to amount to assault.

There many professions where an acquittal in a criminal trial would not be the end of the matter and there is no reason why the police should be any different. If the force cares about its professional reputation then it should take action despite what the rank and file may say. In many ways the inadequacy of police disciplinary proceedings, in terms of both imposition and enforcement of sanctions, is of greater concern than a lack of accountability through the courts.

jonsparta said...

Spot on....

1 - No idea, as i have had nothing to do with this case nor belong to the MET.

2 - Again, no idea. CPS in my area are crap. I doubt they are any better in the London area. Ref to FITwatch earlier post.

As for Sgt Smellie, who is clearly a nob. Im glad he is not on my team, i would look to work else where. He has been found not guilty, where you agree or not thats the verdict. Personnally i would like to see a end to civilians being brought in to do intelligence work and the like. They cost more, believe me i worked in Admin, also they have no real training and little understanding. I would like more discipline. Also people should realise that we spend more investigating police officers than we do crime at a divisional level. The reason, because any complaint however silly or stupied must be investigated by a DC from PSD. So one was a officers who looked scruffy, took one month, 3 statements and a DS to get rid of it...great...welcome to the new world order.

Ben Aldin said...

From a policing point of view Nicola Fisher, a participant in a small demonstration of people, was at most irritating and perhaps in the way. Officer Smellie saw fit to give her a back-hand across the face and then calmly removed his baton to administer two hard strokes on her thighs before turning his attention to other things. His misfortune was that everything he did was filmed.

To dispel the view that gratuitous police violence was tolerated, and to assuage the concerns of Daily Mail readers, the authorities needed to throw a police officer to the wolves. Of the recorded police violence against demonstrators in April 2009, the Fisher incident was not the most serious, but it was the most suitable for prosecution. Officer Smellie made the ideal fall guy; he looks like a thug, and he hit a woman.

Yet Fisher didn’t play ball and failed to turn up to the trial. And in those circumstances Smellie was exonerated.

Thus the unofficial precedent of the Fischer case is that arbitrary violence against demonstrators is acceptable police behaviour; this is not what the authorities wanted. While, of course, police have often beaten left-wing and ‘alternative’ protesters at will, it is another matter to be seen to be giving it official sanction.

M de Plouquenet said...

Post de Menezes & Tomlinson one does not need to prove Britain is a de facto police state. P.C Sparta is paid to keep an eye on us. How quaint. It is not that the people are in contempt of court, but that the courts are held in contempt by the people.

Anonymous said...

M de Plouquenet

Is that a new name again??

Ben Aldin said...

Reply to M de Plouquenet

Is Britain a police state? Well it depends what you mean by police state.

Britain has a vast and growing web of laws to restrict individual freedom and action by civic organisations. State surveillance is mushrooming. Police and other law enforcement agencies are inadequately held to account by political and judicial authorities, and within limits enjoy almost a free hand. Imprisonment and other sanctions are often unduly severe.

While Britain falls short of the standards expected in a liberal democracy, it is not a police state. First, it is still possible to form organisations and ‘speak out’ as my posting of this comment shows; and neither are the courts or political authorities under police control.

It’s better to use language carefully because when we actually live in a police state we will have cried wolf and our language will have been devalued. That may be no comfort to the relatives of Ian Tomlinson, nor to Nicky Fischer as she danced in pain after Smellie’s blows to her thighs. Yet facts and emotions are separate things.

Ian said...

Smellie belongs to one of the worst units in the TSG which has a catalogue of disciplinary problems and issues.

He, now Sergeant, is guilty of masking his shoulder identification on more than one occasion, takes pride in his aggressive approach and will now feel justified given the collapse of the case.

The case was going no-where as Miss Fisher did not appear - if she had done so, Smellie would have been toast. A highly trained public order officer mistaking a carton of orange juice for a weapon? The line of questioning would have least have shown he is a violent and aggressive man - with no place in the Met.

Regards: Ian

Anonymous said...

Ian: "he is a violent and aggressive man - with no place in the Met." Given the way violent and aggressive men (and the occasional woman) fill the ranks of the Met, I'd say he is in good company.

Anonymous said...

re Ben

"While Britain falls short of the standards expected in a liberal democracy, it is not a police state. First, it is still possible to form organisations and ‘speak out’ as my posting of this comment shows; and neither are the courts or political authorities under police control.
Aldin

It is still possible to form organisations and speak out, but the state will film and photograph you while you do it, and hold the information collected on a secret database. Not a Police State?

The courts and police authorities are under political control. Much more indicative of a Police State than your definition.

Anonymous said...

I notice there has been some discussion of a police state. I grew up in one. It was called "Northern Ireland". Its distinctive feature was that the police were above the courts. We had Diplock courts (no jury) and the judges were not rubber-stampers, but were heavily influenced by the police. For one thing, they depended upon the police for their protection. Lawyers were being murdered by the police (Pat Finucane). Indeed, the police were conducting murders with impunity (google for John Stalker). Finally, the police could arrest people without charge and hold them for, iirc, 2 days, but if they charged them they could typically languish in jail for up to two years before going to court and have the charges dismissed. These are the hallmarks of a police state. This took place within the UK.

We have some of those features already in Great Britain. Most notably the executive has the power to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and to deny him the judgement of his peers. Winston Churchill, speaking in the House of Commons in 1943, called this "in the highest degree odious" and "the foundation of all totalitarian government, whether nazi or communist".

The legal instrument which makes this possible is called the "Terrorism Act 2000". It is permanent legislation, unlike the Prevention of Terrorism Act used in Northern Ireland. It empowers the police to hold anyone for 28 days without a reason for suspicion. Think about that.

Nevertheless, I don't believe the police are above the courts in this country. Just take the news three days ago of Greater Manchester Police criminals jailed by a court for misconduct in public office. All is not lost yet.

best, Stephen

Ron Broxted said...

Ben it is possible to speak out. But beware the door being kicked in at midnight. "Anon" at least I use a name. You seem very interested in which one. Care to share something Constable? Shouldn't you be out nicking villians? Real ones, not banner holding placard waving hippies. I look forward to seeing at least one of you die soon.

Anonymous said...

Someone give ron the 'death push'

Ron Broxted said...

Oh do fuck off constable. Still collecting kiddy porn? What WILL happen to you when we win? (Nearest lamp post like all neo-Nazi shite).

Anonymous said...

Only porn of yo mama!
I say, she is dirty!

Ron Broxted said...

D.G.Haslam. Ex Met. Dismissed for taking "artistic" photos of little boys. Lives in Downham Market, Norfolk.

Ron Broxsteds mama, dirty biatch said...

Ron Broxsted, last seen being booked in for downloading saucy pictures of Ming wong, a pre op transexual with a talent for shooting ping pong balls, whilst of course , under insruction from his Mama,(ye dirty biatch !) I thank you, try the veal ! I bet you drink strawberry beer !

FITWATCH WATCH said...

Were are fitwatch?

Gone again? NETCU Watch not updated since October?

Can't all be on ASBO's

Just'cos Smeellie got off - no need to flounce off in a huff

Anonymous said...

On holiday in Thailand. Hopefully wearing red shirts and getting lessons from broxteds mother !

P.C Heffron said...

Have you seen my leg anywhere?

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