Saturday, 16 February 2008

Our friends the police

A policeman who helped in a fatal attack on a pensioner's home can be unmasked today.

Stephen Smith, 49, used the police national computer to find Bernard Gilbert's address on behalf of an assailant hell-bent on revenge after a row over a parking space.

The officer's involvement in the tragedy can be revealed after two brothers were found guilty of manslaughter by a jury yesterday at the end of a two-week trial at Nottingham Crown Court.

PC Smith, a police officer for 24 years, resigned from the Derbyshire force before he could be sacked.

A police source said Smith had kept his pension, but it was frozen at the point he resigned.
Yeah, that'll teach him!
The court heard that 79-year-old Mr Gilbert, of Spondon, near Derby, argued with Zoe Forbes, 26, after she "nipped into" the parking space he was intending to use at their local Asda in January last year.

She wrote down his car number and passed it to her husband Mark, who gave it to a friend, Dale Phillips, who knew Smith.

The court heard that the following day, 40-year-old Forbes texted his wife, assuring her: "I've got someone on to it.

"Fingers crossed, I'll get an address. Then we'll smash his car to bits - and then his hire car and then whatever he gets after that until he dies."

Smith traced the pensioner's address and it was passed back to Forbes, who sent another text reading: "Bingo! Number 17, your time is up!"

Days later, armed with the information supplied by Smith, Forbes and his brother Steven drove to the pensioner's bungalow and Steven, 22, hurled a half-brick through the window while Mr Gilbert was watching television.

The former Rolls Royce aero worker collapsed in front of his wife Betty.

By the time a paramedic arrived, he was already dead. He was later found to have been suffering from angina.

Smith, of Oakerthorpe, Derbyshire, admitted disclosing personal data contrary to the Data Protection Act 1988 at Derby Magistrates' Court in March last year and was fined £1,200.

[...]

Smith was living with a girlfriend and their children but the couple recently split up and he now stays with his mother, Joan.

He refused to comment yesterday but his mother said he had been under stress at work at the time of the incident.

She said: "It has affected him immensely. Steve had been suffering from stress and depression - and still is - and I have been left to pick up the pieces.

"He has found a new job, but he is still suffering because of all this. Why won't people leave him alone?"
I know how she feels. You commit one tiny little violation of your duty to the public, one person - only one - gets killed because of it, and suddenly, you're the bad guy.

Cases like this provide one of the reasons why we should all be extremely wary about the ever-increasing number of databases held by various agencies of the state. Because it only takes one bad apple for the records to end up in the wrong hands. Or indeed, one government cock-up of the kind we've seen rather a lot of recently.

Postscript:
In other Plod news, there's a rather entertaining argument going on between the author of the Devil's Kitchen blog, and the members of the Police Oracle forum. The comments at the Police Oracle forum, and those left by policemen in the comments section of this post (the one which started the whole thing off) are especially interesting, in illustrating the contempt with which many police officers view the general public (something which I, for one, am more than willing to reciprocate), as well as their self-righteous detachment from reality. They're rather reminiscent of our social worker friends in that respect...

4 comments:

samsonslion said...

Prejudice against the police is only ever found among those members of the public who have contact with the police.

Alex said...

The corrupt behaviour of the police is consistent with a society that is in moral decline. It's vain to demand that the police force should maintain high standards of probity and diligence when things have fallen apart and the best lack all conviction etc.............

JuliaM said...

"Prejudice against the police is only ever found among those members of the public who have contact with the police."

That might have once been true, but no longer. I'm a law-abiding middle class professional who has never had so much as a parking fine. I, and my contemporaries, should be the police force's backers and champions.

Increasingly these days, we are not. The more we hear about the lack of service provided, the gravy train (as in this example), the blinkered adherence to 'rules' and the contempt for members of the public expressed on some of those fora, the less we begin to trust or respect the police.

I don't think they really have woken up to this at all - some of them may have, but it seems that they either don't care, or don't know how to reverse the decline.

Fulham Reactionary said...

Samson's Lion:

"Prejudice against the police is only ever found among those members of the public who have contact with the police."

I'm not sure whether you're implying that those who are best placed to judge are most likely to criticise the police, or that those of us who criticise the police must all be habitual criminals. If the former, then you may well be right, if the latter, then you're clearly wrong, for the reasons that Julia M articulates. Of course, the latter position does seem to be very popular among the members of the Police Oracle forum, together with the view that if those who criticise the police have not yet been arrested, then they probably should be.