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Peter Lamb: The reality of policing

In his latest article, the leader of Crawley Borough Council talks about police accountability.

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It has been over five years since the Police Commissioners came into existence.

The idea had been around for some time but had never made much progress as the problem it was supposed to solve, making the police accountable to communities, was already addressed by the elected councillors who made up the Police Authority. Still, scraping around for policy ideas, the Coalition Government dusted off the proposal and here we are, so no doubt you now feel the police are far more accountable to you.

More news: The battle for Crawley has begun

But, how do we hold the commissioners to account, I hear you ask? Well, we have a body made up of elected councillors… just like the old Police Authority… funny old world? This is a body I’ve served on before, although given the commissioner always deflected my questions by claiming they weren’t for her but rather the Chief Inspector – who reports to her, it was an uphill struggle.

Nonetheless, I read the paperwork religiously and was interested to see next Friday’s meeting will review Sussex Police’s four year Transformation Strategy. Every part of the public sector is having to undergo ‘transformation’ in order to weather austerity and it can lead to significant performance improvements. The problem for the police is that the strategy fails to explain convincingly how what is happening now will actually improve performance.

The reality is what local residents complain to me about on a regular basis. When fireworks are thrown at cars, the police lack the resources to respond. When vehicles are broken into the police lack the resources to investigate. When a visible police presence on the high street could make a difference, it is left to door supervisors to keep law and order in the town centre. That’s the ‘lived’ reality and no pie chart is going to explain it away.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

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Let’s just waste more money on imprisoning people for speeding and lying

One man was only six miles over the speed limit while the other was 12mph over.

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Sussex Police have published a press release where two men who lied about speeding were sent to prison. Initially when you read the story it appears two men have been given prison sentences for breaking the speed limit by so little BUT this is where you need to read past the initial report and see what is really going on.

First the background:

CASE ONE:

On 29 May 2017, a white Ford Focus activated a speed camera in Ditchling Road, Brighton – it was travelling at 36mph in a 30mph zone.

A Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) was sent to the registered keeper in Hove, but no response was received.

Therefore a new NIP was sent to Colin Drewitt-Barlow at an address in Sompting on the basis the vehicle was insured to him.

A reply was received stating Drewitt-Barlow no longer resided there, and further enquiries led to another NIP being sent to his new address in Coleman Avenue, Hove.

The 31-year-old, unemployed, and now of Downsway, Southwick, replied and nominated another person, however this proved to be a false name and address.

In police interview, Drewitt-Barlow denied driving the vehicle when the offence was committed or ever owning it. The case was then submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which authorised a charge of perverting the course of justice.

Drewitt-Barlow pleaded not guilty but later changed his plea to guilty at Lewes Crown Court on 12 December 2018, where he was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. He was also ordered to pay a £115 victim surcharge.

CASE TWO:

On 25 June 2017, a black BMW M3 activated two speed cameras in Sussex – it was caught travelling at 38mph in a 30mph zone on the A259 Marine Parade, Brighton, and at 72mph in a 60mph zone on the A24 at West Grinstead.

Two separate NIPs were sent to the registered keeper – Ozgur Uzum, 45, a fast food employee, of Salvington Road, Worthing, however they were both returned nominating another person from Hampshire.

Both NIPs were sent to the nominated driver but no response was received. Enquiries revealed this person had been nominated before, and it was confirmed the individual had been a victim of stolen identity.

In police interview, Uzum continued to deny the offences, however he later changed his plea to guilty after being shown an image from the A24 incident, which clearly showed him driving the vehicle in question.

The CPS authorised two charges of perverting the course of justice, and at Lewes Crown Court on 10 December, Uzum was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment. He was also ordered to pay a £115 victim surcharge.

The CPS authorised two charges of perverting the course of justice, and at Lewes Crown Court on 10 December, Uzum was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment. He was also ordered to pay a £115 victim surcharge.

So what is really happening is two people are going to prison for perverting the course of justice. Something which can actually hand out a life in prison term.

In-fact both men could have got away with a small fine and some points had they just admitted it was them.

Instead, by lying they have forced mountains of paper work, an appearance in court and now tax payers money to be wasted on sending them to prison.

Surely now sentencing needs to be examined so that rather than wasting tax payers money on putting people inside an already packed prison system they are forced to pay for the huge amount of cost that was allocated into chasing, charging and convicting them.

Sussex Police launched Operation Pinocchio in 2016 with the following aims:

  • To improve safety on Sussex’s roads by tracing and prosecuting offenders who provide false information in an attempt to avoid prosecution;
  • And to prevent law-abiding motorists, who have been badly advised, from committing serious criminal offences by attempting to avoid speeding or red light offences.

BUT unless sentencing changes are made all this is going to do is add even more financial pressure on a system that needs to reform urgently.

At a time when the police have never been under such pressure to perform and reduce crime figures perhaps more thought should have gone into whether publishing this outcome would have a positive or negative impact on them – even though they were only following the law.

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