Category Archives: Police
PCC Meeting, 29th Nov
Last night the Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite, held a public meeting in the Town Council chambers to float the idea of a new Police Station for Wisbech.
A fair few people turned up including Councillors, members of the public, and a trio of Labour Party Activists.
From the very outset it was clear that the Labour Party ladies were intent on derailing the meeting. Almost as soon as the PCC began to speak they began tutting, talking over him and shouting things out.
Once the PCC had stated the plans, the public were invited to ask questions. There were lots of questions, but over and over again the Labour trio attempted to dominate the meeting. Talking over anybody who was speaking. Shouting over Mr Ablewhite’s answers. Being really very rude.
The members of the public who were not Labour activists soon tired of this and several times the meeting deteriorated into people asking them to pipe down and them arguing with pretty much everybody in the room.
They did themselves no favours. They kept insisting things they clearly wanted to believe, but which had been directly contradicted by both the PCC and the Police Superintendent who had spoken. They argued about the location of the public meeting (in the Town Council Chambers, where public meetings are held all the time.) They tried to claim that the meeting was called under false pretences. It wasn’t. It was called to discuss the moving of the Police Station from the old tumbledown poor building where it currently squats, to a new purpose-built modern building next to the Fire Station. The plans were right there to look at.
They tried to make a big deal about the Ambulance, Fire and Police being stationed next to one another in a new “Blue Light Hub”, even though all three services think this is a really positive idea and support it. Even though is was very clear that the services themselves remain Independent and that the close locality is a far better way for them to work collectively (as they often had to do.)
The Police and Crime Commissioner explained that all the money saved by having a state-of-the-art Police Station working closely with emergency partners on a central site would go straight back into front line Police and would increase the numbers of Police serving our community. He explained the ideas very clearly and as far as I could tell had the support of everybody in the room, with the sole exception of the trio of Socialists.
Even at the end of the meeting the Labour group continued trying to argue with everybody. One member of the public got so angry with them and their manner that she shouted some fairly harsh words. I’m honestly not sure what they wanted to achieve. It seemed they turned up to the meeting with a fixed opinion – when the information didn’t match what they expected to hear, they decided to just proceed as though it had. They seemed to only want to agitate and derail the meeting. If it was a political stunt, then I would say it failed dismally. To everybody who was there they just looked and sounded outlandish, which was set off with a deft flourish when one of the ladies insisted on calling other people “comrade” (which was not broadly welcomed by other members of the public.)
Anyway, colourful local political groups aside – the information given sounded like very good news indeed. All the Emergency Services are working together to deliver a newer, better and most importantly better-staffed service for our Town. It sounded like win-win to me.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite is asking local residents to come along to a public meeting on Monday 27th November in Wisbech.
The Commissioner would like to discuss plans for a new Police Station in Wisbech with members of the local community before undertaking the formal application process.
Superintendent Andy Gipp from Cambridgeshire Constabulary will also be present.
The event will be held in Wisbech Town Hall Council Chamber between 7pm and 9pm on Monday 27th November and is open to all Wisbech residents.
Know Your Stuff
I’ve been trying to encourage some careful consideration as to whether a Public Space Protection Order PSPO might be right for Wisbech. My gut rebels at these sort of powers, but I try and put personal feelings aside when local people feel strongly about an issue. So in a poll and debate on Facebook I tried to encourage debate and get the take on how people might feel about it.
Up pops Cllr Virginia Bucknor, who I don’t recall ever opposing additional powers and controls on anything in the past, trying to argue about it. She seems to oppose even the suggestion that we should investigate these new powers. She’s in a massive minority on this one and I kind of feel like the only reason she’s really opposed is because I have brought the idea up. :)
Nevertheless I was concerned that a District Councillor, who sits on the Licensing Committee at FDC, doesn’t seem to know the difference between a Cumulative Impact Zone (CIZ) and a Designated Public Place Order (DPPO). As evidenced in the message below, where she seems to think the CIZ gives the Police powers to remove alcohol from people behaving badly. It doesn’t. That’s a DPPO. Easy mistake for a member of the public to make. Odd one for somebody who seems to regard themselves an “expert.” But there you go. Maybe that’s why she opposes the investigation of a new PSPO? Because she doesn’t actually know what it is? Or maybe she’s just found her inner Libertarian? If so, no complaints from me. Better late than never. :)
Mrs. Bucknor aside – I still think that it is an idea for the local Councillors to consider if a PSPO could work here. Whether we want a total ban on alcohol in a few key areas or not is the question. Many members of the public support it. But I’m sure others would oppose. Also we need to question if it’ll just move drinkers to another area, and whether it will unfairly penalise people who are doing no harm to anybody. I don’t know the answers, but I don’t think we should shy away from asking the questions. How else do you plan the best course of action for the community?
More information about Cumulative Impact Zones here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/98123/cumulative-impact-policy.pdf
More info about DPPOs here: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100413151441/http:/crimereduction.homeoffice.gov.uk/alcoholorders/alcoholorders016a.pdf
More info on PSPOs here: https://www.askthe.police.uk/content/Q837.htm
Baigent Is Back
So the Labour PCC Candidate popped into Wisbech this week and seems to think he did us all a favour by gracing us with his presence.
Sometimes I quite like the Labour candidates, but this guy just annoys me. He doesn’t even make an attempt to answer any real questions. His campaign seems to revolve around ridiculous unsubstantiated promises and not even a clue how any of them might happen.
So when he popped up on the Wisbech Discussion Forum on Facebook I took the opportunity to ask him some questions based on the claims on his website.
I love the way you seem to think that visiting Wisbech *twice* will somehow endear you to the people here. That you travelled up from leafy Cambridge to treat us to your presence on two occasions! smile emoticon How lucky are we? You say you are going to “tackle” violent alcohol-fuelled crime. HOW? Using what measures and with what money and resources?
You say you are going to stop “drug dealers coming from London and Manchester.” Are you talking about Fenland, or is this a Cambridge-centric thing. Whichever, HOW will you stop them? Using what measures and with what money and resources?
You seem to suggest you are going to “campaign against cuts.” But surely you realise that you can stop cuts immediately, by increasing the Police portion of the Council Tax. If you think the public support this additional spend, which you have the power to immediately rectify, how much do you intend to raise Council Tax by, and will you be holding a referendum to raise a lot of additional money? Or do you prefer to just blame the Government and avoid personality responsibility for the decision?
You will “raise the profile of community policing to levels that have never been imagined?” And you will do it “in an entirely different way?” How? What different way? And with what money and resources?
Talk is cheap. Promises are cheap. Let’s have some detail.
It took him a while to come up with a response, so I was thinking: “Wow, this is going to be great. Perhaps we’ll get some real meat on those colourful bones?” And when his response finally appeared what were the answers to the questions I posed?
Thank you for your response.
Yep. That’s it. Good, huh? But it wasn’t over yet. Chatting to a few friends on messenger about it and I said: “Wait and see. Within the hour he’ll have Sue Marshall up to defend him.” And sure enough, exactly as predicted, there she was. All the classics were tried; insinuations, accusations, name-calling. Anything to divert from the fact that the Labour PCC Candidate didn’t want to answer questions.
But why is he so scared to answer them? Could it be that he doesn’t have any answers? All he really has are a few claims, mostly the same ones other candidates are making – but more vague and directionless?
There are good people in Labour. Plenty of them could have answered me in a reasonable way and dealt with my questions. Even Sue Marshall herself would have been a much better candidate that this fellow, in my opinion. His entire appeal seems to be “look at my C.V., I was a firefighter.” And now he wants local hustings? They’ll eat him alive. If he gets the hustings he wants, he’ll need to have been a firefighter to put out the flames of his campaign.
This is a guy who is campaigning for a £70,000 a year job that he doesn’t even seem to believe in. Who seems to think that being an “anti-austerity” campaigner will make more Police money appear by magic. And who seems to simply refuse to answer anything, metaphorically ducking behind his lady bodyguards at the first chance of a real question.
Very poor indeed.
It’s Not Right At All
One Saturday night back in May I was emerging from the top of Post Office Lane at ten to one in the morning when I heard an almighty crashing and smashing from the road in the Market Place. I listened for a moment and it continued, including the sound of glass smashing.
I walked up the high street towards the noise and saw a man emerging from the doorway – or rather THROUGH the broken glass doorway – carrying what appeared to be two till boxes in his arms.
He started up the road towards the Market and I followed. As I came parallel to the QS doorway I saw it was a wreck and at that point I gave chase, shouting something at the robber.
The criminal looked back at me and then turned to sprint away, making a mistake as he did so. In his sudden dash, he was still partially staring back at me and he ran directly into a lamppost/pole thingy. It was a nasty collision which sent him tumbling to the ground, dropping the tills. I ran towards him, in the hope of apprehending him, but he jumped to his feet and sprinted away (leaving the tills behind.)
He dashed directly across the Market Place, cutting diagonally to the alleyway by Hughes. I am ashamed to admit that I am too old and unfit to catch up with him, I would guess he was in his early Twenties by his build and the way he moved. I made an attempt, but it was clear there was no way I was going to be fast enough. So I went back to secure the fallen tills – at least he had not gotten away with his loot.
The Police arrived (by chance, actually, not by design) within a few minutes. I was in the process of explaining to some people who had entered the Market that I needed them to call the Police (I didn’t have my mobile phone with me) when the Police materialised by sheer luck.
I spent twenty minutes with them as they secured the scene and bagged the evidence. I pointed out that there is plenty of CCTV in and around the Market and so a good chance that something will have been caught. The Police said they would be in touch in the next few days to take a statement.
Given that this was clearly a Robbery I had interrupted and stopped, and that there was potentially evidence on the tills he had been carrying, on the broken glass and on CCTV, I expected to hear from the Police promptly. I NEVER heard from the Police. They never contacted me, for a statement or anything else.
Last week, you will have seen the news about an attempted Knife Mugging. I knew more about that but didn’t want to say too much where there was a Police investigation. But I can now relay what happened.
I got a message on Facebook from a constituent who told me that his Son had just been menaced by a group of teenagers, one of whom had a knife. He had already called the Police but twenty minutes had passed and he hadn’t heard from them so (as any Father will probably appreciate) he was seething. He didn’t want the kids who had threatened his Son to get away. He intended to take his car out and look for them. I did not want this constituent to go out alone and potentially face a knife-wielding gang, and it was clear he would not be dissuaded, so I said I would come to his house and go out with him.
I have to admit I was fairly sure they’d be long gone. I didn’t imagine they would be stupid enough to hang around the scene of the crime. So it was quite a surprise when about 30 seconds after getting in the car – we found them! They were ambling along Elm Road past the little convenience store there. We drove some way past, parked up, and got out. We walked along separate sides of the street, hoping to at least get a good look at them for identification purposes. But they had spotted us park and sussed what was going on, as we got closer to them they began shouting and swearing and fled. Sadly, much like in May, there was no way I was catching young and fit teenagers – though I gave it a breathless shot. We jumped back in the car, but by then they had fled across the dual-carriageway and lost themselves near the College.
We have given the Police the best descriptions we can. Five English youths, four of whom looked to be about 14, one of whom (apparently the knife guy) a bit older, maybe Seventeen. They passed the Convenience store twice, we think, and it has external CCTV. Other local residents have let us know they have CCTV.
It was several days before the Police visited my constituent and his Son to take a statement. Since then we have heard nothing. Had the Police responded to the 999 call promptly, or even within half an hour, they would have caught them all – they were easy to find, but there was nobody looking except a man with health problems and a fat Councillor.
It may be that the Police are on the case in Item 2 and will shortly let us know the successful result of their investigations. But right now it rather feels like my best bet is to get fit again, because we seem to be fending for ourselves in Wisbech, and next time I have to chase some knife-wielding thugs I’d like to be able to give them a run for their money. I don’t want to worry everybody – this is still a relatively safe Town compared to many. But that is scant relief for people who find themselves the victims of these criminals.
I’d love to ask the Police questions about all this. But they don’t attend Town Council meetings anymore and they don’t hold Neighbourhood Forums anymore. And there’s no “hotline” for a Councillor to get a priority response for their constituents. I have a couple of email addresses, but nobody ever answers. I just hope that whoever the new Police and Crime Commissioner is, they sort this out. Because it’s not right, it’s not right at all.
Police Enhance Access Line
Cambridgeshire Police have a service for people who have difficulties with communication and who may benefit from additional support when contacting the police. You will need to pre-register for this service, which provides direct access to a highly trained police call taker if you ever need to contact Cambridgeshire Constabulary.
Who is eligible?
- People who have a disability or illness that affects their ability to hold a telephone for long periods of time, such as arthritis
- People who have a condition that affects their behaviour or memory, such as Alzheimer’s disease
- People who become easily confused or agitated due to their illness, which sometimes can be aggravated by stressful or pro-longed situations, such as Parkinson’s disease
- People whose ability to communicate effectively is hindered by the symptoms of a medical condition or as a result of an injury, such as a stroke or brain injury
- People can register via the website or at any Cambridgeshire Police Station. Any officer or PCSO can register you too.
How to use it
People who have difficulties using the telephone can register to use the service. Once registered, you will be issued with a special telephone number to use when contacting the police for general, non-emergency queries.
Once registered, anyone calling the number will be connected directly to a specially trained police call taker. This can reduce the time you spend waiting to speak to an operator, helping those who suffer pain and discomfort when holding a telephone.
Using this dedicated service may also reduce confusion or agitation, helping more effective communication and because you have already registered your details, the police operator will be aware you suffer from a disability or illness.
The supporting information held about registered users, such as details of next of kin, may be useful in other circumstances. For example, if there is concern for your welfare, we may use the information to contact a relative on your behalf.
When is it available?
The Police Enhanced Access Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The line is for non-emergency use only, with the aim that calls are answered promptly. For emergency calls, always dial 999.
Operation Hunter Tackles Burglary
(press release from the Police.)
RESIDENTS are being urged to check their home security to help prevent a rise in burglaries over the winter months.
Dwindling hours of daylight and the Christmas period often combine to result in more break-ins at homes in the county.
The force is prioritising burglary as part of a new campaign called Operation Hunter and is using all tactics available to reduce the number of crimes through prevention work and catching and putting offenders before the courts.
However, as part of the operation, detectives are also urging members of the public to do their bit by taking precautions and making their homes unattractive to burglars.
In the three months from August to October last year, there were 569 dwelling burglaries in the county, compared to 628 during the following three months (November-January), a rise of more than 10 per cent.
Detective Chief Inspector Mike Branston said: “Burglary is a top priority for the force because it leaves victims feeling vulnerable and can have a massive impact on their lives.
A series of burglaries in a particular area can also leave communities feeling vulnerable so we are committed to tackling this type of crime from all angles.
We are relentlessly targeting offenders but we also need the public’s help to make it as hard for the crooks as possible.
Taking security steps at home and remembering to always leave your windows and doors locked is a great start but we would also ask people to keep their eyes and ears open and report any suspicious activity to police.
Information we receive from the public is crucial and people should never hesitate to report something that appears unusual or suspicious in their neighbourhood.”
Residents are urged to:
- Always keep doors and windows closed and locked or in a ventilated but locked position, even when they are inside the house. Always check and lock doors with a key – never assume that just pushing up an internal handle will lock the door.
- Remove keys from window and door locks, but keep them in a familiar and safe place where all members of the family know where to find them in the event of an emergency.
- Never leave items such as keys, bags, presents and money on show through a window.
- Consider the position of key racks or shelves next to a door and ensure that they cannot be reached through the letter box.
- Use timer switches to turn on lights and radios when you are going to be away from your house at dusk.
- Consider the use of lights at the front and rear of your property that are activated when someone approaches.
- Consider the use of bolts and padlocks on side gates. Place the bolts at the top, middle and bottom of the gate, as just a top bolt might be easy to reach and open.
- A visible intruder alarm box can prove to be one of the biggest deterrents to an opportunist burglar, so consider installing a DIY or supplier installed system.
Anyone with information should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
The Police attended the meeting of Wisbech Town Council last night to give a report of their activities in the town.
They clarified the “Dispersal Order” in Waterlees – explaining that the common perception is wrong and that the Police will not “take home” Under 16s who are not committing a crime, only the ones who are involved in antisocial behaviour or criminal damage.
I raised my hand to ask a question because this seemed an odd statement to me. First I thanked them for the clarification as this new explanation did not match what we had previously been told. But then I asked what purpose the “Dispersal Order” served if this was the case.
Surely, if the Police arrive and the young people are committing a crime – ie antisocial behaviour or criminal damage then the Police already have the power to (at the very least) take them home – or even arrest them? So if the Police are not, after all, going to be picking up under 16s and taking them home if they aren’t committing a crime, what does the dispersal order add?
The Officer gave an example: If they had a call alerting them to a disturbance in the Adventure Playground which included descriptions of youths who were throwing eggs or similar then they could go there and pick up the youths who matched the descriptions and take them home.
This all seemed a bit odd to me, it didn’t quite fit together. “If they are committing a crime, surely you could already have arrested them, or escorted them home? I still don’t see what the dispersal order adds.”
“If we turned up and tried to disperse the youths and they told us they were not going to move, and if they were not doing anything wrong when we arrived, we would not have the power to move them,” was the explanation.
But if the Police turn up and the youths aren’t doing anything wrong, then they wont move them anyway – if their explanation of their intended use of the Dispersal Order is true. They said at the start they wouldn’t be using the powers on youths who were not committing a crime.
When I ask the same question several times and get answers which contradict one another it makes me wonder if I’m just not making myself clear, or if somebody is trying to avoid telling me something.
If the intention of the Police is to regularly turn up at “hot spots” and use their new powers to send groups of youths home based on a phone call and a vague description then they should just say so. I expect quite a lot of people would support that, and at least it would be clear.
I remain unsure what they will do when the youths immediately leave the home and head back to where they came from. Or what they will do if the youths say: “No, I’m seventeen.” Or even what they will do if the youths simply run in every direction and come back ten minutes later.
It seems that the only thing the dispersal order really does it to stop groups of young people from hanging around together. I can’t see it will really stop them at all, since young people do tend to want to hang around together and generally wont stop simply because other people don’t approve of it. Seems to me it’ll just make them have to do it somewhere the Police can’t stop them or they can easily get away.
If the Police have the resources to enact this dispersal order, attending every day to keep groups from gathering, then I have to ask why they weren’t there before – using those same resources to prevent the crime?
Nobody could sensibly oppose measures to cut down on crime and antisocial behaviour. But there are two simple questions. If somebody is committing a crime, why aren’t you arresting them? And if somebody is not committing a crime, why are you harassing them?
The Police Response
I got the call back from Robin Sissons this morning, re: my previous blog post entitled “Police State?.” So first let’s cover the things that Mr. Sissons says are inaccurate about the witness statements given to me.
Robin agrees with the number of vehicles and Police officers, but says that they were not “all in riot gear” – only the first couple of Officers to enter the building had protective clothing etc. Fair enough, you can see how a group of people seeing large Police Officers enter in the gear, followed by another twenty or so uniforms, would perceive the arrival and remember the first couple of the group.
Robin says that he was aware of the raid but that it was not carried out by local Officers but by Officers from HQ – and suggests that this was in order to avoid a breakdown of relations between the local Bobbies and the local community. I’m not sure that really worked as well as intended given what happened, but I can see that the intention was a good one. I just think that for most people – the Police are the Police. Regardless of whether the ones you see all the time are smashing down your doors, or some other Police from HQ, people tend to group them all as one.
Robin Sissons assures me that the operation was “intelligence-led” and that adequate information was in hand to merit a raid. He says he will question those involved to find out if there is any truth to the accusations of rudeness, aggression and heavy-handed behaviour, though he feels the Police have “nothing to apologise for” at this point. He also feels that for every person who is unhappy about these powers being used for this sort of raid, there would be others who would cheer about it.
He accepts that nobody was arrested or charged and that nothing was found or seized other than the CCTV, but does point out that the CCTV is “still being reviewed.” The CCTV, he says, will be returned once it has been reviewed.
He says that the people who were searched and their phones confiscated were not “stop and searched” but were dealt with as part of the warrant – which allows anybody on the premises to be searched, including even innocent customers who were sitting having a pint and customers who arrived after the Police had got there. He says that the warrant allows search of the vehicles – which is correct, but when I asked about the customers whose vehicles were parked in a completely different car park who were searched I didn’t get a response to that. Surely a warrant does not cover vehicles owned by private individuals, parked in a completely different location to the premises on which the warrant was served? I’ll wait for clarification on that one.
Robin Sissons also very strongly denies that the people in the pub were dealt with differently because the owner and most of the customers were foreign. I very much hope he’s right. But I wonder if the Police would really have tried the same operation in a pub full of English people? I can imagine them demanding the car keys of a Wisbech man so they can search his vehicle parked elsewhere. I can imagine them asking a young Wisbech lady: “Are you a prostitute?” I can imagine them demanding the mobile phones of every innocent customer in, say, The Case or the old Muppet Inn (when it was the Muppet Inn.) I can only speculate as to the result of them searching a young lady from Wisbech, down to her underwear and beyond – and the consequent response of her Family. I don’t think any of it would have ended well. Robin points out the good work the local Police do on behalf of the Eastern European community and to foster good relations with them – and that is absolutely true. But I think this operation has set that work back a country mile.
So, to sum up, Robin Sissons says that there was enough intelligence for the raid, that it’s perfectly acceptable for the Police to arrive in these numbers and to search everybody in this way, that asking young ladies: “Are you a prostitute?” is fine, that confiscating mobile phones of everybody there is normal procedure – in case they leak to Social Media and affect the search of the crime scene. That refusing to allow the staff to phone their boss and bring him to the premises to speak to the Police is no problem. It sounds like, in the strictest sense of the law, he is probably right. But I think I’d still have to question the manner and style of this operation and the logic of conducting it in this way.
I do not know if charges for something are forthcoming. I’m not privy to the details of the investigation and perhaps the Police have something they are not yet revealing? But my discussion with Robin Sissons did not suggest this was the case. I said that I thought this was easily fixed. That if there were not going to be any charges and if the Police accept their “intelligence” was wrong, that they could put this matter right by doing three simple things.
(a) Issue an official apology to The Angel and its customers for their discomfort and inconvenience.
– No need to apologise for the actual operation, since I can see why the Police might be leery of that, but apologising for inconvenience caused doesn’t open any doors to law suits.
(b) State clearly that raid on The Angel resulted in nothing and that the Police are satisfied that no crimes were committed there and that the establishment and it’s owners reputation are intact.
– Given the damage done to the business and its reputation by this raid, it is the least the Police can do to clear the owner and premises of wrongdoing in an unequivocal way.
(c) Repair the damage.
– Two doors were broken down and some other minor damage caused. The Police should pay for that to be repaired promptly.
Robin Sissons says he is perfectly happy to take an official complaint forwards, or for it to go through the Police & Crime Commissioner, which is commendable. But why go through all that and make a big issue about it when a simply apology and recompense would put an end to the issue right now? I don’t understand this reluctance to admit a mistake has been made. It doesn’t represent a weakness by the Police – quite the opposite. If the Police really have such sweeping and draconian powers when a pub is raided – and apparently they do – the best way to offset them is to be prepared to say: “Sorry about that, our intelligence is often right, but in this instance it was wrong.” I’m sure people would feel better about it. I know I would.
All of this is on the proviso that there isn’t some ongoing case to answer. As you might imagine I still don’t know the answer to that. Perhaps the Police have discovered some evidence pointing to some dark crime and that this will vindicate them entirely. Except, (a) I doubt it, and (b) Even were that the case I’m still not sure this would merit the way private individuals say they were treated. But we’ll see.
This email was received from Robin Sissons, who would like me to pass it on. So here it is.
I can confirm that a warrant was executed on Thursday evening by a number of uniform officers. They were not dressed in riot gear but normal uniform. The large numbers involved was proportionate considering the overall size of the premises (including the numbers of rooms upstairs) and the unknown numbers of staff / customers that would be there. I can also confirm that two rooms were locked within the premises which needed to be searched and so the officers had no other option but to force entry. Due to the fact that nothing was found in these rooms then it is normal practice for the Constabulary to make good any damage caused. I would therefore urge the owner to make contact with the Constabulary so that we can progress his claim.
This warrant was obtained after the police had gained several independent pieces of intelligence stating that there were illegal practices taking place (sexual exploitation, prostitution and drugs). The Constabulary makes every effort to ensure that these pieces of intelligence are verified and cross referenced so that we can be sure that there is some substance to the claims made. It is also important that we act on intelligence given to us so that the community knows that we are acting on their behalf. It is for this reason that this warrant was executed. On this occasion there wasn’t anything found.
The purpose of this warrant was not to upset the community or make them fear the police. Its purpose was to reassure the community that we will do all that we can to ensure that Wisbech is a safe place in which to live and socialise in.
T. Chief Inspector 0359 Robin Sissons
District Commander Fenland
Wisbech Police Station, Nene Parade, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.
The following events are the result of my discussions with witnesses of an incident that took place last Thursday night in Wisbech. Although I was not there and cannot verify them directly, multiple different people have related essentially the same story to me. I have contacted Robin Sissons of The Police – or his answerphone anyway – and asked for a call back but have not had one, so I have not heard the Police side of the story. But given what I know at the moment, I am extremely concerned about the heavy-handed behaviour of the Police and the nature of this “operation.”
On Thursday night at 7PM in the evening a swarm of police vehicles turned up outside The Angel pub in Wisbech. An exact number on the cars is uncertain, but most reports have it at between five and ten. From that procession some two dozen or so Police issued forth, dressed in what is reportedly riot gear. Masks, stab vests, the works. The Police stormed into The Angel and confronted the barman and half a dozen customers who were there at that time, mostly having a quiet drink after work or eating dinner at the tables.
The Police flashed their warrant to search the premises. Every witness describes their manner as “threatening”, “rude” and one described it as “terrifying.” A young couple were sitting at a table with their child eating dinner and, at some point during this sorry debacle, the child began to cry and then wet himself. This is not an exaggeration, this is not drama, this is what happened.
The warrant detailed the purposes of the raid, which was to search for evidence of prostitution, drugs and people-trafficking. The Warrant granted the Police the right to search the premises, including the sub-let bedrooms occupied by tenants upstairs and all the adjacent buildings and vehicles. The Police set about doing this.
During the course of their search the Police smashed down two doors, including one upstairs that led to the rented room of an older lady who had just returned home from a long shift at work.
The Police also searched all the customers, as well as temporarily confiscating their mobile phones. The mobile phones were later returned, although no explanation of what had been done to them or why was given to any of the terrified customers. I am also told that they were given no piece of paper explaining that they had been “stopped and searched.” There were a couple of young ladies in the pub. I am told by two witnesses that the Police repeatedly asked them: “Are you a prostitute?” They were not, of course.
Anybody who has been in The Angel will know its a pub made up of a couple of very small bar areas. There were so many Police they couldn’t even nearly fit them all in. The customers were outnumbered more than two-to-one. Many of the customers spoke limited English, though there were a couple of English folk in there at the time also. All the ones I’ve spoken to tell the same story.
The Police found nothing at all. I have seen the paperwork they left behind and initially they have scrawled across the “seized goods” page “Nothing Seized.” But apparently they later changed their mind and took the CCTV equipment.
There are so many things wrong with this I don’t know where to start. The tactics used here might be merited if the Police were raiding the warehouse of a drug baron, or somewhere they expected a violent and dangerous response. Instead, they’ve used vast Police resources to scare the living crap out of half-a-dozen people having a pint and a little kid eating his chicken bloody nuggets. They’ve smashed down a few doors, giving the fright of her life to an elderly lady who just wanted a nap after a hard day’s work, and they’ve damaged the reputation and trade of a successful business in a town which really needs all the successful businesses it can get.
I have not managed to get any answers from the Police yet, but I have had several complaints from residents – both English and otherwise – and while I may only be a Town Councillor I will see that we get some answers for this.
We need to know what evidence the Police had which merited this sort of response. Indeed, what evidence would convince a judge to give them a warrant for this. We particularly need this because they appear to have found nothing at all. For an operation of this magnitude. which is this damaging to the business’ reputation and this frightening and intrusive to the customers there had better be a smoking gun, don’t you think? Except, since the Police went away and there were no arrests or charges, it rather looks like they’ve made a pretty serious mistake.
We also need to know why the Police searched the private customers of the pub and confiscated their phones. This is what the Government guidance on their search powers says:-
Stop and search: police powers
A police officer has powers to stop and search you if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect you’re carrying:
- illegal drugs
- a weapon
- stolen property
- something which could be used to commit a crime, eg a crowbar
You can only be stopped and searched without reasonable grounds if it has been approved by a senior police officer. This can happen if it is suspected that:
- serious violence could take place
- you’re carrying a weapon or have used one
- you’re in a specific location or area
Before you’re searched
Before you’re searched the police officer must tell you:
their name and police station
what they expect to find, eg drugs
the reason they want to search you, eg it looks like you’re hiding something
why they are legally allowed to search you
that you can have a record of the search and if this isn’t possible at the time, how you can get a copy
So what “reasonable grounds” can the Police have possibly had to suspect that customers in a bar had a weapon, drugs, stolen property etc? These weren’t staff of the pub or anybody related to the pub, just people who’d come in from the street for a drink. The Police didn’t know them from Adam, didn’t know they’d be there and so could surely not have had any reasonable grounds to suspect they were committing a crime. Unless you count just doing it because they looked a bit foreign? I would be very interested to know whether the Police went through the full series of actions they are required by law to undertake. Because the reports I have is that they did not tell each customer their name and Police station, or what they expected to find, or any of that. In fact, the customers were left completely befuddled and confused and frightened by the whole thing.
The confiscation of the CCTV was significant too, since the Police initially signed the form saying they were confiscating nothing. Then changed their minds and took the CCTV. Maybe at this point they were thinking – this looks pretty bad, all this activity and we’ve found nothing. We’d better take the CCTV and hope there’s something on there of note. Or maybe they just know, as they would of course know, that The Angel’s license precludes it opening to the public without CCTV and that by confiscating it they were therefore preventing the pub doing business on Thursday / Friday / Saturday – the busiest nights of the week?
I am not given to think ill of the Police. I believe in Law & Order and I value the work our Police do. But as we’ve seen elsewhere in the country, it’s also entirely possible for the Police to abuse their power and authority, to operate in ways that are questionable and to think – if you’ll excuse the pun – that they are a law unto themselves. Since I have yet to get a response from the Police I have not yet heard their side of all this and maybe, just maybe, they have some valid argument or some piece of evidence that explains it all? But given that there have been no arrests, no charges and no seizures other than some CCTV I don’t think it’s presently looking good for them. And whatever the case turns out to be – what justifies scaring a child so badly it wets itself, accusing innocent patrons of prostitution, and smashing down the doors of innocent tenants?
This is not some third world Police State. This is Wisbech, in Cambridgeshire, in the United Kingdom. There had better be some darn good answers forthcoming.