Scotland Yard policing its own officers with 'culture of fear'

Report hears that figure fiddling is 'rife' in London as Met Police officers chase performance targets

LAST UPDATED AT 08:43 ON Fri 4 Apr 2014

PERFORMANCE targets are creating a “culture of fear” and resulting in unethical behaviour at the Metropolitan Police Service, according to a new report.

Home Secretary Theresa May called for an end to performance targets in policing four years ago, declaring that a culture of box-ticking hinders the fight against crime.

However, today’s report, compiled by the Metropolitan Police Federation from interviews and surveys with 250 officers, suggests that such targets still exist and that they are having a detrimental impact on the force and the public.

Officers told researchers they were “almost continually under threat of being blamed and subsequently punished for failing to hit targets”. They described a “culture of fear”, with the force using “name and shame” tactics and unjust punishments.

One officer told researchers: “Every month we are named and shamed with a league table by our supervisors, which does seem very bullying/overbearing.”

Another said the Met “polices its own organisation through fear”.

Many officers admitted to “cutting corners” to meet quotas, which the report says has “clear negative effects on both the force and the public”.

A “huge amount of police time is being wasted” on targets, it said, meaning that officers are left with insufficient time to carry out regular, and usually more important, duties.

It also found that “unhealthy and arguably unethical behaviour has become the norm” in several boroughs. One officer said that figure fiddling was “rife”, while another described their unit as a “hot bed of policy breaches”, with the force and public suffering as a result.

The report says there is a "strong sense" that some performance targets are disguised. For example, in one borough they are called “expectations”.

In a statement to the BBC, the force denied having a “bullying culture” and said it made “no excuses for having a culture that values performance”. · 

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A report from the Metropolitan Police Federation. Does anyone believe that this can be objective ? The only thing that they care about is themselves.

In English law, the term summary justice has a specific
meaning, though it comes with negative connotations. The definition: court
proceedings that are conducted with little or no formalities under common law.
That definition was different a few centuries ago, when summary justice meant
‘done without delay.’ Nowadays, summary justice simply means proceedings
conducted in the lower magistrate courts, meaning legal proceedings that:
involve less-serious crimes and possible punishments, are expedited with less
complex court proceedings, without involving a jury. Summary offenses, unlike
indictable or Either-way offences, are cases that can only be handled in the
lower courts. Indictable offences, on the other hand, are serious offenses that
are handled in the higher Crown Court. While Either-way offences are cases
where the defendant may request a trial by jury, a choice many, wrongly, assume
is a citizen’s right in all court proceedings.

The term summary justice is also used to refer to vigilante
justice, justice handed down by fellow citizens without recourse to the law
(for a more, see Johnston, 1992, 1996). This type of justice is typically
frowned upon, but it some cases, especially when the law is not seen as
effective by citizens, it can be popular with the public. However, citizens
taking justice into their hands is considered disturbing by the government
(Abrams, 1998). That is one of the reasons why a third form of summary justice,
with recourse to the law but not the courts, has emerged in recent times. It is
called pre-court summary justice.

During this, the Crown Prosecution Service and the police
are the decision makers. When concerns about increased acts of vigilantism
started attracting the media during the mid-1990s (Johnston, 1996; Abrahams
1998), the New Labour Party improved their standing with the citizenry by
advocating for summary powers to be
given to law enforcement and other court officials in other to appease
discontent citizens who no longer saw the system as effective due to increased
anti-social behavior that was threatening many communities across the nation (Labour
Party, 1996).

Principles

Some say it is impossible to put a price tag on criminal justice
(Mansfield, 1993: 203). However, all around the world, every system does just that
since there rarely is an alternative. Police forces typically do not have
enough resources to respond to every criminal act since they have to compete
with other public services expenses like education and health -- which also
affect social justice. Therefore, priorities must be made when creating
boundaries for which cases enter the criminal justice system. Within the
criminal system itself, cases are treated differently, depending on how
serious/important the case is.

For any criminal justice system to achieve legitimacy, each citizen’s
right to not be tricked, wrongly convicted, or treated in an undignified manner
must be defended. However, it is also essential for a criminal justice system
to protect the public from serious offenders that pose a threat to their safety,
by effectively prosecuting and convicting them. The best way to achieve this is
by sticking to the principle of proportionality
of imposition (Ashworth and Redmayne, 2005: Chapter Two), meaning the level
of intervention by the system, process, and punishment should be proportional
to the seriousness of the offence, where the term ‘seriousness’ refers to the
culpability of the accused and the degree of the ham done to the public.

Sticking to this principle means that the more serious the
offence, the greater the punishment, and the more safeguards there are to
ensure justice is fairly dished out. Conversely, offences that involve little
harm or culpability can be diverted from the system, or treated leniently if
brought into the system, following a relatively non-stigmatic procedure.

This principle is adhered to, to some degree by all criminal
justice systems in advanced, democratic societies like Wales and England. Their
court systems usually have two or more different levels. The higher levels
typically involve lay magistrates or juries sitting next to panels of
professional judges or a single professional judge for the determination of a
defendant’s guilt and punishment. The
most serious cases are handled here, thus the most severe punishments are
dished out. On the other hand, the lower courts have limited powers of
punishment. These are often presided by lay magistrates sitting as a panel or a
lone judge (Morgan and Russell, 2000). Also, most legal systems have pre-court
or administrative criminal justice procedures allowing prosecution and law
enforcement authorities to handle certain cases without involving the courts.
These systems are typically used to deal with common minor offences that are
straightforward and come with pecuniary punishments, a recorded warning, or the
offender paying restitution. The severity of the crime and the likelihood of
injustice determine which cases qualify for administrative criminal justice.
Each level of the justice system has safeguards to prevent injustice. This
review addresses whether pre-court and summary justice is appropriate, and if
the safeguards are effective enough to protect citizens.

Conclusion

Regardless of one’s view on the growing proportion of offences and
offenders handled in the pre-court system, it is clear from this review that we
need more information and analysis. The HM Chief Inspector of the CPS pointed
out this issue during his 2006-2007 annual report. Pointing out its
introduction by the government in 2005 (CJS, 2005), abandonment in 2006, and the
statute to merge the five criminal justice incorporates into a single body, the
Chief inspector called the outcome, which was right given the circumstances, ‘a
lost opportunity.’

Obviously, it is not necessary to have a single criminal
inspectorate before the increasing reach of the pre-court justice system is
scrutinized. However, the fact the Chief Inspector of the CPS himself has
raised questions about the lack of scrutiny, suggesting that the
decision-making process can be overzealous and inconsistent, thus reducing the
public’s confidence is the system, indicates just how widespread concerns about
this developing branch of the government are, and not just among those involved
in the process. There is certainly a legitimate need for a thorough review.

There are multiple issues that deserve attention. Firstly, from
the published statistics released by the government, it is clear the expansion
of the pre-court justice system has, as intended, displaced some court
business. Most of these cases tend to be minor ones, but is that always the
case? Are serious cases, that are more appropriate for the higher courts, being
sent to pre-court? Some have suggested this is the case, meaning justice and
preventative measures are being undermined as a result. There is yet to be
detailed analysis done by the Home Office researches or criminal justice
inspectorates to assess these issues, but the research is certainly due. The
data that is currently available does not sufficiently answer these questions,
but neither does it offer support to the contrary. For example, there has been
an increase in the number of convictions for violent crimes in recent years.
Furthermore, the argument that cases that used to be sent to the higher courts
are now being handled by pre-court is not persuasive since that was always the
government’s intention. As long as those types of cases remain minor and the
outcome fair according to the principles discussed in the beginning of this
report, there is no valid complaint here.

In conclusion, the state’s argument for expanding the reach
and scope of pre-court sanctions is a reasonable one. It makes sense, in terms
of justice and the economy, that courts are not overwhelmed with minor matters
that can be more efficiently dealt with in pre-court if the accused: contests
the matter, admits guilt, and has the alternative of a court trial. As long as these conditions are met, the
judiciary and magistracy have no legitimate basis for complaint, especially
since they have complained about minor cases being brought to them in the past.
Expanding the criminal justice system as a result of the increased role of the
pre-court system is also appropriate if it means offenders, who might have been
able to avoid prosecution despite the fact their behavior hurts the general
public prior to the expansion, are now being prosecuted and convicted. That
seems to be the case so far.

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